Tool Box Must Haves for Your Building Staff Spend A Little Now, Save A Lot Later

Many times I have looked at a repair bill or troubleshooting project and said to myself, “there had to have been a more effective and less expensive way to have found this out or to have accomplished the same results.”

Look for Ways to Save

I am sure many board members have had similar thoughts as they reviewed bills and thought of ways to spend less. Through experience and creative thinking, I would like to share a partial list of common expenses which can be greatly mitigated by rounding out your staff’s tool box a bit.

Eight Tips

Opening the wall or wood floor to find out if there is actually what appears to be a leak, and then having to make a repair to close it after no leak was found:
Purchase a moisture reader for your staff which is a digital readout device that detects water. If the area is dry-no holes, no repairs. 

Wet cement that gets vandalized overnight:
Purchase a set of portable floodlights and some chain so that they cannot be removed. Chain the floodlights in proximity to the new cement area to illuminate it. Wet cement is a little less inviting to your community artists when it is illuminated. The cost of having to replace a vandalized new cement walk is greatly reduced. ( Another use for these lights; Two or three sets are recommended as temporary lighting in the event of inoperable light poles as dark areas present a huge liability for your association and require immediate address).This will avoid emergency service.

Your staff and/or your landscaper insist a large area of lawn needs replacement due to a fungus or some other mysterious turf condition:
Purchase the largest aluminum disposable baking tins, place them atop the areas of dead grass and see if they fill from water. If they stay empty, the likely answer is the sprinkler head(s) just need a little adjustment. The cost of lawn repair/replacement has been eliminated as is expensive sprinkler head replacement.

The common areas of the building have that musty, dank odor when the air conditioner is running. Your service company advises they will have to run multiple tests to figure out what is wrong:
Purchase a sling psychrometer for your staff. It measures humidity. If armed with that information, when your service company arrives, the opportunity for them to run up a large troubleshooting bill is greatly reduced. The company will know your association is at the top of its game.

The pump for the swimming pool fails in mid-summer. The cost for a new one is astronomical due to the time of the year, as is emptying or treating the pool due to lack of filtration:
When your present pool pump fails, or is approaching the end of its running hours, think about making the modest investment of having it rebuilt and stored as a spare, in an area away from corrosive chemical gases. The next time your community’s pump fails, you have a quick and inexpensive replacement. Your board can shop for a new pump when the prices and temperatures are not so high. 

Parking lot drains that fill with pine needles and small leaves:
Stock some wire mesh which can be easily cut into the shape of a drain cover, but should be slightly larger in size. Lift the drain cover and place the mesh under the cover. The cover can removed once per week and the leaves which are trapped can be removed. This will prevent the shallow drains found in parking lots from filling with debris and overflowing during heavy rains.

Small, low lying areas that flood:
Many buildings have low lying interior areas near ground level doors, foundation walls or underground garages, etc. which are prone to ponding or flooding. Fifty pound cloth bags of sand are effective in limiting water damage. When heavy rains are expected or start to fall, the maintenance staff can place the bags in the problem area and the water will be absorbed or diverted. The staff must use their judgment as to how many they will need based on the conditions of the area in question.

Hose bib lines that freeze and break during the winter:
Every now and then a resident will forget to shut their hose bib supply line for the winter, or the resident may not have a shut off valve. A burst hose bib supply line can result in significant water or mold damage, sometimes causing damage to multiple homes. Hose bib covers can be purchased for less than $1.50 each. Though the hose bibs may or may not be owned by each resident in your community, the repairs frequently become the expense of the community depending on common element involvement and the design of the lines. Simply have your staff go through the community in late November and have them place the covers over each bib. This will eliminate the chance of burst supply lines and costly repairs.

Not only will these items save your co-op board, condo or HOA association some money and increase efficiency, but your staff will be reminded the board and property manager are partners with them in maintaining the common areas of the association, which is a great morale booster.

Margaret Bernato is a property manager. She writes articles for property management publications and is the developer and operator of askthepropertymanager.com, an informational question and answer website for community boards.

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