Repairs & Maintenance
In many parts of the country, winter is quickly approaching, and the cold and snowy season brings with it concerns that association managers should take seriously. The winter season creates liability in the form of slip-and-fall accidents and other personal injuries due to ice, snow, and freezing rain. It’s important to set up or renew contracts with snow removal companies and other winter services vendors, and to talk with your staff about winter-specific issues they should be on the lookout for.
When you hire outside contractors to make repairs in your community, how do you know they’ll finish when they say they will? The stakes are high. After all, delays cause not only financial problems, but also impact the quality of life of your members. For instance, a delay in repairs that involve a security gate or fence can create risks that end up being catastrophic. How can you prevent contractor delays? Get the right in your contract to penalize the contractor when work isn’t completed on time.
The case law issued in recent years by U.S. federal and state courts was replete with lessons for community associations and their managers alike. A major theme that has emerged is the repair and maintenance of both common areas and members’ units. Sometimes, like in the following case, the dispute revolves around who owns an area (and therefore, who is responsible for its upkeep): the member or the association.
In our last issue, the Insider stressed the importance of following a year-round maintenance plan and suggested that you put roofing at the top of your list of tasks to prioritize. If your association is responsible for the maintenance of roofs in the community, it’s particularly important to have them inspected before winter. After all, most roof damage occurs during winter. Harsh weather conditions—such as heavy rain and snow, strong winds, and extreme temperatures—can cause substantial damage to a building’s roof.
Working with your association’s board, fielding member concerns, and overseeing your own staff can take up a lot of your time. Occasionally, you may get hung up on handling major issues that become important to the community, too. But prioritizing day-to-day maintenance is crucial, no matter how busy you are. Preventative maintenance can save you time and the association money later by eliminating the risk of having to replace major items if they’ve deteriorated because of a lack of maintenance.
With the summer months coming to a close, it's time to start thinking about preparing your community for winter. Although winter weather may seem like it's a long way off, you'll need to take steps in the fall to get ready for harsh weather or other winter challenges, depending on where your community is located. Because there's always a lot to do during the fall, it's a good idea to have an annual checklist of maintenance tasks that you can refer to to “winterize” your community.
Members are usually supportive of common area renovation projects because they realize that updates make the community a better place to live and have the potential to make their units more valuable. But not every member will feel that way. For example, members may be disgruntled if construction causes inconveniences like having to use alternate entrances to amenities, like a clubhouse, while the main entrance is redone. Another common complaint from members may be disrupted traffic patterns due to road repairs for the community.
If your community is in a region of the country that gets snow, hiring a snow removal contractor may be inevitable. Typically, snow removal contractors provide associations with a form contract to sign. But a form contract may not always work to your benefit—for example, it may not have a payment plan that's beneficial to you or specifically spell out such things as when the company should start plowing after a snowfall.
If you draft your own snow removal contract, ask your attorney about including the following seven key protections.
Concrete cracks. They're a fact of life. Some cracks might not need attention, while others could have serious structural consequences. But how can you tell the difference? Much of the time you can't, and expert advice is required. After the beating your condominium building probably took this winter, you may notice cracks beginning to form in your façade or at other points in your building.