Is Your HOA (Really) Prepared? 13 Questions to Assess Your Maintenance Plan
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While your association can’t predict the future or plan for everything, having a strong preventive maintenance (PM) plan or program is critical. A solid PM plan can help you keep equipment and facilities in excellent condition, build up your association’s reputation and enhance property values. How do you know if your PM plan is working? Ask these 13 questions:
1. Do we have a PM plan?Seems like a no-brainer, but if the answer is no or “I’m not sure,” it’s time to ask your management company to help you create one. If the answer is yes, ask these follow-up questions to see if it hits the mark (or if you need to improve it).
Red flag! In our 2019 HOA Health Assessment Survey Report, more than 25% of board members said that they either didn’t have a PM plan, or relied on vendors to take care of it.
2. Is our PM plan documented?When it comes to your HOA, a good rule of thumb is to get everything in writing. That certainly includes your PM plan or program. Documenting your PM plan helps ensure that your maintenance plan will outlive the current board, managers and maintenance staff.
3. Does our PM plan reflect our HOA’s vision?Your Arizona community association’s vision should be strongly aligned with your PM plan or program. What does that look like practically? Well, if your vision is to be a modern and cutting-edge community with all of the latest amenities or the best curb appeal on the block, the level of upkeep and maintenance choices that you make should reflect that. You’ll need to have a robust and thorough PM plan to keep up with demand for cutting-edge equipment and pristine common areas.
4. Are we taking our reserve study into account when planning maintenance?To be clear, a reserve study is not the same as a PM plan or program. However, the two documents should definitely complement each other. Your board and Arizona management company should review your reserve study when creating or updating a PM plan. Reviewing your association’s reserve study annually helps ensure that your PM plan matches equipment life expectancies. Additionally, if the reserve study’s estimated timelines do not align with your PM plan, there’s a good chance it’s outdated.
5. Has an engineering specialist assessed our equipment and facilities?When it comes to preventive maintenance, don’t rely on an amateur for the best advice and cost savings. Instead, your association should partner with an experienced engineering specialist or consultant who can help detect potential issues that may result in last-minute or unexpected repairs.
A 228-unit high-rise was experiencing water drainage problems coming from a swimming pool, causing leaks in the parking lot below. Prior to FirstService Residential, the association received a $400,000 estimate to fix the problem and had limited funds to use. FirstService Residential brought in an engineering specialist, who not only discovered the cause of the problem, but provided a more efficient and cost-effective resolution that was $280,000 less than the original estimate.
6. What equipment testing methods are we using?Your engineering specialist should be using a variety of testing methods to ensure that your PM plan is both accurate and thorough. Some examples include thermal imaging, sound testing, vibration analysis and plumbing stack inspection. The information they gather from testing can be used to 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.
7. How often are we inspecting facilities and equipment?Timing is everything, particularly when it comes to preventive maintenance. Facilities and equipment must be tested frequently to make sure they are operating in accordance with useful life. To set up an accurate schedule, an engineering specialist should perform an initial inspection or quality assurance assessment of your equipment. After 30 days, they can determine a baseline in order to develop a schedule (taking the size and scope of your facilities into account). Make sure that your maintenance schedule remains fluid to accommodate emergencies, and extreme weather especially in monsoon season.
8. What are we doing to extend the useful life of equipment and facilities?Along with following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule, what is your management company doing to improve and extend useful life? Some ways to extend useful life include testing equipment more frequently, replacing parts with higher quality materials and investing in ongoing maintenance. By not taking these measures, your association may inadvertently be reducing a component’s useful life.
9. What types of vendors do we work with?Don’t skip this question. Make sure that your association is only partnering with highly vetted vendors. Remember, while it’s your job to select the right vendors for your association – your management company should be supplying the right candidates. Your HOA management company should be experienced in your local market, have relationships with trusted vendors and be connected to a network of national support. Ultimately, they should be seeking out multiple quotes for your HOA to get the best price and highest quality service.
10. Are engineering associates regularly trained on our maintenance processes?Great engineering associates are the foundation of a strong PM plan. To ensure that they are kept up to speed, make sure that engineers and maintenance staff have access to ongoing training and support in their day-to-day jobs. They should be connected with local and national resources such as engineering specialists and project administrators. When changes to the schedule or PM plan occur, associates should also be kept in the loop so that they can adjust accordingly.
11. What system do we use to track maintenance projects?With so many moving parts, you need technology to keep your PM plan on track. Your management company should employ a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or digital tracking system to monitor projects and automate all of your schedule’s processes. When selecting your CMMS, consider the number of users needed, the location where the application is hosted, mobile functionality and tracking inventory, work requests and scheduled maintenance.
12. How do we respond when emergency maintenance issues do occur?Your PM plan may be exceptional, but natural disasters and emergencies can still happen. To cope with unexpected emergencies, your management company should have procedures and documentation already in place. This includes documented staff training, exit strategy, equipment preparation and emergency protocol review.
13. Do our maintenance projects require a project manager or administrator?For larger maintenance projects or capital improvements, your HOA may want to consider using a dedicated project manager or administrator. While your community manager should help manage aspects of the project, they can’t reasonably do it all. Your management company should offer project consulting or administrative services, where they provide support for a number of important tasks, like establishing the budget and guiding the bidding process.
“Enlisting the help of a project administrator or manager is critical when you need to handle important or complex projects in your HOA. It not only helps make your project more effective, but it relieves the burden on your manager to conceive, plan and execute on a project.”
—Anthony Martin, Project Manager, FirstService Residential
To learn more about Arizona Project Administration services, download our complimentary guide here.