In uncertain political and economic times, a condominium, cooperative or homeowners’ association may instinctively want to pinch pennies when it can, especially when it comes to relatively minor maintenance projects. If an association has in-house maintenance staff – whether that be a full-time super, part-time handyperson, or some combination of the two – then that’s all the better when it comes time fix a creaky door or a squeaky step. But some projects will necessarily fall outside the purview of even the most capable, competent building staff, and require a specialized outside contractor. The ability to recognize the line between small quick-fixes around the property and an endeavor that requires specific training, licensing, or insurance coverage is essential for board and management. Otherwise, an attempted cost-saving operation could open the association up to serious liability headaches.
A qualified property manager can act as a board’s conscience when it’s considering whether to allocate funds to a maintenance project, or attempt a quicker fix in-house. A managing agent or firm should have set criteria on hand as to the type of work that can be safely and legally performed by staff, as opposed to something on a larger scale that demands a seasoned pro.
Nicolas Marin, formerly with Wesley Realty Group in Evanston, Illinois, and now at Navigate Property Management in Bellingham, Washington, lays out a few questions boards should consider when making a work-order decision:
• Personnel: Does your in-house staff have the experience necessary to perform the task at hand safely and competently? Who will supervise them during the work? Is there a possibility that a simple mistake could exacerbate the existing problem? In a scenario where an association has limited staff in general, will attempting this task interfere with the other daily operations of the property?
• Tools, equipment, and supplies: Does the association have everything necessary to perform the maintenance and repair? Some projects may require specific tools which the association doesn’t have on hand, in which case the board and/or manager will have to review whether it makes sense to invest in purchasing those tools. If the association does opt to purchase special tools or equipment, is there an assurance that it will be used safely?