As buildings age, small and large maintenance issues arise, and HOA boards are called upon to address these situations. The questions frequently revolve around whether to use in-house staff or to hire an outside company to fix the problem. If the complex retains a management company—especially one that has its own maintenance division—the situation can become a bit more complicated.
Let’s look at a typical maintenance issue. Say the balcony railings on nearly all of the 20 units in a self-managed suburban condo complex are deteriorating and need to be replaced. The HOA has one maintenance person on staff and he has carpentry expertise, but he’s never replaced 20 railings at once. The board needs to make a decision. Should he be pulled away from his regular duties to fix the railings, or should the project be outsourced to a contractor? There’s no easy formula to apply, but rather a few commonsense questions to be addressed.
Sizing Up the Job
First, board members need to consider the size and complexity of the job, and the expertise of their staff.
According to Paul Santoriello, president and director of property management for Taylor Management in Cedar Knolls, “A lot of the issues that associations deal with are similar to what companies deal with when they look to outsource—the positives and negatives. Obviously, the first aspect that you're going to look at is what service it is that you need provided. The second thing is whether the job can feasibly be done by an outsourced company, and the cost-benefits associated with it—and there's more to that analysis than just what it would cost to use an employee versus what would it cost to hire an outside company.”
Wayde F. Scheffer, president of Access Property Management in Flemington, uses a two-column “decision chart” to determine whether projects in his company's portfolio communities can be handled in-house or outsourced to contractors.