News

Apartment Safety Procedures Throughout Pandemic Has Limited Lifestyle’s Benefits

FEW AMENITIES have been available for use in apartments for parts of the past year, such as club rooms and pools, nullifying some of the perks of living there. (Photo: Orrin Konheim)

For apartment residents in Falls Church, it has been a shaky year as the use of their building’s amenities has remained uncertain for 14 months.

“All the other apartments opened their pools except ours. They didn’t return our amenity fees so it felt really strange to pay for something I didn’t get to use,” said a resident of 455 Tinner Hill, who asked to remain anonymous.

Tinner Hill on-site manager Kate Vasquez said that move-in and amenities fees are pretty standard but she also pointed out that last summer was the result of a different management company. This August, Grady Management bought the building and opened up the other amenities which include a business center, club room, arcade, media room and fitness center. The current plan is to have the pools open this summer.

Still, with less staffing, there are always worries. Another 455 Tinner Hill resident, Eric Hackett, said that things have been pretty smooth except that he had to incur extra charges because he was used to paying the rent via cashier’s checks.

When the payment method changed over to an online payment portal, he had to endure a $65 charge. Eventually, it was refined to a drop box for rent checks.

The uncertainty for apartment tenants and the kinds of on-the-fly adaptations have been relatively common for apartment owners in the age of Covid.

In some cases, like the 852-unit Skyline Square Condominums, things are easier for the management office because decisions are ultimately made by a board and there’s a democratic component to the decision-making process.

The building boasts a number of amenities including a library, billiard room, party rooms and a pool, but condominium fees are built around contributions to the unit as a whole rather than solely on the amenities. All of the amenities have been closed for the pandemic so far for Skyline.

Last summer, they couldn’t bring their swimming pool up to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, so they would have faced liability issues if they opened. Like a number of pools, Skyline’s pool contract was with a labor force of primarily Eastern Europeans and bringing over the lifeguards across an ocean during a pandemic was problematic — to say the least. By the time Skyline’s pool company switched over, they couldn’t operate as they normally would.

“We are looking forward to possibly opening the pool this summer and are scheduled to open the amenities, but all of those things are based on the board [and the condominium legal team] deciding so,” said Building Manager Keith Bennett Sr.

When the market speaks, of course, apartments have to make up for lost revenue. To make up for the losses, the Grand View has been offering a deal where they give the first month’s rent on a one-year lease for free. According to property manager Ana Enceata, they have also reduced office encounters and have had people go to the management by appointments. Grand View didn’t keep their pool open.

But Echeandia said the residents “have been understanding a lot.”
In that general spirit, a lot of apartment residents generally are understanding that the people who manage the apartments do what they can while they have to comply with Virginia and CDC regulations. Julie Peters has been living in the Spectrum at the 400th block of West Broad street for the last 7 years.

The building had a state-of-the-art theater room and a lounge that had been closed during the pandemic with hopes to open up soon.

She doesn’t mind because she loves living in Falls Church close to so many conveniences and gives high marks to the staff for doing what they can.