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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Comments

  • I have always paid my maintenance but my requests for certain necessary and covered maintenance have gone unfulfilled. To make matters worse the property manager sent me a letter stating that certain maintenance repairs were done; (but-in fact they were never actually done!). I notified the property manager of this, in writing, I brought this up publicly our annual board meeting, at which the board members expressed a lack of awareness of this situation despite my prior written notice to them. (All correspondence to the board must be sent to the management company where the property manger then forwards it to the board) I suggested that we need a procedure in place requiring shareholder verification of claims/reports that certain maintenance work has actually been done, before the board authorizes payment and/or inclusion of that work into our operating (maintenance) budget- obviously to avoid paying for or budgeting for work that isn't actually done. Our maintenance costs are always increasing. It has been almost a year now and the verification procedure was never put in place, nor have I received any correspondence correcting or withdrawing the letter. The property manager merely repeats that she has only written what the maintenance supervisor said. The board has not responded. And the work still hasn't been done. On another unfulfilled maintenance issue brought to the attention of management and a board member, the board member refused to look at photos/videos of unrepaired damage stating that the maintenance supervisor says he fixed it, and I'm just telling you what he said. Out of 220 units, I have no idea how many other such unverified records may have been submitted and paid for; in that as a rule, shareholders are not issued any letters or record of maintenance work done in their unit. Is there any law or standard of accounting practices co-ops must follow requiring shareholder verification of claims that certain maintenance work was completed in their unit, prior to submission for payment/inclusion in the maintenance budget? If not there should be. I don't want to go the route of withholding maintenance. If there is not, I would be interested in knowing whether or not this publication would consider organizing an on-line petition for co-op shareholders to sign if in favor of having the opportunity to verify claims of maintenance work done in their unit. Please let me know. Thank you