Handling Maintenance and Repairs In-House, Or Outsource?

In the wake of the recession and facing an uncertain economic climate on the heels of a tumultuous presidential election, condo, co-op, and HOA boards may instinctively want to pinch pennies where they can, especially when it comes to maintenance projects. If an association has a full-time, in-house maintenance staff – whether that be a super, multiple handymen, or a combination of the two—then that’s all the better when it comes time to doling out responsibility for fixing a creaky door or a wobbly banister rail. But some projects will necessarily fall outside the purview of a building’s staff of trusted workers, requiring a specialized outside contractor. The ability to recognize the line between small quick-fixes around a property and an endeavor that requires specific training is essential for board and management, lest an attempted cost-saving operation open the association up to unsafe conditions, property damage, or liability exposure. 

Manage Expectations

A qualified property manager can act as a board’s conscience when it’s considering whether to allocate funds to a maintenance project, or attempt a quicker fix in-house. A capable managing agent will have set criteria on hand as to the type of work that can be performed by staff safely and correctly, as opposed to something on a larger scale that demands a seasoned (not to mention licensed and fully-insured) professional.

Nicolas Marin, a property manager with Wesley Realty Group in Evanston, Illinois, lays out categories of factors that a board must consider when making a work-order decision:

Personnel: Does the in-house staff have the experience necessary to perform the task at hand? Who will supervise them during the work? Is there a possibility that inexperience on their part could exacerbate the existing problem? And if an association has limited staff in general, will attempting this task interfere with the daily operations of the property?

Tools, equipment and supplies: Does the association have everything necessary to perform the maintenance and repair properly? Some maintenance or repair may require specific tools or equipment that the association may not possess, in which case it will have to review whether purchasing those items represents an investment (in the case that it will see repeated use), or just an expense. Should the association procure said tool, is there an assurance that it will be used safely? 

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