11 Critical Questions to Ask About Your HOA’s Maintenance Plan

Posted on Wednesday May 30, 2018

Click here to get your free guide, 11 Questions to Assess the Health of Your HOA Maintenance Plan.

Where does your Nevada homeowners association stand when it comes to preventative maintenance? Whether your management company has a proactive or reactive approach to maintenance, having a robust and thorough preventative maintenance plan in place is crucial. It helps ensure that your HOA isn’t hit with unexpected costs and repairs and saves money in the long run.

To help you have this conversation with your management company, bring this guide to your next meeting. Complete the form below to download the complimentary guide, 11 Questions to Assess the Health of Your HOA Maintenance Plan.

Here are the questions you should ask your management company or prospective management company to find out the status of your preventative maintenance program.

1. Do we have one?

It may seem basic, but does your management even have a preventative maintenance (PM) program? The answer is not always as clear cut as you might think. Of course if the answer is no or you’re not sure, you should have an in-depth conversation with your management company to make sure that one is established. But the truth is, this question is just scratching the surface. Whether your HOA has a PM program or not, ask the following questions to determine how robust and thorough your maintenance plan is.

2. Have you documented our PM program?

Let’s get this straight. When you’re dealing with official HOA business, make sure that everything is in writing (digital or print). Your HOA management company may say that your association has a PM program, but if nothing is formally documented, you likely don’t. Having a documented plan is critical because it ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to your association’s goals and maintenance schedule going forward. The truth is, your community may not always have the same manager or board, so having a documented plan provides crucial direction.

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

Let’s get this out of the way: A reserve study is different than a PM program, so don’t get the two confused. Just as you should consult with an engineering specialist when creating your PM program, your reserve study requires the guidance of a reserve study specialist. The two documents should complement one another, and the reserve study should be considered when planning preventative maintenance. 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 also said, “A timely review of the reserve study allows us to help associations mitigate surprise costs and save money.”

4. Has an engineering professional evaluated building components and facilities?

Does one of your fellow board members have engineering knowledge? Don’t make the mistake of relying on an amateur to assess your facilities when you really need the help of a dedicated engineer. Partnering with an engineering specialist can often lead to better informed solutions and cost savings.

One 228-unit high-rise managed by FirstService Residential brought in corporate engineer Riepenhoff to assess their ongoing water drainage issues around the pool area, which was causing many leaks into the parking lot below. Prior to FirstService Residential, the association had received a $400,000 estimate to fix the water drainage issues but had limited funds to use. Riepenhoff immediately discovered the root of the problem and provided a more cost-effective and efficient resolution, $280,000 less than the original assessment.

Riepenhoff immediately discovered the root of the problem and provided a more cost-effective and efficient resolution, $280,000 less than the original assessment.

5. What testing methods do you utilize?

Your engineering specialist should be using high-tech testing methods to make sure facilities and components are working properly. One of these is vibration analysis, which measures the vibration of moving parts in machines in order to anticipate failures. This information can then help you determine the condition of equipment like pumps and motors as well as diagnose mechanical problems, including imbalance, misalignment, looseness, worn bearings, strain and resonance. Additional tests include thermal imaging, plumbing stack inspection, laser shaft alignment, sound testing, trends analysis and oil sampling and analysis.

Additional tests include thermal imaging, plumbing stack inspection, laser shaft alignment, sound testing, trends analysis and oil sampling and analysis.

6. How frequently are we inspecting facilities and components?

Your maintenance schedule will vary, depending on the size of your facilities and your community’s specific needs. To determine this schedule, your community management company should evaluate all of your components in a quality assurance assessment or full inspection done by an engineering specialist. After the first 30 days, they should have a baseline that they can use to outline how much maintenance will need to take place to keep everything in outstanding condition. Your HOA’s maintenance schedule should also complement your reserve study. If your reserve study’s estimated timelines do not match up to your PM program, there’s a good chance your program is outdated. Lastly, your maintenance schedule should remain fluid so that it can accommodate variables, like extreme weather or unforeseen emergencies.  

7. How do you monitor and extend the useful life of our facilities and components?

As mentioned in our recent article, “How to Prepare for HOA Maintenance, Capital Improvements and Useful Life” manufacturers typically determine the useful life of a piece of equipment. However, your management company’s approach to maintenance will play a part in reducing or extending a component’s useful life. Ask them if they follow a manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and what steps they take to extend useful life. They should be working to improve upon useful life by facilitating high-tech testing (per question five), investing in regular maintenance and replacing parts with higher-quality or more efficient materials.

8. What kinds of vendors are we partnering with?

For starters, your HOA property management company should only work with preferred and vetted vendors. They should be obtaining multiple quotes in order to negotiate the best price for your association. To accomplish this, work with a management company that has access to a network of national support as well as experience in the local market and relationships with trusted vendors. A great management company will work with qualified vendors to get quality and cost-effective maintenance solutions for your association.

9. What technologies do we use to track maintenance projects?

Your management company should monitor maintenance projects via a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or digital tracking system. A CMMS will automate all of your schedule’s processes and track maintenance projects. Your management company should keep several factors in mind when adopting a CMMS, including 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. How do you deal with unexpected maintenance issues?

The truth is no matter how prepared you are, natural disasters and emergencies happen. A great homeowners association management company will have procedures that clearly define how they respond to unforeseen maintenance and emergency issues. Examples include documented staff training, exit strategy, equipment preparation and emergency protocol review. Make sure that your management company has the knowledge and resources to deal with these “worst-case scenarios.”

11. Do we need a project manager or assistant project manager?

Some associations require larger maintenance projects or capital improvements for the purpose of maintaining or establishing the quality of their facilities and components. These bigger maintenance projects require broader support, often from a dedicated project manager. The best management companies will offer project consulting services, which includes assistance with establishing the budget, guidance during the bidding process and other important tasks.

Do we have a healthy preventative maintenance plan?

Having a solid PM plan in place helps mitigate unexpected costs and repairs and saves money in the long run. And finding out if that’s the case starts with a conversation. Download a complimentary guide that outlines the 11 questions you need to ask your management company.

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.