The do's for property managers during MCO

Buildings don’t rest, not even during the current COVID-19 pandemic and the Movement Control Order (MCO), which has been extended to a further two weeks till April 14, 2020.

According to the directive by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (KPKT) dated March 21, management offices of strata schemes should operate in a minimal mode according to appropriate implementation — for example, online transactions — and should remain closed to the public with active communication channels provided.

Essential services, which include supply of utilities, cleaning, security, sewerage, mechanical and electrical, must not be disrupted.

Hence, industry stakeholders must be adequately armed with proactive measures to keep the risk of virus exposure to a minimum, especially in premises such as shopping malls and office buildings where the public will access for essential services.

On top of these measures, MIPFM president Adzman Shah Mohd Ariffin advises property managers to be extra careful in handling the day-to-day tasks due to the high risk of exposure to the COVID-19.

“[Adhere to] strict measures in protecting oneself by practising hygienic habits, wearing mask, social distancing and ensuring the cleaners carry out their work diligently. They must also avoid and discourage large group gatherings in their buildings.

“Together, the Commissioner of Buildings from the local city and municipal councils and property managers are unselfishly working, albeit on a lesser headcount, to ensure the security, safety and health of buildings and their occupants are looked after,” stresses Adzman.

He adds that property managers must also constantly monitor communications from the authorities and to disseminate the information to building residents and users on a timely basis.

“The use of technology to communicate effectively is of utmost importance, such as online communication channels and applications to disseminate information regularly, especially advice from the authorities,” Adzman tells via email.

How are property managers coping with MCO?

During the initial stages of the MCO, property managers were struggling to carry out their duties as the government’s directive before March 21 did not list property management as an essential service. 

“Without the authorisation during the MCO period, property managers had to stop providing services onsite for fear of being arrested for breaking the law. There wasn’t anyone onsite to ensure the necessary essential services were not disrupted,” recounts Adzman.

With the announcement of the extension, he says property managers have no choice but to tighten their belts further.

“The managements try to keep operating expenses low. For example, they have no choice but to reduce headcount for certain essential services such as security and cleaning.  Some Joint Management Bodies or Management Corporations are considering ways to reduce utility bills, which is no easy feat as residential buildings are now constantly occupied,” explains Adzman, adding that Tenaga Nasional Bhd’s rebates and discounts on electricity bills during the MCO are welcomed.

Meanwhile, for property managers such as Henry Butcher Malaysia (Mont’Kiara) Sdn Bhd, the MCO has tremendously increased the occupancy rate in all the residential properties managed by them.

“Since everyone is at home, this is a very critical period for us to ensure all building services such as security, cleaning, lift, rubbish collection, water and electricity supply are being operated at the most optimum level,” notes Henry Butcher Malaysia (Mont’Kiara) executive director Low Hon Keong.

To ensure this, their management offices are opened albeit with face-to-face interactions reduced to a minimum.

“The management offices would only be in operation to ensure all essential building services are in order and they shall not accept any walk-ins. All inquiries shall only be received via phone call or online media.

“Even though some JMBs and MCs prefer their facilities to be open as usual, we strongly advise them to close all indoor facilities such as the gymnasium, multipurpose hall and sports courts, while outdoor facilities such as the swimming pool are strictly for residents only (no guests) until the end of the MCO period.

“This policy was recommended in line with the objective of the MCO, which is to break the chain of infection by minimising direct interaction. With regards to payment of service charges, most of our sites are practising no-cash policy, so we have no issue when it comes to collection,” says Low.

Here are some recommended measures by the Malaysian Institute of Property and Facility Managers (MIPFM):

• Monitor the circulars and obtain the latest information on COVID-19 from the Ministry of Health

• Place hand sanitisers in high traffic areas of buildings

• Wipe and clean surfaces, fixtures and structures

• Display multi-lingual guidelines to educate the public

• Carry out preventive measures such as temperature screening

• Discourage any large group gatherings

• Advise sick employees to stay home and avoid contact with others

• Update building staff with knowledge on preparedness for crisis management

• Comply with Occupational Safety and Health Act requirements

• Conduct risk assessment analysis, anticipate business interruptions and review insurance policies

• Seek legal advice on impact to property owners, contractual obligations and business operations

Stay calm. Stay at home. Keep updated on the latest news at #stayathome #flattenthecurve

This story first appeared in the pullout on April 3, 2020. You can access back issues here.

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