Does this checklist sound like the elements for the perfect high-rise?
✓ A desirable location in the heart of a major city
✓ Generous amenities and 24-hour resident service specialists
X Lacking the most basic maintenance and safety standards
Of course not. Even if you have a fantastic location, great amenities and on-site staff, your high-rise will undoubtedly suffer (and property values will most likely drop) if preventative maintenance is neglected. Additionally, when you have underfunded reserves and a limited operating budget, tackling maintenance can seem like a pipe dream. So what happens if you are on the board of a desirable high-rise that’s deficient in basic maintenance and safety standards and has limited funds to work with? You can sit back and hope that a major building component doesn’t fail from neglect, or you can take action and make a significant change for the better by ensuring your board has the right support and resources for the job. The board members of the 100 South Doheny high-rise association took the latter approach and brought on FirstService Residential and its team of high-rise experts in October 2017 to help revive the building, onboard new staff and create a vastly improved resident experience.
“The results have been phenomenal. We partnered with FirstService Residential to develop a lengthy planning document, and 80% to 90% of that list was completed in three months. Their team has accomplished more in those three months than our previous management completed in two years."
- Dara Rezvanipour, Architectural Committee Chair
Built in 1971, 100 South Doheny is a 228-unit high-rise in Los Angeles, with a wide array of amenities, including tennis courts, pool, spa, gym, social room, library, Wi-Fi and two resident service specialists on duty at all times. Located next to the prestigious Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, the building is also close to luxury shopping, dining and recreational destinations as well as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Like many high-rise associations that are faced with minimal to no preventative maintenance because of a lack of support and guidance from their management company as well as underfunded reserves and a limited operating budget, 100 South Doheny was experiencing a variety of problems that escalated over many years. After General Manager Mindy Dent and FirstService Residential’s Urban Division performed an independent assessment and analysis of the building and operations, they determined that the high-rise had a number of serious issues that resulted in unnecessary costs, potential safety risks, and low amenity use by the residents. The combination of deferred maintenance, desire to not raise assessments and many years of passive management resulted in critical safety risks and multiple issues with the building’s infrastructure, including:
- Severe leaks from the roof into the penthouse units
- Improperly maintained and repaired HVAC equipment, resulting in burnt wiring, air and water leaks, inefficient energy use and fire risk
- Poorly maintained exhaust fans, causing unnecessary wear and tear on parts and reducing useful life of the components
- Insufficient lighting on tennis courts and poorly maintained landscape and irrigation
- Unsafe exterior light wiring, with exposed electrical conduit in the front of the building that had the potential to electrocute a child, adult or pet
- Unresolved water drainage issues from the pool and surrounding area, resulting in numerous leaks into the parking lot below
Additionally, because of an inconsistent level of service and responsiveness coming from their management company, residents and board members raised concerns about the overall resident experience and staff morale, including:
- Building components, assets, and amenities were never properly maintained with preventative maintenance plans, so maintenance work was only performed when something stopped working, resulting in high-cost repairs
- The resident experience was beginning to suffer, as the building’s excellent amenities were diminishing in quality as a result of limited proactive maintenance
- Poor communication between staff and residents regarding fees and rules
- Lack of oversight in dealing with architectural submittals and real estate sales
- Waning morale of custodial and service staff resulting in a less-than-optimal resident experience
- Disorganized management office with missing paperwork, misplaced or undocumented deposits and potentially lost revenue
- Lack of support and guidance for the on-site engineer to properly develop the skills, qualifications and certifications needed to perform duties or repairs properly
In partnership with the board, FirstService Residential and its seasoned team of urban high-rise experts developed a 15-page action plan and got to work immediately, covering everything from neglected drainage issues to critical administrative functions. The support and resources facilitated through FirstService Residential were instrumental in the process. FirstService Residential’s engineering, HR, training and finance teams were all enlisted to ensure that maintenance and staffing needs were addressed with the right expertise and with a cost-effective approach. With limited funds and urgent maintenance needs, the team partnered with vendor resources to ensure that all items were taken care of within budget. As Mindy said, “It’s one thing to sit at a desk and answer phone calls, it’s another thing to be truly proactive and make critical changes with the support of a team of experts.” With an emphasis on quality, cost-effectiveness and exceptional service, multiple maintenance projects were completed within budget, including the following:
- Installed a new energy-efficient roofing system to repair leaks from the roof into the penthouse units
- Worked with an expert AC company to repair, rewire and improve improperly maintained HVAC equipment on roof
- Partnered with an expert AC company to replace and install correct parts for exhaust fans in order to cut down on future repair costs
- Installed LED lighting in the front entryway and state-of-the-art LED lights in tennis courts to ensure safety, cut energy costs and improve appearance
- Replaced dangerous exterior light wiring to ensure safety of children, pets and adults
- Brought in Rodney Riepenhoff, corporate engineer from FirstService Residential, to determine cause of water drainage issues in pool and parking lot and provided a more efficient and cost-effective resolution, with an estimate $280,000 less than the previous solution (an estimate of $120,000 versus $400,000)
- Utilized FirstService Residential’s financial team to ensure that all repairs and improvements were within budget and cost-effective for the board, resulting in stable assessments for residents
- Identified cost-effective midrange and long-term goals to address further maintenance needs and capital improvements over the next 10 years
As part of this plan, FirstService Residential utilized its HR and Training teams to hire and onboard 13 new employees. These employees were brought on to supplement and work with some of the previous staff and provide more consistent support to the building. Kellie Hachten, director of hospitality, partnered with Genese Bynum, HR generalist, and Mindy to hire, train and onboard the new employees.
100 South Doheny has been increasingly supportive and pleased with the quick turnaround and dramatic improvements leading into 2018. After the initial 90 days, residents and board members overwhelmingly voted for FirstService Residential to continue managing the high-rise. Mindy said, “We’re grateful that 100 South Doheny continues to entrust us with their homes and are thrilled to see the transformation taking shape so quickly.” She added, “At FirstService Residential, we aim to deliver exceptional service, consistently. That means taking a proactive approach, being readily available and demonstrating responsiveness now and in the months and years to come through our support network and team of experts. For 100 South Doheny, we haven’t just put out fires, we’re getting midrange and long-term goals set up. We’re taking steps to help decrease insurance costs, prioritizing preventative maintenance and setting up tasks to accomplish in the next 2 to 10 years. Anyone can step into a high-rise and tackle a few line items. It’s the long journey that makes a bigger difference.”
Board Member Testimonial:
Dara Rezvanipour has been a resident of 100 South Doheny for eight years. He is a former board member and is currently chair of the architectural committee. In regards to his experience with the FirstService Residential transition, he said, “The results have been phenomenal. We partnered with FirstService Residential to develop a lengthy planning document, and 80% to 90% of that list was completed in three months. Their team has accomplished more in those three months than our previous management completed in two years.” Dara added, “With the help of our fantastic general manager Mindy Dent and FirstService Residential’s team of experts, the building has been transformed. Mindy and the team truly embody the service standards that FirstService Residential has put forth, and we are encouraged to see the same extreme attention to detail and high level of service over the months to come.”