Sunday, July 19, 2009

Preventative Maintenance

Behind fiscal responsibility, this is the task wise condominium boards want most from management companies.

RCW 64.34.328 Upkeep of Condominium states:
"...the association is responsible for maintenance, repair, and replacement of the common elements, including the limited common elements,..."

Regardless of the size of your community, there are basic documents you'll want in order to determine the tasks involved in a comprehensive preventative maintenance (PM) program.

This is a partial list -- yours might be longer:
  • Site plans
  • Site specifications
  • Architectural drawings and specifications
  • Building plans and specifications
  • Envelope studies (or other checklists) required and filed with local government permits
  • Certificate of Occupancy and attendant documents
  • Public Offering Statement (from the developer), which should include a preliminary list
This is the time to develop a comprehensive glossary, so that anyone who uses the lists or the logs knows exactly what's being referenced. In addition, a glossary can aid a poster in constructing accurate logs.

Completing the task of understanding these documents is not for the faint of heart or the impatient. However, when complete, a significant institutional knowledge base can be passed along to the association which will become a truly valuable asset.

(Most property management companies inherit existing lists when they take over managing existing condominiums. An excellent management company will complete homework, as above, and bring experience to a new property and thereby be able to fine tune, update and otherwise adjust the preventative maintenance list.)

Newly constructed communities must develop these lists. Ideally, as part of the developer's responsibility, the developer will assist in crafting the PM list, making all construction details available to the new board. (Note: We don't live in an ideal world, so ask and keep asking for the data you need.)

Once you've constructed a list, it's a good idea to request that owners take note of items in need of repair that are observable by occupants of a unit. For example, the top-floor owners may experience roof leaks first. First floor owners may detect water intrusion from inefficient rain gutters first.

When you hire a PM vendor, walk the property with the regular maintenance person. That person may have additional experience that can help a community repair and maintain its assets, by paying attention to elements that are not listed, but of which this person is knowledgeable.

Once the PM tasks are complete, log them in a calendar. Using a calendar to document work helps future vendors and boards schedule and perform regular work. These records are useful during budget periods.

You may also want to keep a detailed list of PM tasks completed by unit. For example, if/when you check/ replace hoses and plumbing connections, clean dryer vents, check hot water heaters, fire/ smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, you can list these tasks -- whether completed or not completed, by unit number.

You can keep the detailed list in a spreadsheet-type log, listing the tasks as row labels and the dates as the column labels. (We keep a master list for all common elements and page lists for each building address, where we list unit numbers as row labels and events or months as column labels.)

Key to keeping logs will be how people might want to access the log data in future. A board member must be involved in PM at the detail level, as a matter of responsibility.

Preventative maintenance is a moving target, so expect to tune and update your tasks and logs over time.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Success in the Long Run

A good friend and I spent hours talking about condominium communities and what it takes for them to be successful.

Of course, successful is a variable -- with every person involved having their own definition.

Here's my definition of a successful condominium community:
A financially viable community of like-minded owners and tenants who live together in proximity, that exists and operates under a set of governing documents, where every occupant behaves in ways that respects the community. The community is served by a board of volunteer resident owners who run the affairs of the association in a fair, accessible and consistent way.

Sure, this is ideal. And you'll never find such a community. Why? Because of life. Unit owners/ tenants/ board members/ property managers/ local governments: all are variable, all change, all adjust, all work to tug the condominium community and the association in one direction or another.

Apathy is our worst enemy: owners, tenants and board members who are not really involved in the business workings of the association. People who expect that 'everything will be taken care of' without really understand how 'anything' works in this regard; people who buy or occupy condominium units who don't either understand or appreciate the condominium situation in which they find themselves.

Our only option -- as committed condominium owners/ dwellers -- is to keep volunteering, keep working and keep doing our best.

Okay, I'm over it.