One of the most crucial ways to protect your strata corporation’s financial health is by staying on top of your property’s maintenance and improvements. To manage this well, you need to have a means for attending to required preventative maintenance and regular maintenance. Here’s what that should entail.
Inspect the property every day.
A daily inspection by your building manager, concierge or caretaker will enable you to identify and address issues quickly. These should be prioritized according to urgency:

  • Priority work. Anything that causes a safety or health issue or that impacts the ability to conduct strata corporation business should be your highest priority. These work orders might include things like a loose step or lights that are out in a common area.
  • Day-to-day issues. Next you should address issues that can have a detrimental effect on the comfort and enjoyment of owners or that potential buyers might notice. The outside landscaping and the interior lobby around your entrance are especially important, according to Sean Ingraham, vice president of community development for FirstService Residential in British Columbia. He recommends using the “five-in-five” rule: If you see five deficiencies in five minutes, you have work to do. “A deficiency could be a glass door with finger prints, scratches on the wall, maybe there’s some garbage on the floor or the grout is dirty,” explains Ingraham.
  • Required maintenance. Once your more pressing day-to-day issues are taken care of, attend to safety and code projects that are mandated by Technical Safety BC or local authorities, or that are meant to prolong the life of equipment and major systems. For example, stratas are required to test backflow devices; fire and life safety components; elevators; mechanical, electrical and heating and ventilation units; and roof anchors.
  • Regular maintenance. This includes preventative maintenance projects like landscaping, painting, mill work and cleaning. Although these are not mandatory, they do affect property values and appearance.

When determining each project’s urgency, consider the impact of the issue:

  • Does it pose a safety or security risk?
  • Do you risk costlier future damage if you put off doing the work?
  • Is your strata required by law to address the issue?
  • How many strata members are affected?
  • Have you been saving up for the work based on your reserve fund study, or will you need to identify a new funding source?
  • Should strata members have a say in determining if the works should be done?

Give your building manager the authority to address day-to-day issues.
Rather than having building managers seek approval from the council for every routine job, it’s a good idea for stratas to give their building managers a budget with a spending limit and to empower them with the authority to take care of smaller issues on their own. This way, council members won’t be burdened unnecessarily. An experienced strata management company should already have systems in place that relieve councils from managing every detail, allowing them to focus on the bigger picture instead.

Base your preventative maintenance plan on your depreciation report.
Your depreciation report (or reserve fund study) will help you determine the life expectancy of your components and the amount of money you should be setting aside to fund needed repairs and capital improvements. However, if you don’t match your preventative maintenance plan to the report, the report won’t be accurate. Major repairs, replacements and improvements will be needed sooner than anticipated, before your reserves have been adequately funded.

Under the BC Strata Property Act, strata corporations are required by law to set aside an amount equivalent to at least 25% of their operating budget for reserve funding. However, it is the depreciation report that really counts when it comes to reserve funding. Councils that don’t follow the recommended funding plan are gambling on their future replacement costs, affecting their property values and increasing the likelihood that they will need a special assessment or a loan to pay for needed work down the road. A lack of reserves can also lead councils to select products and services strictly on the basis of cost rather than value, which can result in spending more money in the long run.

Plan for improvements
Nothing lasts forever, and stratas need to plan for and prioritize their capital improvements as well as their maintenance needs. 

Your strata may find it beneficial to put together a list of high-cost maintenance and improvement projects for the following year during budget season and prioritize what should be completed first. Prioritization is a good first step, especially if your community is tight with funding. Try using the following checklist to do that:
  • Does the project prevent a safety and security risk for the community?
  • Does the repair prevent damage or a problem to another part of the community that will create additional costs?
  • Is the repair part of a strata obligation?
  • Does the repair take into consideration the broadest impact for the community members?
  • Is the project part of the long-term depreciation report?
  • Will the project require funding from a special assessment or a loan?
  • Should you solicit consideration and comment for the project from the community members?

Plan your maintenance on an annual basis.
“You really can’t do a lot until you budget for it,” Ingraham points out. “Plan ahead, and start having that conversation at council meetings and then incorporating that into the budgeting. Evaluate what your maintenance goals are.”
You should review the year’s maintenance goals as soon as your new council members have been elected. This helps ensure that everyone understands your strata’s maintenance needs and prioritizes projects early on.
Planning ahead and prioritizing your maintenance projects are the best ways to extend your building’s life, increase your property values and enhance the enjoyment of your residents.

Friday April 27, 2018