Installing a roof on a multifamily complex comes with its own set of complications. Property owners, general managers, and project managers need to put additional care into tenant communication surrounding these projects, as opposed to more typical process used for a single-family residential roof installation.
Our team gathered to compare notes and best practices on tenant communication, both from the contractor and from the building ownership, that we’ve seen over the years and ways to make projects go smoothly.
Happy tenants make everyone’s jobs easier, and communication is the pivotal point for setting and meeting expectations throughout a project around someone’s home. Parking/traffic, noise, dust, mess, and safety are the most relevant topics to stay ahead of. Quality multifamily roofing contractors will have a plan to avoid blocking street parking, or reducing the available parking a lot. They will have a set plan and set hours of operation, so that tenants can plan accordingly.
Below is a set of tips and best practices we gathered to project managers, building owners, and developers communicate effectively with tenants to reduce anxiety, improve relations, and keep the tenants happy. Ultimately, smooth construction projects are built on a foundation of communication.
Conform to Set Days and Work Hours
Set work days & hours are important for tenants and their guests. This recommendation is simple, but we often see this as a point where contractors and/or property managers break trust with their tenants. The solution is to announce, and stick to, set work days and hours.
Be specific about when work begins. Depending on the time of year, this could be early to avoid the heat and keep crews safe. In the summer, 7:30 start times may be typical. If this is the case, communicate the start time specifically to tenants. Pets, kids, and commute times are all relevant in the lives of your tenants and this help them plan accordingly.
Be proactive about schedule changes. Those of us that work in construction know how weather and outside factors can change a schedule, but we have to remember that this can be a surprise to community members.
Have a Building Flow Plan
We found this topic to be so relevant that we put together a whole separate piece just on Planning an Effective Building Flow For Multifamily Roofing Projects.
Setting, and sharing the order of operations throughout the project is an important step in letting people in the community know what to expect.
One theme we observed as a tension point between contractor/property manager/tenants was the appearance of work being done or not. After receiving communication about start dates for a project, there tends to be a collection of tenants on the opposite side of the property who aren’t able to see that work has been started yet. Some tenants become anxious when there appears to be delay or little work is being performed. This can lead to misunderstandings, or eventually frustration. However, a little communication goes a long way in preventing disagreements.
Starting with visible buildings near the front entrance of a complex, and sticking to adjacent buildings are just some of the recommendations covered in the full piece on setting an effective building flow plan.
Overcommunicate & Use Many Channels
Large construction projects are the moment to break out of the typical flow of weekly emails or community newsletter announcements. Consider using many forms of communication, and as much as 30 days in advance, to communicate about the upcoming project. In addition to emails, multi-channel communication can make sure everyone is aware of upcoming plans.
Consider using door hangers or physically printed notices, or posted notices in public/shared spaces such as laundry buildings or a community clubhouse. Where parking is impacted, cones and posted signage 7 days in advance is what we recommend for best practices around parking lots and roads. Posts to official community forums, whether that is a Facebook page or neighborhood app like Nextdoor, announce dates and plans to reach more people.
Communication in any languages spoken among your tenant community is important. One effective way we have seen this done without taking up much additional space is to use a QR code to an online post with translated notices. A phrase similar to “View Important Announcement in [language]” can be put below the QR code or link (in an email) in each of the languages needed.
Successful managers communicate regularly, even daily, if the project requires it.
Communicate the Benefits of a New Roof
Sometimes the tenants aren’t aware that the roof on their home is in need of repair or replacement. As such, they may not directly see the benefits of the new roof, only the inconveniences that accompany the work.
Explaining the energy savings, sound dampening, or other benefits of a new roof can help illustrate the need for the investment. In many instances, the tenants just want to understand the goal of the project to help determine the progress.
Most tenants understand that regular maintenance of the roof on their home is important. However, roofing projects often start at daybreak, make noise all day, and take up space, none of which are popular with tenants.
Talk About Balcony Access
It is normal for roofing contractors to need to access patios and balconies to protect those surfaces from overhead work. While they typically do not need internal access through the apartment, it is important to explain this to tenants as they will not typically expect to see anyone on their balcony. Avoid alarming or surprising tenants by communicating ahead of time. Balconies, like patios, tend to be a quasi-shared space during exterior construction projects, a fact which creates tension with tenants if expectations are not set. Our team has found patios and balconies to be an important enough topic about putting intentional planning and care into that we published a guide about Addressing Balconies and Patios During Multifamily Roofing.
If tenants don’t want anyone on their balcony, the best advice is to pull in grills, plants, and furniture that hangs out beyond the roofline. This is still not a guarantee that nobody will need access to the balcony.
Hire a Multifamily Roofing Company With Experience
Hiring an established multifamily roofing contractor is wise. We find that many residential contractors bid in larger projects without real experience with the added complexity. Our recommendation to the property manager is to ask many, and thorough questions of any contractor in your evaluation set. Because they will have encountered your concerns many times, they will already have a solution.
Parking, for example, can be a problem for the tenants when workers take their spots or equipment is needed. Traffic patterns around a parking lot may change during a roofing project. Reputable contractors will use signage and caution tape to help the tenant navigate around things like materials, tools, and cranes.
This article is part of our Multifamily Roofing Comprehensive Planning Guide. Learn more about:
- Ensuring Smooth Projects
- Know Before You Start
- Common Challenge Areas
- Related Education