January 29th seems like a lifetime ago.

And yet, that was when Toronto Storeys first asked what apartments and condos in Toronto were doing to help limit the spread of COVID-19 among residents.

Well, in the six weeks since then, let's just say we've come a long way from hand sanitizer in the front lobby.

Of course, there's still hand sanitizer in the lobby... and in pretty much every other common space that's still open. Speaking of which, not many of those common spaces are still open. Most condo and apartment buildings have, by now, closed everything from pools and gyms, to party rooms and general access for porters and delivery people.

Luxury rentals 101 St. Clair West, for example, has taken its COVID-19 responsibilities to the level of calling its elderly residents to check in on their well-being. They also provide constant updates and notices for all of their residents and have limited elevator use to no more than four people per ride.

Condo and apartment towers are like tiny towns of their own, and given the close quarters they provide, they, as much as anywhere, need to be kept contained amidst the chaos. They are apt for community spread if the appropriate protections are not in place to otherwise stop it.

Luxury property management company The Forest Hill Group has also taken measures to the appropriate extreme to ensure staff and residents remain healthy and informed at its more than 90 properties in the downtown core.

Robert Klopot, CEO of The Forest Hill Group, gave an example of just how much effort is going into disinfecting his buildings:

"On a typical day, the lobby in one of these buildings is cleaned approximately twice, once after the morning rush and again after the evening rush. Right now we're wiping down the lobby, elevators, and any common areas every 15 minutes."

That's an astounding increase.

On a busy Thursday night, anywhere between 50-70 deliveries could have been expected in a 400-unit building. That's a lot of delivery people entering the building, touching buttons, knocking on doors, etc. Now, Klopot says, despite deliveries being up somewhere between 35-40% (residents are ordering groceries much more now), all of them are met at the front doors by condo staff. The staff then take the delivery up to the tenants, put them down in front of the door, knock, and step back several feet. They wait at a safe distance to confirm the tenant opens the door and safely receives their delivery.

In other words, in the span of a few weeks, the common way of life in most condos and apartment buildings has fundamentally changed. And that's a very good thing -- it means people are getting the message.

According to Klopot, he "saw a pretty big shift late last week, it was like people were really just waking up to this. The NBA season being suspended was a tipping point and seeing some celebrities get sick, it had a domino effect and people have jumped on board. They're understanding that this is very real."

Awareness is also a big focus for The Forest Hill Group, making sure that their communities have relevant, real-time information so that they can appropriately practice strategies like social distancing and cleanliness.

"When this started, we got enough supplies [gloves, masks, wipes, hand sanitizer] for what we thought would be a year. We're now looking at them likely lasting a month."

As for the COVID-19 pandemic? Well, there's no way yet of knowing just how long it will last. But one thing's for sure, if you're condo or apartment building isn't stepping up its isolation game, you should definitely give them a strong talking to -- over the phone, of course.

Real Estate