Is Your HOA (Really) Prepared? 13 Questions to Assess Your Maintenance Plan
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Your association can’t predict the future, but it can have a strong preventive maintenance (PM) plan or program (which is almost as good).
A solid PM plan will help you keep equipment and facilities in excellent condition, extend useful life, build up your HOA’s reputation and ultimately, enhance property values. So how do you know if your PM plan is working? Sit down with your board and manager and ask these 13 questions:
1. Do we have a PM plan?
This one is easy! If you don’t already have a PM plan (or you’re not sure), ask your manager and management company to help you develop one. If you do have one, ask these follow-up questions to see 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?
This question is also a no-brainer. If you don’t have a PM plan or program that’s documented, you probably don’t have one. Your HOA should be treated as a nonprofit corporation, so a good rule of thumb is to get everything in writing, including your PM plan. This step ensures that your maintenance plan will outlive the current board, managers and maintenance staff.
3. Does our PM plan reflect our HOA’s vision?
Your Nevada association’s PM plan or program should reflect your overall vision and mission statement. For instance, is your vision to be a cutting-edge community with a reputation for modern amenities or have the best curb appeal in the neighborhood? Then, make sure that your PM plan accounts for frequent inspections and updates of common areas and equipment to maintain your association’s relevance.
4. Are we taking our reserve study into account when planning maintenance?
Of course, a reserve study is not the same as a PM plan or program. But the two pieces should definitely be aligned with one another. Work closely with your manager to review your reserve study when developing or revising your PM plan. Reviewing your association’s reserve study annually helps ensure that your PM plan matches equipment life expectancies. Most importantly, if the reserve study’s estimated timelines do not align with your PM plan, your plan may be outdated.
5. Has an engineering specialist assessed our equipment and facilities?
Partner with a seasoned engineering specialist or consultant when developing and executing your PM plan. An engineering specialist can help detect issues that may result in last-minute or “surprise” repairs.
A 228-unit high-rise was experiencing water drainage issues coming from a swimming pool, resulting in leaks into a 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 solution.
6. What equipment testing methods are we using?
An engineering specialist alone isn’t the only ingredient for a successful PM plan. Your specialist should also employ a variety of tests to ensure that your PM plan is 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 to help inform your PM program. It is also used to diagnose mechanical problems, such as imbalance, misalignment, looseness, worn bearings, strain and resonance.
7. How often are we inspecting facilities and equipment?
A good schedule makes all the difference, especially when it comes to preventive maintenance. Facilities and equipment must be tested frequently to ensure that they are operating in accordance with useful life. To set up a schedule, an engineering specialist should first perform an inspection or quality assurance assessment of your equipment. After 30 days, they can determine a baseline to help create an accurate maintenance schedule, aligning with the size and scope of your facilities. As a reminder, make sure that your schedule remains fluid to accommodate emergencies, like extreme weather.
8. What are we doing to extend the useful life of equipment and facilities?
You should already be following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule with any equipment. But what is your management company doing to proactively improve and extend useful life of that equipment? Some examples 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?
If the answer to this question isn’t highly vetted vendors, talk to your management company. While it’s your board’s job to select the right vendors for maintenance (both short-term and long-term projects), your manager and management company should be supplying the right candidates. They should be experienced in your local area, have relationships with trusted vendors and be connected to a network of national support.
10. Are engineering associates regularly trained on our maintenance processes?
To maintain a strong PM plan or program, you need great associates behind it. To that end, make sure that engineers and maintenance staff have access to ongoing training and support in their day-to-day jobs. Your management company should also connect them with local and national resources, including engineering specialists and project administrators. Additionally, when changes to the PM plan occur, these associates should be kept in the loop so that they can adjust accordingly.
11. What system do we use to track maintenance projects?
You need more than a pad of paper to keep your PM plan on track. Your management company should employ a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or digital tracking system to track projects and automate processes. Your CMMS should 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?
Even if your PM plan covers everything, natural disasters and emergencies are a part of life. To cope with unexpected emergencies, your management company should have procedures and documentation in place, including 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 might want to consider utilizing a dedicated project administrator or manager. While your community manager can help manage certain pieces of the project, they can’t do it all. Your management company should provide an option of project consulting or administrative services to help support many important tasks, like establishing a 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
Why a PM plan matters
A thorough preventive maintenance plan can help ease the burden of unexpected repairs and surprise costs. It will help you save your association money in the long run and preserve and enhance property values. To make sure your Nevada HOA is set up for success, sit down with your board and management company to discuss your plan.