When you lease or manage a retail investment property or shopping center, the creation and use of an operations manual will be very helpful from both a tenant and customer perspective. The standard events in the property can be set for ongoing reference and control. The use of a manual of this type is also a good ‘risk management tool’ from an insurance perspective; that will then benefit the landlord in ‘risk control.’ (NB – you can get ideas and systems for retail shopping center management in our ‘Snapshot’ course right here)
So, who should have the task of putting this ‘manual’ together? The property manager or shopping center manager should be the creator of the document, using and merging the input from others in the management and leasing team. The manual is not ‘static’ but will change with property improvements, renovations, and refurbishments.
Current and New Tenants
Any new tenants to the property will get a copy of the operations manual of the start of the lease. Any existing tenants in property occupancy should already have the document and can refer to the manual when it comes to the main factors of occupancy and safety. So, the manual becomes a property management and leasing tool in many respects.
The manual is quite useful and can evolve given the size, the changes, and the design of the building. This is very useful when it comes to the larger shopping centres and office towers where multiple tenants are in occupancy and the tenancy mix is under flux or change. In the operations manual, you can address the common factors of property occupancy, cleaning, security, communication, emergency responses and many other things.
Operations Manual Format
Here are some of the main factors to be merged into the ‘standard’ operations manual:
- Hours of operation – set the rules relating to the ‘operational hours’ for the property. That will then lead to other issues like ‘out of hours’ access and security. All that information is thereby in the manual.
- Management team contact – there will be a few people in the retail management team that should be contactable 24/7 with property events or issues. Provide the names and the numbers.
- Security devices and access codes – some tenants will need to get into the property ‘out of hours’, and the only way to do that will be by ‘security pass cards’ and safety
- Safety rules and responses – every building should have ‘safety’ rules that are established based on retail property design and tenant mix. Expect issues of crisis to occur in your property at some point in the future, and then create rules and responses for those matters.
- Customer complaints – from time to time, some tenants, clients and customers will have complaints and difficulties relating to the building, the property function, or the way in which things happen on a daily basis. How will they lodge those complaints and where will they be handled?
- Fit-out changes – explain the rules applicable to creating changes in tenant fit out. The changes to any fit out should be considered and if acceptable then approved by reference to the architectural standards for the building.
- Lost property – this is the system to handle lost items. It is the place where lost items will be taken when found; it will also be the place where things are registered as lost. These rules help with the operation of shopping centres and where many tenants and or customers are present.
- Car parking – set the hours of car park operation, and explain how the car park is accessed. You may need security passes for out of hours access, as well as a plan of the property to ensure tenant awareness and controlled access.
- Common area use – look at the building entrances, corridors, malls, and foyers. There will be rules to set for each ‘zone.’
- Emergency contacts and responses – some things will very likely go wrong in the property when you least expect it, so be prepared for that challenge with a team of highly trained people and the emergency procedures to put into play.
- Key and security card policy – define where new keys for tenancies, and access doors can be obtained, and how that will happen.
- Energy policy – common area lights should be energy efficient, and they should activate as people move in and around the property and common areas. Set the guide for energy use in common and tenancy areas.
- Rubbish removal and cleaning – define how rubbish will be collected and removed from tenant areas and common areas.
- Directory board – the methods by which tenants can get their names and locations registered on the directory boards and display boards. An entry on the tenant directory board should occur at the same time that a tenant change or upgrade is noted on the website for the property.
- The building and property website – every moderate to large building should have a website where tenants are registered, and building facts are available. The website can also be a communication tool to the management team.
- Shop or office presentation – the fronts of shops and tenancies should be controlled by ‘fit-out’ rules, specifications of finishes, and approval processes for any changes. In that way, you can keep the property appearance controlled from a presentation perspective.
- Signage rules – these are rules that should apply to tenant frontages, signs, pylon signs, and doorways. Standards set here will help with property presentation.
- Plans policy – every tenancy will need to produce and supply plans relating to their rental space and fit out. In premises with larger leases, those plans and drawings are critical when it comes to understanding how the tenant connected to the building services and amenities.
- Contact and communication points – provide a list of people to be contacted given the different issues that could evolve in the building such as cleaning, security, air conditioning, and out of hours matters.
Many important things can appear in the operational manual for a shopping center, office or retail investment property. You can add to this list above based on your location, asset, and or city. Look at all the variable issues that could be of help to the tenants and customers in the property.