An apple a day keeps the scaffolding away…

Ian Hollins of Clear Building Management suggests a ‘little and often’ approach to maintenance to help avoid unexpected and expensive repair bills.

As apartment owners and residents ourselves, we know all too well the effect on day to day life of a managing agent that doesn’t respond to calls, isn’t on top of maintenance matters or who simply doesn’t seem to care.  

At its worst though, an indifferent approach to maintenance can result in large and unexpected costs for residents when emergency works are required.

At Clear Building Management we focus on prevention rather than cure – it’s cheaper and far less stressful for all concerned! Here we set out what residents and RMC directors should consider when discussing maintenance matters.

A fully costed long term plan

The most important aspect is a fully costed long term plan so you can be sure you are contributing the right amount for ‘big ticket’ items such as a new lift or roof replacements. It is often worth investing in a chartered surveyor to help draw up this plan, and to index-link it as the replacement costs will be as of today but you’ll be spending the money in perhaps 25 years so it needs to keep pace. Your agent should assist with preparing a reserve fund plan for cyclical maintenance matters.

Preventative maintenance

Preventative maintenance is key and by working with residents in this area – for example by helping them to prevent water leaks – a managing agent can deliver an effective and affordable maintenance programme.  Additionally, for reactive and non-urgent maintenance work, grouping the jobs together can be a practical and common-sense method of helping to keep costs down.

Maintenance plan

A maintenance plan to keep essential parts such as door-entry systems serviced and in good working order can help to extend their life and make savings in the long term. You should also require your managing agent to create and maintain a full asset register, with details of installation dates together with warranties and life expectancy / replacement dates.

Where possible, a rolling programme to replace wood with composite materials – for example on windows and soffits – can result in a maintenance-free replacement, with a long life span, that stays looking good without needing regular painting and patching.

Your managing agent should also have a clear policy and facility for reporting problems (such as water leaks) so that they can be tackled and repaired before they escalate – and then (of course!) implement prompt and efficient handling of the repairs.

Establish a ‘contractors charter’

Quality contractors are essential to an effective maintenance programme. We had one recent horror story when taking on a new development where the previous agent hadn’t checked any of the contractors’ insurances and the directors were worried that asking for copies would ‘scare off the cleaners’!

Used effectively, a contractors charter can help you to work with a roster of trusted suppliers that can deliver a proactive and value for money service to your development.

Contractor Charter

To establish a contractors charter for your development, we would recommend that it should include the following maintenance-specific requirements:

  1. At least four independent references of previous relevant and similar works.

  2. Work to only be conducted during reasonable working hours (except emergency repairs).

  3. To respond to all requests for quotes and work orders within a prescribed timeframe.

  4. To not sub-contract any jobs without prior written approval.

  5. Be a member of relevant trade organisations wherever possible.

  6. Maintain sufficient Public Liability and Employers Liability Insurance cover. 

  7. Comply with all health and safety codes and regulations and supply an up to date copy of their Health & Safety policy. 

  8. Demonstrate that all work completed provides value for money and indemnify the client in full against all charges and expenses arising from claims which may be made against them as a result of the work carried out. 

  9. Agree that no rebates, commissions, over-riders or any other inducements are to be made to the managing agent or any of its management, employees, suppliers or contractors.
  10. Offer their keenest pricing, and pass on any volume discounts and the like to the quotation. 

Regardless of the age of your block, you should expect your managing agent to carry out regular, carefully costed, planned maintenance. Not only will it improve day to day life for residents, but it should also produce longer term cost savings by helping to avoid those expensive and disruptive emergency major works projects.   

Clear Building Management was founded in 2015 by experienced property management professionals, Ian Hollins and Peter McCabe and from its base on Oxford Street in Central Manchester, the team manages blocks across the North West, Yorkshire and East and West Midlands. Clear Building Management was founded on the principles of transparency, value and quality to deliver professional residential development management in a better, more inclusive way ensuring customers and their needs are at the heart of its operations. In August 2016 Clear Building Management became the first independent property management company to secure the Cabinet Office award for Service Excellence and, in April 2017, became regulated by RICS. Clear Building Management secured ARMA accreditation in August 2017.