Every year, like clockwork, Wayne Bellet, owner of Bellet Construction in Manhattan, says that he gets multiple requests for his company to scrape, prime and paint metal fire escapes.
“It’s silly, because it’s so easy to do, and building managers and boards have staff that can do it,” says Bellet, whose company actually specializes in sealing buildings from water penetration. “If I charge $600 per fire escape and your building has 20 of them, doing the work in-house can really save money. All it takes is some personal protective equipment, such as masks and goggles, and a hand scraper.”
With many buildings and HOAs struggling to get out from under post-recession economic burdens, some boards and managers may be tempted to use in-house staff members to do certain maintenance and repair tasks around the property even if it's not necessarily in the staff’s job description, or if the job in question is maybe a bit more high-stakes than changing a light bulb or giving the lobby a fresh coat of paint. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine—not to mention cost-effective—to hand off a job to a staff member. On the other hand, there are some jobs that should definitely be left to the professionals.
“I am definitely in favor of using staff for doing work that outside contractors would do,” says Steven Gold, president of Hudson View Associates, Inc., a management firm in Manhattan. “I find the most economical and best way to use them is for plastering and painting jobs, but it all depends on what capabilities your staff has. Fortunately, the board or management company can select the people they are hiring and hire for the work that you know your building needs.”
Gold says that these three areas of concentration are plastering and painting, plumbing and electrical. “It’s good to have someone who knows plumbing on your staff in case of a pipe leak in a unit,” says Gold. “The shareholder won’t spend the money, but then before you know it, it’s leaking to the person below and wasting water in the building. If you don’t have someone fix it, it will cost the building money, and the water charges will be higher. If you already have someone on your property who can take a look at it, you don’t have to hire a licensed plumber.: But, Gold cautions, “you do need a licensed plumber for anything more than a leak.”