Preparing for the Summertime Exodus Coping with Mass Vacancies

If it's like a ghost town in your building and summer hasn’t hit yet—where is everybody? 

Maybe they’re on a winter hiatus and are inhabiting their second home in Florida—and that possibly means a season-long absence from their co-op or condo. Lucky for them, but how does it affect the rest of the building community when a large portion of the resident snowbirds have gone AWOL? What special precautions should the board and manager take to keep the building running safely and smoothly through periods of mass vacancy?

Lonely Leaks 

According to Michael Berenson, president of Manhattan-based management firm AKAM Associates, “When an owner is away from their co-op or condo apartment for any period of time, the major concern is making sure that nothing happens in the apartment to jeopardize the life or safety of others in the building. Most significant are temperature-related concerns, because pipes can freeze and burst in apartments where the temperature is not regulated.”

Managing agent Arnie Lauri, who is with Midboro Management in Manhattan, shares Berenson's concern: “If somebody isn’t in an apartment for a month or two months and there is a leak,” says Lauri, “you may not see the damage for a while.” Once the water penetrates the apartment’s flooring, he explains, “it finds its way. It can skip floors, and stay in certain areas.”

Lauri, who previously worked for Argo Real Estate, recalls a leak in a condominium apartment a couple of years ago. The owner was away for a month and the water supply line for their toilet cracked. While the apartment of origin was on the 14th floor, the building staff weren’t aware of the leak until it hit the lobby. “It bypassed 12, and did damage on some floors and not others,” says Lauri. “The most damage was to the first residential floor—the last area where there was a concrete slab.”

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