To “open up” the rental housing market, besides restoring eviction procedures for those not paying what they can afford to pay, we also need to make sure that new tenants moving into an apartment can do so safely, ensuring they do not encounter any coronavirus left by former occupants..
Our first thought was that a complicated procedure might be required, much as we have seen in videos of workers dressed in full-coverage bodysuits and headgear, holding tanks and wands as they spray airport waiting areas and other locations. Such a procedure would be costly and might require landlords to hire disinfecting services. Many are available, but they are for commercial and industrial spaces, not for homes.
We kept researching and found new recommendations for hotels, comparable to an apartment but with a much higher turnover rate. These procedures involved wiping down or otherwise disinfecting all contact surfaces in a hotel room and changing not just sheets but blankets and bedspreads as well, washing them all. In the case of rental units, if units are completely empty at turnover, they would only involve disinfecting contact surfaces, a much easier procedure.
Finally, we realized that cleaning contact surfaces is exactly what the CDC and medical experts are recommending for all of us to be safe in our homes. The same procedures should work perfectly well for vacant apartments.
Cleaning contact surfaces
Cleaning contact surfaces means using very common disinfecting products like bleach (diluted) or alcohol (70% solution) or other EPA-registered product. Those contact surfaces in a completely empty apartment include: doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles of any sort, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc. In common areas, they include: all doorknobs, light switches, handrails, and contact surfaces shared appliances such as clothes washers and dryers. The person doing the disinfecting should be wearing gloves and facemask. They should also open windows to air out the apartment and remove hazardous vapors from disinfectants.
Full information can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html
For carpeted floors, check online for specific procedures for porous surfaces.
Another option is to ventilate the unit thoroughly, opening all the windows to let indoor air be replaced by outdoor air. Outdoor air is considered safer than indoor air.
Yet another option is to let the unit remain vacant for five days or longer, which allows the coronavirus to die out. Check online for the latest suggestions of how long the coronavirus can survive on various types of surfaces.
Reporting a sick tenant or prospective tenant
Prospective tenants should be asked if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. The three often-mentioned symptoms are: fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. If you are uncertain or if you have any tenant with these symptoms, the easiest and best route is to call any federal, state, or local public health official. They all have authority to require quarantine or other safeguards and to notify nearby residents.