Spring cleaning isn't just for unit owners. As we move out of the winter months, now is a great time to make sure your property is “spic and span” for the rest of 2016. The New Jersey Cooperator recently spoke with property managers Bill Worrall, vice president of client relations and business development for FirstService Residential, a nationwide management firm; Lurlaine Gonzalez, LCAM, a portfolio property manager with Florida-based Lynx Property Services; Andrea Ammendola, director of community management at Associa, a nationwide management company located in New York; and Lisa Evans, also a community association manager at Associa, to find out which tasks were at the top of their spring cleaning checklists.
Pack Away Your 2015. “Right now, every association should be in their annual financial audit or review process,” explains Worrall. “They’re on a calendar year, they’ve closed the financials for 2015, and now they’ve engaged their third party independent CPA to complete the annual audit, the annual tax returns.”
Worrall recommends an annual archiving of the association’s records, so gather all of your financial statements, deposit slips, and bills that were paid in 2015 in order. “Clean up your files, get everything archived into a separate 2015 compartment, and have everything organized so that when the auditor comes to do their fieldwork on site at your association, they’ll have everything and they can work through the process quickly and efficiently,” remarks Worrall. “By the end of the first quarter you should have everything completed, done and filed away in storage for the prior year.”
Take a Walk. March is a great time to schedule landscape walks and maintenance walks with your vendors, says Evans. “We are looking at what kind of landscape needs you might have for the upcoming season, concrete asphalt, things that would need attention. Those are very commonly scheduled, if you can schedule your landscape walk with your vendor, they can start to prepare your quotes for you moving into spring.” For asphalt and concrete, any areas that the association is responsible for should be reviewed because those areas tend to sustain some damage over the winter. “There may be driveways that need maintenance,” says Evans, “and if the association is responsible for the roads, they may need maintenance after the winter months because salting and plowing can cause potholes. You may have common parking areas or parking lots. Entry ways, stoops, sidewalks, they should all be looked at if they’re the association's responsibility.” For landscaping, be on the lookout for anything that may have been damaged during the snowy season, from turf to dead plants that need replacing, to broken tree limbs.
Clean Out Those Gutters. Cleaning old leaves from gutters, downspouts, and catch basins should be done once the snow melts. “We need to ensure that things are running smoothly before we start getting into the rainy season again,” says Ammendola. Now’s also a great time to do street sweeping. “There’s typically a lot of salt and gravel that’s been brought in during the winter months,” remarks Ammendola. “Usually this is a service that we build into the contract of our snow removal company.”
Dive into Pool Maintenance. Unless your community’s pool is heated, it’s likely been out of use during the winter season. As we head into spring, Gonzalez uses this time to get the pool and its surrounding areas ready for the summer months. “I like to check the pipes and waterlines, to make sure there are no leaks,” explains Gonzalez. “And if the deck needs to be sealed and pressure cleaned, now would be a good time to take care of that.”
If it’s a pool that's more than thirty to forty years old, Gonzalez recommends doing a pressure test to ensure that there are no underground leaks that are requiring you to refill the pool more often than would be typically necessary. Now’s also a good time to reseal any caulking, to check for loose tiles, and to take a good look at the pool filters and the pump room. And, she says, “if you want to make a change to chemical feeders instead of having your maintenance man put the chlorine straight into the pool, now is also that time where you want to make those decisions.”
Update Your Disaster Preparedness Plan. “Every year, this time of year, we should be updating our disaster preparedness plans,” says Worrall. Hurricane season in Florida begins on June 1st; the northeast corridor is probably most at risk between August and October.
One of the key components to your disaster preparedness plan is to make sure all of the snowbirds in the condominium association have secured their units before they leave for the summer. “This year is going to be a little bit different because it’s a leap year,” says Worrall. “The spring holidays come early this year—Easter, Passover, all those are moved up. So what ends up happening is typically all of the snowbirds in the condominiums or HOAs go home after the spring holidays. They go back north to Canada or New York or wherever they came from.” Worrall recommends that you update your disaster preparedness plan with plenty of time to make sure you're able to communicate updates to every single owner while you have the max occupancy in your association so that everybody is prepared and knows exactly what they need to do before they leave.
“It should be presented to membership when you have max capacity,” states Worrall. “I recommend that your manager and your board, if you have a disaster preparedness committee, you all kind of team up and put together a presentation for the membership to communicate what the plans are for the building, what they can expect from the common areas, communication they can expect because they’re gonna be out of town when the hurricane hits, what they’re going to be doing before they leave.” Also be sure to check with your municipality for updates to their hurricane preparedness guidelines, ensure your insurance and broker information is up to date, and make sure the appropriate staff and board members are registered and approved as responders by your municipality.
Schedule a Face Lift. March is the perfect time to get a fresh coat of paint on your property before the humidity sets in. “I like to paint the street barriers, the hydrants, and the speed bumps in yellow,” says Gonzalez. “The utilities boxes in certain areas of the community, they fade in time. I like to use a hunter green, using tape to make sure I preserve the numbers on the transformer. It really gives a nice detail to the community. Those details kind of bring everything together, when you do landscaping, you paint the barriers, you have the speed bumps nice and yellow, the curb appeal, it really inspires your owners to want to improve their home around that time as well.”
Get Your Owners On Board. Speaking of inspiring your owners to do a little spring cleaning of their own, Evans says that spring is a great time to send a newsletter out to your community reminding them to clean up any compliance issues that have piled up over the winter season. “Prepare a newsletter and give homeowners a general reminder of some common issues,” says Evans. “Tell them they have a certain time frame to clean this stuff up. whether it’s cluttered balconies, cleaning up pet waste that had not been picked up over the winter, things of that nature that tend to go to the wayside in the winter months, and just give owners a heads up that these things are going to be looked at, so now is the time to really focus on that and clean that up so we can avoid any issues.” Generally you’ll notice these issues when you’re doing the maintenance walks mentioned above.
Plan for The Fall. “Always be proactive and be a season or two ahead,” remarks Gonzalez. “I was lucky enough to have started the pool project that I have going on in early July. So I did all my leg work in the spring, finalized it in July, and by the time we got permits and planning, it started the first week of January, which is great because my pool will be open in the spring.” For painting, Gonzalez ended up in a tough spot. “I'm in the process of painting 548 units, and I’m missing one bid of my three bids, and everyone is really booked now,” says Gonzalez. “Right now there’s a demand because everybody wants to paint during the dry season. I would’ve liked to have more vendors available.” Gonzalez recommends contacting painters for bids in July or August, because it’s raining and nobody is thinking of their painting projects that will happen in the drier season of February and March. “I wish somebody had told me early on that July or August is a great time to hire a painter and at least get that leg work started of getting three proposals and color palettes and pressure cleaning and so on,” explains Gonzalez.
Along these lines, Worrall says that now is a good time to make sure your annual preventative maintenance calendar for 2016 is up to date. “Your critical systems, your safety and fire systems, your HVAC systems and your emergency generator, they should all be on the calendar,” says Worrall. “Nail those things down now.”
Jenn Welch is a staff writer for The New Jersey Cooperator.