Management in Crisis Maintenance Meltdowns

Every property manager has a horror story or two—or three, or four, or forty-seven—about the sub-zero winter night when the boiler in a 400-unit high-rise went kaput, or what happened when the sprinkler system decided to turn on for no discernible reason and drenched several newly-remodeled hallways, or the spring rainstorms that helpfully revealed the dire condition of the building's World War II-era roof by flooding the penthouse owner's collection of Picassos. Even the best-maintained buildings sometimes experience what might be called maintenance meltdowns, and when disaster strikes, it's up to the management, board and building staff to get things under control and back on track as quickly as possible.

Let's take a look at some major maintenance meltdowns, and how they were handled.

MELTDOWN #1: Don't Smoke in Bed

The Scenario: A few years ago, a 42-story co-op apartment building caught fire in the early morning hours after a resident fell asleep while smoking. The blaze claimed the life of the smoker and her husband. Thankfully, no one else was injured, but the damage was severe. Smoke and water wreaked havoc on the building, which had just completed a significant renovation. The insurance claim was in the seven figures, and it took nine months before the repairs were completed.

Michael Berenson, president of AKAM Associates, Inc. in Manhattan, was the building's property manager—and he was prepared for the unexpected.

His crisis management team, comprising various experts who were assigned to deal with different aspects of the problem, responded with speed to the crisis.

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