Every building needs regular maintenance to keep it in the best condition – residential buildings included. Although there are so many different types of residential buildings; from the smaller single-family homes to the multi-family luxury apartment buildings, there are some common challenges that residential building managers can relate to. Here’s a look at some of the hardest things in maintaining residential buildings.
Facility managers have their hands full every day, ensuring the processes in the structures under their care run efficiently. The systems that make up the building environment often require varying levels of periodic intervention to run optimally. This alone raises several challenges ranging from simple daily interventions to complex solutions that involve multiple parties.
The key to handling these issues lies in identifying the potential problems early to have time to review the most efficient and effective ways to resolve them.
We have a wide range of property maintenance Melbourne services at Hitch Property Constructions.
Your tenants use the property 24/7. Therefore, any time of day that they have a problem, as the owner or manager, you have a problem as well. Solving maintenance issues well outside business operating hours is a common challenge that you will need to get used to. There are several options for managing this. Such as:
For smaller housing units
You may arrange for a technician that stays in the neighbourhood to attend to night time emergencies then return later to continue and complete the task at day time. Let’s imagine that your tenant calls you to report a leaking pipe at just past 9.00 pm. They are worried about water damage, and they can’t sleep till they are assured that they won’t wake up to find their books and expensive furniture submerged.
The technician can get there and isolate the pipe to prevent further leakage then arrange to come back in the morning to replace the damaged pipe, etc.
For larger apartment blocks
It’s usually standard practise to have a small resident team of emergency staff that works on the night shift and then charge the tenants for this service. Typically, the team will have an electrician and a plumber. They will also have access to a small emergency stock of essential spare parts that they can use for nighttime maintenance interventions. It’s a win-win for everyone; the tenants get quick attention night and day, and you can rest knowing that you have reliable staff to handle urgent issues.
Safety and related factors like hygiene are non-negotiable requirements in any building but more so in residential buildings. The reason this is so critical is because of the risks of injuries or infections to young children and the very elderly.
For example, adults go to work and leave their children at home with a caregiver. If there is an emergency or fire alarm, do the children know what to do compared to an adult? Has the caregiver been told what to do or expect in such situations? Do they know that they should not use the lift if there is a fire?
As the facility manager in a residential building, one of the first things you’ll need to do is to create an emergency response plan and communicate it to everyone that uses the building, especially in high-rise apartment blocks. That’s not enough, though. Remember that to ensure tenants’ safety, and most jurisdictions require strict compliance with building maintenance codes such as the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). You’ll need to know what’s required and ensure compliance.
Also, you still need to regularly check that your safety and emergency systems (e.g. smoke detectors and fire suppression equipment) are frequently tested and certified as functional. Other potential hazards are poorly lit staircase areas, poorly kept walkways, swimming pools that are not secured (drowning hazard), etc. No residential building manager wants to face the bad press and negligence claims that could follow these situations, so prevention is key.
Another unique challenge with maintaining residential buildings is that there is limited access for inspections and maintenance. You can’t just walk into a tenant’s home whenever you wish to conduct inspections. Some tenants can intentionally refuse to give you access into their homes, thereby forcing you to take legal action if you can prove that there’s a genuine reason to enter.
Why Home Maintenance Is Important
Owning a home requires a lot more responsibility than renting. If something breaks down, there’s no landlord to come and fix the problem; it’s in the owner’s hands. That means the responsibility of keeping a home clean and maintained is up to the homeowners. Your realtor, mortgage lender and everyone on the Internet has told you how important it is to keep your home maintained, as well as thousands of ways to do it. But why is it so important? As a home warranty company, Landmark’s main purpose is to help homeowners who have systems and appliances that fail from old age and normal wear and tear. However, in our contract, we stipulate that if a system or appliance has failed because of lack of maintenance, it’s not considered “normal wear and tear. You shouldn’t just maintain your home because of the benefits of a home warranty though (although that’s an excellent reason to do so!). There are a number of other reasons home maintenance is so important.
Home Maintenance Saves you money.
The first reason home maintenance is so important is that it saves you, the homeowner, money. “That can’t be right, you’re thinking. “I spend so much of my time, money and energy cleaning and maintaining. How does that save me money?
While it’s true, maintenance takes some money, dedication, and hard work, in the long run, you save much more money than if you didn’t do maintenance. Why is this? According to Your Money: The Missing Manual, for every dollar you spend on preventative maintenance around the home, you save approximately $100 in future repairs. That’s because taking care of small problems now (a dirty filter or clogged drain) makes it, so you don’t have the problem worsen over time and develop into a larger issue (a burned-out HVAC motor or burst pipe.) Those bigger problems that tend to crop up after not maintaining a home cost significantly more than a new furnace filter every month or so.
Home Maintenance Keeps Your Home Running Efficiently
The worst part of maintenance is that it’s just that: maintenance. It requires completing a task over and over again, and often, to provide upkeep for your home’s working parts. It’s just like sweeping the kitchen floor; you have to keep sweeping it every week or so to keep it clean. If you didn’t, imagine the state of the floor! Now think about how often you clean our your dishwasher’s filter or unclog your bathroom drain … probably not as often as you sweep the floor, correct? Yet you probably use them almost as often as you use the floor.
Like you have to continue to sweep your floor to keep it usable and clean, you have to clean and maintain the other parts of your home to keep them usable. If you don’t, you will end up having your home run less efficient. If you don’t clean the furnace filter, you’ll be paying for more gas or electricity as your HVAC system works hard to cool or heat air in your home. If you don’t clean the evaporative coils under your fridge, it has a harder time keeping your food cool and uses more energy to do so. When you maintain your home, you keep it running efficiently, which also saves you money with lower utility bills.
Home Maintenance Increases your Home’s Value
When you drive a new car off of the lot, it immediately drops in value. The resale value decreases the longer you drive the car, and the older it becomes. This principle doesn’t work the same for a home. The longer you own a home, the more you could increase its worth. Of course, home values have to do with the market and not solely what you do to the house, but you can still have a direct effect on your home’s value by maintaining your house.
How does this work? If you decided to put your home up for sale tomorrow, and you hadn’t maintained any of your systems and appliances, you would find that the home inspection report would probably show that your home had a lot of problems or potential problems. Buyers would either want a discounted rate depending on the issues that your home may have or ask you to replace or repair systems that may give them trouble in the future. Either way, you won’t be getting as much money out of the sell of the home as it could potentially be worth.
However, if you had maintained your systems and appliances as per the manufacturer’s instructions, the home inspector would find fewer issues you’d have to take care of while doing an inspection, and you’d most likely end up getting more money out of the home. Click here to learn more about home improvement projects that have an increase in your home’s value the most.
Of course, the more home improvement and maintenance projects you do out of your pocket that increases your home’s value, the more equity you end up having in the home. Take a look at our article that explains home equity here.
Looking for comprehensive services on property maintenance? Look no further! Hitch Property Constructions has you covered.
Home Warranties and Home Maintenance
Home warranties and home insurance don’t generally cover for breakdowns caused by lack of maintenance. You’d be hard-pressed to find a home insurance company that would cover for flooding in your attic or roof if it turns out you never cleaned out your gutters, which caused the flood. The same principle applies to a home warranty: if you never changed the filters for a year on your HVAC system and the fan burned out from too much strain, a home warranty generally wouldn’t cover the repairs or replacement. Why does a home warranty make you maintain your systems/appliances? You have to complete maintenance on your systems and appliances to keep them in good working condition and to extend their lifespans. Most home warranty companies only repair or replace systems and appliances if the homeowner has tried to maintain them.
The great thing about a home warranty is that if you do your reasonable best to clean and maintain your systems and appliances in your home when they get old and wear out from age, you’ll be able to save thousands of dollars. A home warranty will repair or replace your old systems for a flat-rate service call fee.
Biggest Building Maintenance Challenges and Solutions
Controlling costs remains one of the most critical challenges in building maintenance. As a result, facility managers typically find themselves having to maintain quality service delivery despite budget constraints. They’re under pressure to do more with less.
Although this might appear daunting, it can be done. Costs can be contained with some planning and careful allocation of resources. There are some major budget items that, through close monitoring, facility managers can use to control the overall operational costs of their building.
- Energy costs: According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up to 30 per cent of energy in buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. Facility managers can improve this by recommending more environmentally friendly energy sources like solar panels, planting trees, using more automated buildings technologies, choosing energy-efficient lighting and allowing for more natural light.
- Outsourced services: Keep costs under control by monitoring outsourced vendors and other third-party service providers. Periodically assess their services, and compare and negotiate prices for their offerings. This also applies to suppliers of inventory items. When there’s need to stock large quantities of a stock item, consider ordering directly from the manufacturer.
- Maintenance costs: Maintenance costs alone can account for a significant part of a facility’s annual budget. Implementing a planned maintenance strategy rather than reactive can deliver major cost savings in the long term because the cost of deferred maintenance can be rather high.
Record Keeping and Data Analysis
Facility managers often get swamped with records. These records range from those generated from day-to-day operations to meeting minutes, stock and assets inventory, repairs and servicing, etc.
Keeping records organized starts from capturing accurate and reliable data, then storing them to form the basis for making informed and strategic decisions. For now, Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) remains the most commonly used tool for this. However, it’s expected that with more advancement in smart technologies, the Internet of Things will play a bigger role in capturing and analyzing data. CMMS software will be able to pick up and report that data back to you.
Emergency Response and Safety
In the event of an emergency, the responsibility for communication and evacuation rests with the facility management team. Considering that such emergencies can range from natural disasters to fire, security breach, terrorist attacks or critical systems failure (e.g. prolonged lift entrapment), emergency response, and safety require proactive and thorough planning.
Emergency response plans will vary but should typically include:
- Contact details of first responders
- List of critical systems that must remain running
- List of regular occupants
- Step-by-step emergency response procedure
Routine safety drills and evacuation scenarios are a priority in any emergency plan. Also, equipment checks and reports – especially automated failure reporting – will keep the maintenance team in the loop ahead of any potential problems. This is important for critical systems.
The emergency plan should be part of a centralized database where team members can easily view and review it if necessary.
For communication, mobile devices are a quick way to send information via texts or instant messaging apps. However, handheld radios and walkie-talkies remain relevant, as they can be the most reliable communications tools in worst-case scenarios where there’s cellular network downtime.
By incorporating the above, facility managers can keep people safer and avoid expensive litigation.
Check out Hitch Property Constructions for a huge range of Melbourne property maintenance services.
Extending Asset Lifespan
Building projects are capital intensive, and the owners will spend considerable amounts of money to make their structures as modern as possible. They want their buildings to remain attractive and competitive in the market. But, as the facility ages, these systems will deteriorate. Such deterioration can be severe enough to affect structural integrity (e.g. roofing components).
Although outright replacement may be the easiest route, working to extend the life of the asset from the installation phase is usually a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly option.
There are two stages of the asset lifecycle, where facility managers can take steps to help prolong equipment functionality.
- Procurement: During the procurement stage, it’s advisable to evaluate each vendor’s offer based on price, performance records and quality. Especially for complex and expensive assets, there should be clearly stated terms for after-sales specialist servicing/repairs and very detailed training for the operators of such equipment. These are important considerations that will minimize misuse and keep equipment running with less headache for the maintenance team.
- Operation and Maintenance: A proactive maintenance strategy with routine and preventive maintenance schedules will also help extend asset lifespan by ensuring servicing is done when due. Implementing preventive maintenance with the help of a CMMS doesn’t have to be difficult and expensive. With a proper plan in place, you won’t have to rely on reactive maintenance.
If facility managers want to go a step further and have the budget for it, consider adopting predictive maintenance. Using internet-enabled condition monitoring sensors, they can obtain real-time data directly from equipment and act on that information. Rather than guessing or keeping to rigid and outdated replacement schedules, facilities can save costs and person-hours by acting on alerts before they become a problem.
Whether experienced or newly employed, all facility managers can relate to the above challenges in building maintenance. By making sustainable changes to the way they work as well as embracing smart maintenance tools, they can create a win-win situation for all parties involved in the facility.
In summary, there is a lot of competition for the toughest job in the business, with challenges, obstacles, roadblocks, and problems enough to make anyone question his or her career choice. Failure in any one of these jobs can mean failure for the entire company. And now it dawns on me that there is one incredibly difficult job that hasn’t yet been mentioned: the senior manager who must each day support all of these folks in their tough jobs. There are innumerable priorities and distractions for those at the top. Yet, there is absolutely nothing a boss can do that’s more important than to make all of these difficult jobs easier. Is that the toughest job of all?