Preparing for the Summertime Exodus Coping with Mass Vacancies

If it's like a ghost town in your building and summer hasn’t hit yet—where is everybody? 

Maybe they’re on a winter hiatus and are inhabiting their second home in Florida—and that possibly means a season-long absence from their co-op or condo. Lucky for them, but how does it affect the rest of the building community when a large portion of the resident snowbirds have gone AWOL? What special precautions should the board and manager take to keep the building running safely and smoothly through periods of mass vacancy?

Snowbirds Fly

A 2006 survey by Stan Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida in Gainesville, found that of all the people who spend part of each year in Florida, the greatest number were from New York, with Michigan next, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, Canada, Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California. Upstate New Yorkers have long gravitated to places like the central eastern coast and the area around Tampa and St. Petersburg while metro New Yorkers and folks from the Garden State routinely travel to South Florida and other locations in the Sunshine State. Most of these temporary residents migrated to counties in the southern part of the Sunshine State. And that means there are a lot of empty co-op and condo units.

Lonely Leaks 

According to Michael Berenson, president of Manhattan-based management firm AKAM Associates, “When an owner is away from their co-op or condo apartment for any period of time, the major concern is making sure that nothing happens in the apartment to jeopardize the life or safety of others in the building. Most significant are temperature-related concerns, because pipes can freeze and burst in apartments where the temperature is not regulated.”

“Obviously, the biggest risks are fire and water,” says Elaine Warga-Murray, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, the managing partner and CEO of Regency Management Group, LLC in Howell. “so that is why the above protocol is standard. In cases of apparent property risk, water or smoke, management has the obligation to gain access via locksmith or other invasive method; and notify the owner and local emergency contact. The purpose of management entry is to mitigate further damage if there are indications or reports of physical damage,” she says.

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