Together with prudent financial management, consistent property maintenance is equally essential for long term property management success with direct knock-on benefits for property value growth too. Getting the basics right goes a very long way to achieving positive results. Effective maintenance does not require special or advanced construction or engineering skills, but rather attention to detail, a house proud mindset, consistent and long term focused efforts supported by reputable and cost effective service providers.
The basics would include annual servicing of fire fighting equipment and waterproofing, monthly servicing of lifts where applicable with Annexure B inspections every 2 years, clearing of drains and gutters before the rainy season, attending to broken glass, perished putty and rusted window frames as quickly as possible, touching up chipped and peeling paint regularly to avoid expansion, pest control services tailored to the property context, replacing globes and checking for and addressing leaking taps as important examples. Worth also remembering that a property’s entrance, garden and pool where present are generally the first impression and show case of a property and should be maintained and presented to a high standard. Where staff are employed by the building, close management using a work roster is essential and responsibilities for managing the staff should be clearly defined for best results. A defined maintenance portfolio for trustees or directors is a very good idea to create capacity and accountability in this important area. Top priorities should be placed on security, cleaning, refuse removal and garden maintenance as these areas have the greatest direct impact on residents quality of life and convenience. Finally, as municipal services generally represent in excess of 50% of a property’s expenditure, close attention should be placed on a building’s electrical and water systems to ensure they are running correctly with limited wastage and monthly recoveries from owners should be closely monitored.
Maintenance contractors are far from all being equal and considerable effort needs to be applied to selecting and working with cost effective and reliable contractors who provide quality services with appropriate workmanship guarantees for best long term results. A range of quotes should be arranged based on a clearly defined scope of work and site briefing where practical, until a panel of preferred contractors has been selected to work at the building. Numerous case studies exist showing that pricing can vary as much as 1000% for even relatively small jobs. Work should always be inspected and confirmed before payment and guarantees clearly defined. Regular property inspections ideally walking the full extent of the common property are then important for spotting necessary repairs which should be dealt with promptly and fully when identified. As time is generally a challenge for trustees and directors who work as volunteers for free usually after business hours, a caretaker or building manager is often a very good idea to assume some of the responsibilities outlined above and daily property inspections are then ideal. Also important to ensure that owners take responsibility for maintaining their own sections in bodies corporate and freehold properties in home owners associations to avoid wastage of building maintenance resources, albeit issues which overlap from within boundaries of personal responsibility on to common property need to be dealt with decisively even if intervention is required. Finally, a good understanding of insurance cover is important to both avoid maintenance related repudiations and to claim insurance cover where appropriate (e.g. burst geysers, pipes and storm damages).
Written by Andrew Schaefer – MD, Trafalgar Property Management