HOA Facilities: How to Think About Maintaining Your Assets--And A Practical HOA Maintenance Checklist
Not sure what maintenance your condo or homeowners association property should have and when? We're here to help. Here's some insight on how to view property maintenance, along with a list of the inspections and work your building's assets should have.
Look at the Big Picture First
"We handle maintenance in two ways," explains Matt Zifrony, who advises homeowners and condo associations at Tripp Scott, a Ft. Lauderdale law firm, and who's also president of a 3,000-home association. "Every three years, we have an engineer come out and do an overall assessment of our common areas, such as the building roof and the asphalt on the tennis courts. We have reserve accounts, and we want to make sure our reserve studies are up to date so we don't have to special-assess owners. The engineer's inspection looks at the different parts of the common areas from the big-picture perspective. What's the remaining useful life? What's the typical maintenance required and when? Based on that information, we look at our reserves to make sure they're big enough to cover those expenses."
The cost of that type of review will depend on the size of your common elements. An association with only a clubhouse and pool might pay only a few hundred dollars, predicts Zifrony. His association, which includes such features as a roller rink and mini golf course, likely pays $3,000-$5,000 because of the number of common elements involved.
Zifrony's association also takes advantage of free inspections offered in his area. "Florida Power and Light Co. staff will do an energy study for you," he explains. "We had them come in three months ago, and they showed us how we can conserve on electrical costs, like making sure thermostats are temperature controlled and that there are motion detectors on bathroom lights. That didn't cost us anything, but through that type of study, not only do you come up with energy conservation tips, but you also identify maintenance issues. They might tell you that your caulking is peeling off, so you're losing a lot of air conditioning in a room."
Finally, Zifrony's board relies on its maintenance staff and residents to keep an eye on the property. "At board meetings, we tell residents that we rely on them to be our eyes and ears," he explains. "When residents are nagging at us about a maintenance issue, I try turning that into asking all residents to pick up the phone or send us an e-mail to let us know when they see a maintenance issue. That way, residents never reach a high level of anger with the board that things aren't being maintained."
HOA Maintenance Checklist
Now to the specifics. In general, Jim Stoller, president of The Building Group in Chicago, recommends yearly inspections on common area roofs, pools, HVAC systems, water heaters, your building exterior, and other major systems. "Yearly inspections offer preventative maintenance and prolong the life of the systems," he says. "By performing annual maintenance inspections and examinations, your association can save thousands in operation costs and repairs."
Troy Modlin, a property manager with Atlantis Property Management in Weston, Fla., who manages six properties, says inspections and maintenance fall under two categories: weekly inspections, maintenance, and janitorial checks performed by the property manager; and quarterly inspections and maintenance performed by expert service contractors. Depending on usage, traffic flow, and weather conditions, he suggests the following inspection timelines.
1. Roof—Have your property manager do visual checks weekly for leaks or brown spots, especially during the rainy season. Also have a formal inspection any time you perform tile replacement.
2. Building exterior and sidewalks—Perform pressure cleaning at least twice a year to help prevent mold in warm climates and slippery sidewalks. Inspect sidewalks annually or more often if they're located near trees that could cause trip hazards.
3. Pest control—Have a service contractor perform this monthly.
4. Asphalt/roads—Have your property manager inspect these twice a year.
5. Storm drains—These usually require engineer certification every five years. However, clean the drains out at least every two years, especially in flood-prone zones like South Florida, depending on the amount of debris that normally surrounds the drains. Have your property manager inspect storm drain boxes every year and more often if they're located near trees to make sure no roots have broken the boxes, which will clog them.
6. Tree trimming—Perform this annually, not just for clearance pruning for walkers, joggers, or cars but also to help prevent unsupported limbs from breaking during high winds or storms.
7. Vehicle entry gates—Ask your security guards or maintenance staff to inspect these weekly to ensure that belts and bolts on the gate arms are tight. Ideally, your association has a service contract that provides for monthly maintenance.
8. Playground equipment—Ask your property manager to inspect this at least once a month, if not more. Hire an expert annually for a formal inspection.
9. Computers and security cameras—Update and clean these monthly for optimal efficiency, especially because they're always in use.
10. Pool—Generally get service no less than three times in the winter months in warm climates and at least four times, if not five, in the summer, depending on the use. Inspect pool heaters annually, at least two months before you intend to start them to allow time for permitting and work that needs to be done. A pool pump lasts 7-10 years at most, so inspect it as you near that time frame.
11. Gutters and downspouts—If you have no trees nearby, check your gutters and downspouts a couple of times a year (although a tennis ball could clog an outlet at any time), says Kevin Leahy of Wayne, Pa., who's been in the rain gutter business for more than 16 years. If your building is near many trees, you may have to check and clean your gutters once a month or more, especially in the fall.