Cold weather will soon be upon us, so now is the time for your homeowner association (HOA) to make sure your maintenance program is on track. As brutal as Chicago winters can be, you certainly don’t want to discover a leak in your roof during a heavy snowfall or have a boiler stop working during a record cold spell. Don’t get caught in the cold!
Unfortunately, these crisis situations occur all too frequently because many associations neglect to develop an integrated maintenance plan. Instead, they favor a reactive approach
to maintenance – waiting until something breaks or fails before repairing or replacing it. “It’s not unusual to see more than half of an association’s maintenance handled reactively,” says Bob Meyer, director of engineering services at FirstService Residential. “However, a reactive approach should only be reserved for lower-cost components.”
Meyer says that lack of money or unrealistic maintenance planning/budgeting is a common reason for HOAs to defer maintenance until major work is needed. “Ironically, reactive maintenance is actually about three to nine times more expensive in the long run than a proactive approach,” he explains. “So it’s really much more cost-effective to be proactive even if that means investing a bit of time and money up front. Ultimately, it will relieve a lot of headaches for your board and save money for your association.”
Having an integrated plan is the key to proactively addressing your property’s maintenance needs. Here we describe what you need to do to have an effective plan so your board will have more control over your property’s maintenance activities.
1. Collect all your maintenance-related information.
For most associations, maintenance information is scattered among a variety of documents. The first step is to locate and consolidate it, including:
- Your association’s maintenance policy
- Develop a Preventative Maintenance schedule
- Expected costs and timeframes for replacing equipment or making major repairs to components, which will be outlined in your reserve study
- Maintenance recommendations in owner manuals
- Maintenance requirements to keep warranties valid
2. Establish which common elements require ongoing maintenance.
Make a list of the equipment and components that need to be included in your maintenance plan. Start by looking at your governing documents, reserve study and vendor/maintenance contracts.
3. Identify specific maintenance activities.
A good reserve study will specify the types of preventative maintenance needed to ensure that a component or piece of equipment will reach its estimated useful life. However, be aware that any repairs or replacements that have been made more recently may not be included in your study. We recommend that this be done annually prior to the budget season. You may need to refer to owner manuals or warranties to find this information.
4. Create a master maintenance schedule.
Your reserve study will also indicate the schedule you should follow for each item it contains. If the maintenance schedule for a particular item is missing from the reserve study, check your warranties or owner manuals, or ask the manufacturer or contractor to provide it.
5. If you have an onsite engineer or maintenance manager, take daily readings and make weekly inspections.
“Walking the property and taking daily readings gives your engineer or maintenance manager an in-depth familiarity with equipment,” explains Meyer. “They are, therefore, likely to notice subtle changes – smells, sounds, vibrations or temperature changes – that someone else might overlook if they’re not familiar with the equipment.”
6. Enlist the help of experienced professionals.
A good property management company can offer a wealth of information and be able to help create your integrated maintenance plan. Ask about in-house engineering services, or find out if the company can refer you to a qualified engineer who understands the unique needs of HOAs.
With a solid preventative maintenance plan in place, you won’t have to worry when temperatures begin to drop. You’ll have the peace of mind in knowing that you’ve done your best to prepare your property.