Can it Wait? Prioritizing Maintenance Repairs

With the economy moving back toward a more robust state, building administrators are still looking for ways to save money in an increasingly competitive real estate market. It’s no surprise to hear that co-op and condo boards sometimes feel compelled to prioritize (or deprioritize) certain maintenance and repair projects over other projects—it just makes sense to do so when times are more conservative.

While it's clear that installing a new boiler or roof should take precedence over a lobby refurbishing project, sometimes, the right course isn't clear-cut. Some reshuffling of priorities may be unavoidable when money is tight, but the process also raises some questions about liability, long-term planning, and how boards and managers can make wise decisions in tough times.

Must Do’s

Certain routine maintenance projects absolutely cannot be skipped, including regularly checking the state of the building’s roof to take note of and address normal wear and tear; also, checking the roof drains, even in winter, when a clog up there could quickly prove disastrous. The building’s boiler requires a regular schedule for checkups by boiler maintenance professionals, as well as--at least--weekly checks by building staff, who should be monitoring how the device is running and noting it in a logbook.

A building’s boilers, HVAC system and water tank all must be checked and serviced, at least, yearly. The sprinkler system, alarm system and the elevator system also must be addressed annually, says Stephen Beer, managing director of Manhattan-based accounting firm Czarnowski & Beer.

There are obvious signs of an impending maintenance crisis that boards and managers should never put off addressing, including when residents report smelling gas, or when the heat doesn’t work properly, or if the boiler has been having a lot of similar repairs done repeatedly.

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