Is Your HOA Maintenance Plan Proactive or Reactive? 12 Questions to Ask
Your association has a great maintenance plan (or it should), but does it have its own mission statement (that reflects your association’s vision)? Is it detailed enough to survive changes in staff or management? Does it cover the 3 primary categories of maintenance (preventive, repairs and replacements)?
The way your association handles maintenance sets the tone for your community's reputation, your resident experience and your property values.
That's why having a solid maintenance plan or program is critical to your association's success.
Without a robust and comprehensive maintenance program, you may face shorter shelf life of valuable assets, unrealistic reserves, higher living costs, greater frequency of emergencies and a diminished reputation with residents (e.g., if current equipment and utilities fall into disrepair or are not improved, your reputation will suffer).
Ready to assess your current maintenance plan? Schedule a meeting with your board and management company to discuss the following questions:
1. Do You Have a Maintenance Plan and What Does It Include?
A proper maintenance plan is both proactive and reactive. It should include all forms of maintenance, including preventive (e.g., maintenance to keep equipment running smoothly), repairs (e.g., maintenance performed to fix an issue) and replacement (e.g., when an asset needs to be replaced entirely).
If you don't already have a maintenance plan (or you're not sure), ask your manager and management company to help you develop one and use these questions as a guide. If you do have one, ask these questions to determine if your plan is on the right track.
"Having a strong and well-documented maintenance plan can be the difference between a well-run association and an association that's prone to risk. As staff members change, a solid maintenance program will help new staff stay on top of equipment and asset maintenance and prevent surprise repairs."
-- Pepe Ramirez, Chief Engineer for LUMINA, San Francisco, FirstService Residential
2. Is Your Maintenance Plan or Program Documented? (and How is it Documented?)
A detailed, well-documented maintenance plan will help your buildings withstand the test of time and ensure it is well-kept throughout board and staff changes. Your HOA should be treated as a nonprofit corporation, so a good rule of thumb is to get everything in writing. Most importantly, your documented maintenance plan will act as a guide for new board members, managers and maintenance staff to keep your association in tip-top shape.
3. How Detailed Is Your Maintenance Plan?
Be direct and specific about each task in your maintenance plan, as generalized lists will potentially be overlooked or misunderstood during staff transitions. Your maintenance plan should have detailed descriptions of your assets, including serial and model numbers, specific items and locations. This will help ensure that future maintenance staff and managers follow the same protocol as the previous team. The more specific details you have in your plan, the better that maintenance occurs.
4. Does Your Maintenance Plan Have a Mission Statement?
Your association's maintenance plan or program should have its own credo or mission statement that reflects your association's overall vision and mission statement. For instance, is your vision to be a cutting-edge community with a reputation for modern amenities or have the best curb appeal in the neighborhood? Then, make sure that your maintenance plan accounts for frequent inspections and updates of common areas and equipment to maintain your association's relevance.
For example, LUMINA, a luxury San Francisco high-rise managed by FirstService Residential, has an engineering mission statement in addition to the association's overarching mission statement. Part of its mission statement states, "We pledge to provide the finest facility maintenance in operations and aesthetics for our owners. With rigorous talent acquisitions, extensive onboarding and continuous improvement training, we will create a highly skilled team to serve the community with the highest quality, safety and reliability."
5. Is Your Maintenance Program Designed Around Manufacturer Requirements and Government Codes?
Your plan should incorporate manufacturer's maintenance requirements, safety regulations from the local and national fire departments, health department, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and codes. The best association maintenance plans meet and exceed these minimum requirements and incorporate additional best practices designed to promote your residents' and staff members' health, safety and well-being.
6. Do You Have the Right Talent to Handle Your Specific Maintenance Needs?
Every association is different. Finding the right maintenance professionals and adapting your plan to match the complexity of your association's needs can help improve property values and prevent loss. A complex high-rise with multiple systems and assets will have very different needs than a single-family home association with one shared pool and clubhouse. Work with your management company to find the right balance for your association's unique needs.
"Don’t underestimate the importance of understanding your community’s unique needs before establishing your maintenance program. If your community or building has complex equipment and assets, you need to have maintenance professionals that have the expertise and training to do the job well.”
-- Pepe Ramirez, Chief Engineer for LUMINA, San Francisco, FirstService Residential
7. Does Your Community or High-Rise Require Vendor Outsourcing? What Is the Vetting Process?
Your board should consider the complexity of your association’s needs regarding outsourcing vendors for maintenance (both short-term and long-term projects). Your management company should help you select qualified and experienced vendors and determine the duration of their services on your association. Ultimately, the board will have the final approval, but a good management company will help guide you there.
8. Has Your Maintenance Team Been Effectively Trained on Preventive Maintenance and Repairs for Your Association?
Onboarding is critical when bringing a new maintenance professional up to speed on the intricacies of your unique community or building. In this case, having a detailed maintenance plan and specific documentation will create a smooth and more effective onboarding, as stated in points 2 and 3. Your management company’s human resources and training teams can also help you create an effective onboarding plan.
9. What System Do You Use to Track Preventive Maintenance and Repairs in Your Association?
Your management team and maintenance team should be well versed and skilled in utilizing the latest generations of a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). Mobile functionality and the ability to track users, assets, locations, preventative and repair requests are critical for a successful maintenance plan. Additionally, trending and inventory control reporting are essential for keeping maintenance costs down.
For example, FirstService Residential's engineering team at LUMINA uses a software called Upkeep for asset prevention maintenance, and for other work orders regarding the common area, they use a system called BuildingLink.
10. Are You Taking Your Reserve Study Into Account With Your Maintenance Plan?
Consistent maintenance and upkeep come at a price. Your maintenance plan should outline which source is funding your equipment replacements. Reserve funds are designed to fund asset replacements and periodic maintenance inspections rather than day-to-day repairs. If a piece of equipment or a part of your facilities reaches the end of its useful life, make sure to include those costs in your reserve fund. Also, if you have a significant maintenance expense like a 5-year sprinkler inspection, you can fund these expenses with a strong reserve plan.
11. How Do You Manage New Projects (Capital Improvements)? Does Your Association Need a Project Manager or Administrator?
Your association might want to consider utilizing a dedicated project administrator or manager for more extensive maintenance projects or capital improvements. While your community manager can help manage certain pieces of the project, they can’t do it all. Your management company should be able to help you with project consulting or administrative services to help support many essential tasks, like establishing a budget and guiding the bidding process.
A great way to assess whether you need a dedicated project manager or administrator is to ask, “How many major projects are we planning on doing in a year?” If you only have one or two projects in a year, your association manager or maintenance manager can be the primary point of contact. If you plan to have more than five major projects in a year, it’s best to invest in a designated project manager or administrator to ensure successful execution.
12. How Do You Respond When Emergency Maintenance Issues Do Occur?
Even if your maintenance plan covers everything, natural disasters and emergencies are a part of life. Your community manager, management company and maintenance team should have procedures and documentation in place to cope with unexpected emergencies, including documented staff training, exit strategy, equipment preparation and emergency protocol review.
Not sure where to start? Read an article and download our HOA Emergency Preparedness Guide: 8 Questions to Ask to learn more.
Why a Great Maintenance Plan Matters
A strong maintenance plan can help ease the burden of unexpected repairs, mitigate surprise costs and help you handle emergencies more effectively. It will help you save your association money in the long run and preserve and enhance property values. To make sure your HOA or high-rise is set up for success, sit down with your board and management company to discuss your plan.