The Rants Group Continues to Support Tenants During the COVID-19 Crisis
By Heidi Smith (Thurston Talk)
Paying your own mortgage as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds is stressful enough. Imagine managing hundreds of commercial and residential properties whose tenants suddenly lack reliable income streams. If you’re Pat Rants, president and CEO of The Rants Group, the response is to focus on collaboration and problem-solving. “We’re going to work together, be flexible and figure out a way to make it work,” says Rants.
As of this writing, Governor Inslee’s statewide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order is scheduled to last until May 4. Washington, Oregon and California will coordinate their efforts to re-open their respective economies but in the meantime, local business is hurting.
For commercial tenants, multiple challenges exist. Some can’t pay their rent because their business had to close. Others need to stay open to provide essential services or support companies that do. “Some of our tenants, especially those in the medical field, have to remain open and we have to keep taking care of their building to make that possible,” says Rants. “On the other side, we have people who can’t work at all. Our goal with commercial tenants is to do everything we can to keep them in business.”
The objective is similar for residential tenants: doing whatever it takes to keep people in their homes, whether those are apartments or houses. Some properties require visits from the maintenance staff, a situation that Rants acknowledges makes some residents feel anxious. “People are nervous about somebody coming into their home,” he says. “Our maintenance people have to be very careful for both themselves and the people they are visiting.”
The Rants Group has put several modifications in place to minimize risk and lessen the impact of COVID-19 on both staff and tenants. For example, they won’t be charging any late fees (before the Governor’s order required it) for those who can’t pay their rent on time. “We have great tenants who have lost their jobs, or their business closed, and they just don’t have any income,” says Rants. “We’re going to work with them.”
On the health and safety front, commercial building janitors have switched their nightly emphasis to cleaning high-touch areas such as door handles, bathrooms, workroom counters, and conference tables, with less priority placed on tasks like dusting and vacuuming. Most transactions now take place online and all employees are working from home with offices connected through Microsoft Teams. “Overall, I don’t think we’ve lost a step,” says Rants. “We’re able to collect rent and pay bills online.” To that end, they encourage all tenants to pay their rent electronically through the Tenant Portal on their website.
The shift was relatively minor for the company, which already did a portion of its business online. “We’re able to do 95 percent of what we do remotely,” Rants says. “The greatest impact is on our clients and our tenants. So many of them are closed or at least severely hampered in their operations, and that’s huge for them and for the economy.”
There is one silver lining to the COVID-19 cloud: it has forced many businesses to strip down operations to their essentials, increasing efficiency in the process. Some of those shifts will live beyond the outbreak. “Any time there’s a change, it forces you to find ways to be more efficient and do things differently,” Rants notes. “A lot of the things we’re doing right now will carry over once this crisis has ended. I think it’s going to be that way for a lot of businesses.” To help the community cope with this crisis, The Rants Group has recently donated $10,000 to the Thurston County Food Bank, which will be put toward emergency needs as they emerge. As stated on the Thurston County Food Bank’s website, if an emergent need does not occur, the contribution will be used to support their overall mission of ending hunger in the community.
Aside from the financial and logistical challenges posed by COVID-19, one of the biggest difficulties is uncertainty. Without a clear timeline for when businesses can re-open or people can get back to work, it’s hard for people to know how to plan for the future. “People are worried because we don’t know how long this is going to go on,” says Rants. “Our nation and our world don’t have all the answers right now, but we’re going to get through this.”
The company’s hours remain the same and their traditional methods of communication are still open. The most direct way to send service requests is through the Tenant Portal. For a complete list of resources for both residential and commercial tenants, visit the Rants Group Resource Page. Learn more at The Rants Group website or by calling 360.943.8060.