property maintenance – ignore it at your peril!

Without good property maintenance you don’t have a good property, it’s as simple as that.  As the age-old phrase goes…”prevention is better than cure” and that’s just as true here as anywhere.

Think about it like this. if you (or your management company) keep patching together bits of your apartment block that are broken, how long will it be before the cost of repeatedly doing this starts to outweigh the cost of just replacing the broken bit entirely? And what kind of merry havoc does this play with your annual budgeting?

You could also ask yourself whether it’s worth running the risk of a small problem turning into a big one. That little drip, drip, drip from the leaking gutter might not look like much now, but perhaps it’s already causing an enormous unseen damp problem for the property below. And that would be an expensive nightmare right?

why is property maintenance so important?

Property maintenance is often done reactively, following a resident complaint or a hasty call to a contractor for that emergency fix.  But that can feel like painting the Forth Bridge…no sooner do you fix one thing, something else needs attention.  Think of the impact that has on your cash flow, your admin time and the satisfaction and safety of residents.

Putting off proper maintenance is false economy.

However, if you’re on the ball with regular site inspections and a bit of forward planning, maintenance dramas can be avoided almost entirely…and money saved in the process.  Doesn’t that sound better?

painting the property maintenance picture

Meet Property Manager A, (let’s call him Chris).

Chris is having one heck of a time. He manages a large block of 180 apartments and is getting regular complaints from residents.  Draughty windows, patches of damp, a noisy lift….and so the list goes on.

Chris keeps asking his maintenance company to take a look at the problems. He wants to save time and money, so he asks for quick fixes; a bit of new putty around the draughty window, some sealant and new paint over the patch of damp, some oil and a cursory service on the lift mechanism.

But, it all still costs an arm and a leg in man-hours, call-out charges and materials. And, as soon as one resident is satisfied, another pipes up with a similar problem.  A few residents are even muttering about refusing to pay their service charges.  As the year-end rolls around, Chris realises cash flow is bad and the maintenance bills have mounted up.  Looks like he’ll have no choice but to put service charges up next year, or invoice residents for the extra costs.  He’s not looking forward to that.

Now meet Property Manager B, (shall we call her Anna?).

Now Anna is having a much better year than Chris. She’s got a bunch of happy leaseholders because she took the time to plan ahead.  She’s also a chatty kind of person who regularly pops in to see people.  They trust that she’s on the case.

Because Anna likes to get head of the game, she sorted out a ten-year projection for the maintenance work needed on her block. The plan costs up all the cyclical and major works that might be needed – like replacement windows, roof repairs and lift refurbishment. (Are you listening Chris?).

And, because she knows what needs to be serviced or replaced and when, she’s already factored this into the annual service charges. It means the money will be there in the bank for when it’s needed. There will be no need for hikes in service charge or unexpected invoices for this block of flats, so Anna knows she’ll still be welcome for that friendly cuppa with residents each month. Nice.

top tips for better property maintenance

Okay, so this portrait of Chris and Anna simplifies things somewhat.  Block maintenance isn’t always this cut and dry.  Anna will still have to sort out a handful of unforeseen maintenance problems every year too.  But she certainly won’t have to sweat the big stuff in the same way that Chris will when his quick fixes fall apart….again.

The key to the effective upkeep of any property is being proactive. Getting the big jobs budgeted for and booked in at the right time, makes better use of manpower and money.  It also makes for happier residents and fewer complaints.

get your maintenance plan nailed

Avoid sharing tales of property maintenance woe over a stale sandwich with Chris, by enlisting the help of a qualified property surveyor.

Ask them to run a full review of your building’s current state of repair. They can then advise you on the work that needs doing now and that will need doing in the years to come, along with an estimated budget for this.

Consider the big jobs (read more about Major Works here) as well as the regular smaller jobs and ongoing maintenance work.  Map these works out over the next 15-20 years if possible, split the cost down by the number of years and the number of flats and you’ve got yourself a tidy plan.

Then it’s a case of keeping a close eye on how your spending goes according to that plan and keeping residents in the loop about what will be worked on and when. (If you want to do that over a monthly cuppa and croissant with the Residents Association like Anna, even better!).

If you’re part of a Resident Management Company, or are a landlord or freeholder and want someone to take this kind of stuff off your hands, you could of course always give us a buzz.  We can offer a good coffee as well as good property maintenance, so it’s a win-win.