In the life of any homeowner association, there is a series of maintenance issues that come up. Some are major renovation projects or insurance claim related. Others are more routine events like gutter cleaning, janitorial service, landscape service or lot sweeping. Then there those aggravating little things that come up from day to day. To the owner that makes such maintenance requests, the issue often looms larger than life and needs to get handled as soon as possible (like yesterday). Sometimes, the issue does warrant immediate action for safety or damage control reasons. But usually, the repair is not urgent.
To get the biggest bang out of your maintenance budget buck, small jobs should be consolidated by similar task description under one work order so that the repairman can maximize efficiency and reduce cost to the HOA. For example, if the repair is designed for a handyman, group all such tasks together so there is at least a day's work. It might take a while to accumulate enough work so, have a standing policy that small non-emergency maintenance requests are handled in, say, 15-30 days (or whatever time frame is reasonable for your particular operation). This will align the caller's expectations with the HOA policy.
For true maintenance emergencies, there should be a reliable system to respond 24/7. Full service HOA managers offer this service. But self managed HOAs (especially common wall HOAs that have building and grounds maintenance responsibility) need to craft their own. Emergency maintenance should be monitored by an "on call" person that is knowledgeable about the buildings and its systems. This person should know where to shut off the water and power and have keys to locked common area and equipment rooms. It should be someone who has the authority to make emergency maintenance decisions. Each on call person should have detailed site plans, contact information, preferred vendor list, keys, access codes and building blueprints.
The most efficient and cost effective way to monitor emergency maintenance is with an HOA cell phone that can be passed around to "on call" people. A voice mail service that forwards messages to a designated phone number also works well since that designated phone number can be changed as needed.
Establishing these kind of systems is also invaluable for regular HOA business needs. With a permanent HOA phone number, using personal phone numbers that change as the board changes is no longer necessary. The cost of a pager with voice mail costs only $10-20/month. The HOA should also have its own email and permanent mail addresses for the same purpose. Encouraging members to use email ensures that the request is preserved in the sender's own words, is date stamped and it can be forwarded quickly to the right repairman.
Another area to maintain tight control on is owners that order their own maintenance expecting the HOA to reimburse them. Other than the few situations that qualify as real emergencies like fires or floods, have a policy that all maintenance must be processed through the board, Maintenance Committee or manager. Tag teaming with the manager can offer some great cost cutting benefits to the HOA. If the board or Maintenance Committee prescreens each maintenance request, some can be eliminated entirely or better defined for the manager. This sorting process will help the manager better manage requests and the HOA's money. The Maintenance Committee can also inspect the completed work for quality control.
Between board meetings, the president has authority to make maintenance decisions that are in keeping with the approved budget. If the matter is an extraordinary non-emergency expense, it should wait until the next board meeting for approval.
Screening maintenance requests will radically reduce costs and improve maintenance quality. Put your process in place and start saving today.
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