11 Questions to Evaluate Your HOA’s Maintenance Plan

Posted on Wednesday May 30, 2018

Click here to get your free guide11 Questions to Assess the Health of Your HOA Maintenance Plan.

How well do you know your association’s preventative maintenance (PM) plan? Whether your California HOA management company has a proactive or reactive maintenance style, having a solid PM program is critical to ensuring that your HOA doesn’t face surprise costs. A thoughtful and robust PM program can help prepare you for the future and give you a competitive edge in the community at large.

To make sure you and your management company are on the same page when it comes to preventative maintenance, sit down with them to discuss what steps they are taking. Complete the form below to download a complimentary guide to bring to your next meeting: 11 Questions to Assess the Health of Your HOA Maintenance Plan

What do you need to know about your PM program? Start with these 11 questions. 

1.  Do we even have a PM program?

It’s a no-brainer, right? Maybe so, but the first question you want to ask your HOA management company is whether they even have a preventative maintenance (PM) program? This gives you a basis for the rest of the conversation. If the answer is no or you’re not sure, speak to your management company about establishing one. If the answer is yes, follow up with additional questions to find out what that looks like. 

2.  Is our PM program documented?

You likely already know this, but when it comes to association business, make sure you aren’t just dealing with verbal agreements. Everything should be documented digitally or in print, and that includes your PM program. This step is important because it ensures that everyone understands your maintenance schedule going forward. Your board of directors and manager may not be the same in a year (or five years), so having a written plan in place provides direction for future boards and managers.

3.  Are you taking our reserve study into account when planning maintenance?

Don’t confuse a reserve study with a PM program; the two are vastly different. But on the same note, they should also complement each other. Most importantly, the reserve study should be reviewed when developing a PM plan. Rodney Riepenhoff, corporate engineer at FirstService Residential, said, “Reviewing an association’s reserve study annually helps us ensure that a community’s preventative maintenance program matches equipment life expectancies.” He noted, “A timely review of the reserve study allows us to help associations mitigate surprise costs and save money.”

4.  Has an engineering specialist assessed our equipment and facilities?

Your HOA property management company should partner with a dedicated engineer to assess your equipment and facilities. Don’t rely on an amateur when you require the help of a professional. Partnering with a dedicated and experienced engineering specialist often leads to more informed solutions and cost savings for your HOA. 

For instance, one 228-unit Los Angeles high-rise managed by FirstService Residential called in corporate engineer Riepenhoff to assess several ongoing water drainage issues. These issues had been affecting the pool area and causing multiple leaks into the parking lot below. Prior to FirstService Residential coming on board, the association had received an estimate of $400,000 to solve the water drainage issues. With a long list of other repairs and limited funds to work with, they were in need of a more cost-effective solution. Because Riepenhoff’s engineering expertise, he immediately identified the cause of the problem and found that it would require $280,000 less to fix it than the original assessment.

Because of Riepenhoff’s engineering expertise, he immediately identified the cause of the problem and found that it would require $280,000 less to fix it than the original assessment.

5.  What kinds of testing methods are we using?

To ensure that your PM plan is accurate and thorough, your engineering specialist should use a variety of testing methods to assess your facilities and equipment. For example, they should be using vibration analysis to measure the vibration of moving parts in machines to anticipate failures. This information can be used to help determine the condition of equipment like pumps and motors to help inform your PM program. It is also used to diagnose mechanical problems, including imbalance, misalignment, looseness, worn bearings, strain and resonance. Examples of other critical tests include plumbing stack inspection, laser shaft alignment, thermal imaging, sound testing, oil sampling and analysis and trends analysis. 

Examples of other critical tests include plumbing stack inspection, laser shaft alignment, thermal imaging, sound testing, oil sampling and analysis and trends analysis. 

6.  How often are you inspecting facilities and equipment?

Your community’s maintenance schedule depends on the size and scope of your facilities and your association’s specific needs. How do you determine this schedule? Your management company should have an engineering specialist perform a quality assurance assessment or full inspection of all your components. After 30 days, they will be able to determine a baseline that can be used to determine how often maintenance and inspections will need to take place. The maintenance schedule should also support your reserve study; if the reserve study’s estimated timelines do not align with your PM program, there’s a good chance your program is outdated. Lastly, your maintenance schedule should remain fluid to accommodate emergencies, such as extreme weather.  

7.  What are you doing to extend the useful life of equipment and facilities? 

As mentioned in the article, “HOA Maintenance, Capital Improvements and Useful Life: Are You Prepared?” manufacturers often determine the useful life of components. But your management company and board can take actions to help extend a component’s useful life. On the flipside, a management company that doesn’t have a solid PM program in place may inadvertently be reducing a component’s useful life. That’s why it’s important to ask your management company if they are following a manufacturer’s recommended maintenance and what steps they are taking to improve useful life. They can extend useful life by instituting regular testing of equipment (per question five), investing in ongoing maintenance and replacing parts with better-quality or more efficient materials.

8.  What types of vendors do we work with?

You should work with an HOA property management company that only partners with preferred and highly vetted vendors. They should be seeking out multiple quotes for the purpose of getting the best price and highest quality for your association. To accomplish this, work with a management company that is experienced in your local market, has relationships with trusted vendors and is connected to a network of national support. 

9.  What system is used to track maintenance projects? 

A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or some type of digital tracking system should be used to monitor maintenance projects and automate all of your schedule’s processes. To get the most out of a CMMS, your management company should consider the number of users needed, the location where the application is hosted, whether the CMMS can be accessed via mobile and if it tracks items like inventory, work requests and scheduled maintenance.

10.  What do you do when emergency maintenance issues occur?

No matter how well prepared you are, natural disasters and emergencies are a part of life. However, an experienced management company has procedures in place that prepare for unexpected emergencies. For starters, they should have documented staff training, exit strategy, equipment preparation and emergency protocol review. Your management company should have the knowledge and resources to deal with these unforeseen issues.

11.  Do our maintenance projects require a project manager?

Depending on the size of your community and the components within it, you may need to take on much larger maintenance projects or capital improvements. And it’s in your best interest to have the support of a dedicated project manager to help facilitate these projects. An experienced management company should offer project consulting services, where they provide support for a number of important tasks, like establishing the budget and guiding the bidding process. 

How robust is our preventative maintenance plan?

Without a doubt, a thorough preventative maintenance plan can help mitigate unexpected costs and repairs, ultimately saving your association money. That’s why it’s important to have an in-depth conversation with your management company about the steps they are taking to ensure the health of your maintenance plan. 

Complete the form below to download a complimentary guide to take to your next meeting: 11 Questions to Assess the Health of Your HOA Maintenance Plan