Whether living in a crowded high-rise or a sprawling suburban community, when it comes to condos, co-ops and homeowners’ associations, safety is paramount. From management to the board to fellow residents, it falls to everyone to show concern for their fellow neighbor. It also, oftentimes, is the literal law of the land, as compliance with many safety standards is mandated both locally and federally. It’s imperative that an association be intimately familiar with these standards, the schedules by which building components need to be inspected and evaluated, and the outside vendors which, when necessary, must be called upon to ensure that everything is in working order.
It falls within a board’s fiduciary duty to maintain, repair and replace common elements in a condo, or common areas in a non-condo, according to Howard S. Dakoff, a partner in the Community Associations Practice Group of Levenfeld Pearlstein in Chicago. This means implementing best practices with a managing agent to maintain the components to extend their useful life. Everything that a board does in regard to safety and inspections should reflect these general principles.
“I incorporate inspections into an annual management plan by identifying the various needed services and then scheduling them as appropriate,” says Stephen DiNocco, a principal with Affinity Realty & Property Management in Boston. “This includes all central services, fire safety equipment and security features.”
Doug Weinstein, vice president of the Project Management Group of AKAM Living Services, which has dual headquarters in New York and Dania Beach, Florida, uses elevators as an example for how best to approach inspections. “There are mandated elevator inspections that have to occur, whether that be on a yearly basis, every three years, five years... whatever a particular code dictates,” Weinstein offers. “In addition, whether you’re dealing with an elevator or a boiler or any piece of equipment that requires a mandated safety inspection, you have to confirm that it’s included in the maintenance agreement with the relevant vendor. And what’s more: it’s not enough to be included in the agreement; you have to ensure that the maintenance is being performed.
“What we try to do as managers is to create – for lack of a better term – a tickler file for all of these to ensure that an association is on top of their vendors,” he continues, “and that the vendors are performing whatever needs to be done to carry out that inspection and get a permit renewed.”