The Rising Importance of Technology for Renters
Given the current state of the world, and the fact that a higher percentage of the population is working from home than ever before, people are quickly realizing the need for efficient and effective technology.
Initial data shows that internet usage has surged between 50 and 70 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic as the population tries to access work, entertainment and more. The sudden, unprecedented strain on residential technology has caused major concerns related to both bandwidth and security – and many people have been experiencing issues. Just last week I was trying to do a Zoom meeting with a client who lives in New York City and is currently on a work-from-home mandate. This client – who holds an executive position at her company and presumably has many other meetings to take – was unable to get video to work for our meeting and the call kept dropping due to the limited bandwidth in her building.
As a property owner, you likely have choices when it comes to technology at your home (though maybe limited if you live in a multi-family development.) Renters likely don’t have the option to make many changes when it comes to the internet, cell phone service, and other technology critical during this challenging time. How can landlords help tenants through this period of time, and what can they do to better prepare for the future?
Tenant portals are absolutely necessary
With the recommended social distancing measures in place, it’s critical for landlords to provide options for tenants to continue regular operations without having to meet in person. An online tenant portal allows landlords and tenants to interact when it comes to rent payments, maintenance requests, accessing important files, and other communication that may be necessary during this time.
Smart home technology is beneficial in ways we didn’t consider previously
It might not be an immediate option for landlords to add smart home technology features to their rental properties, but it’s definitely something to consider in a new light moving forward. Properties that do have smart technology installed are likely realizing benefits they may not have considered before the current pandemic. Tenants who have decided to shelter in place with family or in locations away from their rental property will still be able to control things like heat and electricity from a remote location. Landlords may even be able to offer remote access to maintenance staff and other professionals in emergency situations.
High speed internet is a premium feature
Over 90% of renters value internet connectivity as a top amenity for their rental property – especially since more than half say they have 1-4 connected devices in their home – according to a report from the National Multifamily Housing Council. These numbers could be even higher with so many renters working from home right now.
Every landlord should consider offering access to high speed internet at their rental properties, and even consider including high speed internet services as an amenity. When the market picks back up and new construction and development continues, rental properties should consider the availability of fiber-optic internet for higher bandwidth capacity. One new community being developed here in my home state of Oregon is considering making the entire neighborhood fiber-optic ready and installing a smart panel in every new home (they would be the first development in the state of Oregon to implement this). Given the situation at hand and looking toward the future for ways to better prepare – this is a very smart move.
In times of massive change, people are looking for stability, including technology that works. As many of us are isolated physically, staying connected digitally is vital. We must be able to go about our daily business and lives, from video calls with colleagues to conducting business – like paying bills and rent – remotely. This requires access to technology, and landlords can help support their tenants by prioritizing specific tech implementations and improvements.