Standards, Best Practices, and Public Policy Following Surfside Condo Collapse

Standards, Best Practices, and Public Policy Following Surfside Condo Collapse

[ Blog/News ]

Standards, Best Practices, and Public Policy Following Surfside Condo Collapse

The past two weeks have been devastating after witnessing the partial collapse of the Champlain Tower South condominium in Surfside, Fla., learning of the lives that perished, and seeing the tragedy’s impact on survivors and those in the immediate community. An investigation into the cause of the condo collapse is ongoing; standards of practice and legal requirements related to ensuring maintenance and structural integrity of condominiums understandably are coming under scrutiny.

While community associations have been in existence for more than a century, the rise in condominium developments began in the 1970s and has remained steady ever since. Condominiums are home to millions of people in the U.S., and government officials at the local, state, and federal levels have started pondering what changes need to occur to prevent a similar building collapse from happening again.

CAI’s Government and Public Affairs Committee recently convened a special meeting with guests who offer a broad range of expertise to discuss current best practices, standards, and public policies related to condominium structural requirements. This working group will help CAI establish guidance and model language for CAI’s state legislative action committees as well as considerations for state legislators. Below are the overarching themes of the discussion:

Building Inspections & Maintenance:

Several counties in Florida have inspection obligations that require a structural and electrical engineer or architect to conduct a building inspection and certify the safety of the building. New York City and other localities have similar requirements. CAI is studying these requirements to help develop standards for condominiums and other high-rise residential buildings.

Reserve Study Planning:

Reserve studies for condominium associations are currently required in nine states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington state. Washington statutorily encourages associations to have a reserve study performed every three years unless doing so would impose an unreasonable hardship. Florida statute does not require a reserve study but requires a reserve schedule for repair and replacement of major components.

The Foundation for Community Association Research has a Best Practices Report on reserve studies and reserves management that was updated in 2020. CAI is reviewing reserve funding best practices and requirements to determine if changes are needed.

Funding For Maintenance, Repair, & Replacement of Major Components:

Condominium associations are required to have reserve funding for maintenance, repair, and replacement of major components in 11 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, and Oregon. CAI will be exploring tax benefits to incentivize association reserve funding as well as for special assessments and loans used to fund component maintenance, repair, and replacement.

Insurance:

CAI is reviewing best practices and standards for adequate insurance coverage for condominiums and individual units.

CAI is uniquely positioned to lead the conversation on these standards, best practices, and policy changes to benefit our more than 42,000 members, the 73.5 million Americans living in community associations, and the millions more living in community associations around the world.

We will continue to engage in conversations with members, experts, and stakeholders in the community association housing model to strengthen existing standards and public policy in these areas.

If you have comments, opinions, or expertise in any of these areas & would like to contribute to the conversation, please email government@caionline.org. End Of Article

Condo Safety - Structural Integrity, Maintenance, And Reserves - Community Associations Institute - Click to Go to CAI's Web Page

Right now CAI is providing information & resources to help concerned residents and board members understand structural integrity, maintenance, and reserves.

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Commonly Ignored Best Practices of Commercial Landscape Maintenance

Commonly Ignored Best Practices of Commercial Landscape Maintenance

[ Blog/News ]

Commonly Ignored Best Practices of Commercial Landscape Maintenance

How you care for your plants makes all the difference in the lifespan and overall look of them. Here are some best practice tips for landscape maintenance:

Pruning

Pruning ClippersThe difference between hard pruning versus using hedge shears is significant when not shearing the correct plants. The more you improperly prune your plants, the more often you will need to be outside pruning them. Keeping the significant pruning to hard pruning in the winter will make a difference in how time consuming your plants are throughout the rest of the year.

Trees

TreeClearing low-hanging branches and overgrown plant material will open up lines of sight into your property, decrease potential hazards and eliminate safety concerns of individuals hiding in your plants.

Mowing

Lawn MowerWith the weight of a commercial mower and mowing in the same direction each week, your turf is prone to having a matted look, unhealthy and unsightly grass. You can help fix that by alternating your mowing pattern each visit encouraging standing turf.

Fertilizer

FertilizerFertilizer can be a great resource for your turf and plants, but too much of it can harm your landscape. Commonly referred to as fertilizer burn, having too much can cause yellow, brown or dead sections. Additionally, the more you apply fertilizer, the more dependent your turf & plants become on that particular fertilizer to look and stay healthy. Leaving your grass clippings is a great way to naturally fertilize your lawn. Organic fertilizers are also a great way to have a more balanced and sustainable landscape.

Seasonal Planting

Flower - AnnualsAnnuals are a great way to add seasonal color to your landscape, whether they are around entrances, signage, walkways or plant beds giving a fresh and updated look to a potentially older property.

Landscape Debris

Wheelbarrow - Yard DebrisCleaning up the landscape debris after you are done maintaining your property, instead of blowing it into the street or a native area will help you to be more responsible as a community association manager or owner and it will make your property and the surrounding areas more appealing and help to reduce pollution problems.

Mulch

GlovesHaving a mulch bed around your trees helps protect the trees’ trunks from mechanical damage caused by mowers and trimmers and improves the overall appearance of the property. Mulching your beds throughout the property can help nourish your plants, increase curb appeal & reduce weed infestation.

Proper Equipment

Gardening ToolsOne mistake seen frequently is people using the wrong equipment for the task at hand. Whether it is hand pruners, string trimmers or mowers, be sure that you or your service provider is giving you the proper and best resources for maintaining your landscape.

Misunderstanding the pitfalls caused by regular landscape maintenance can lead to long-term failure of your landscape. Focusing on the ‘big picture’ of your property and where you want to take the landscape can have a lasting impact on your budget, overall aesthetic and how much effort is required to keep the property looking good long term. End Of Article

(Editor’s Note: This blog article first appeared in the May 2018 issue of Community Associations Journal.)
By Tim Hawkins

By Tim Hawkins

Owner, Brookstone Landscape & Design

Having been involved in the landscape industry for over 15 years, Tim Hawkins takes pride in developing solutions and opportunities for people! In his free time, he enjoys running marathons and spending time with his family.

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An Ounce of Prevention – The Value of Association Common Area Preventative Maintenance

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An Ounce of Prevention – The Value of Association Common Area Preventative Maintenance

There is a very old and time-tested proverb: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to preventive maintenance for common area elements for a homeowner or condominium association.  Stating the obvious, materials utilized in the construction of common area equipment and structures age over time.  With a strategy based on basic preventive maintenance, it becomes possible to extend the useful life of these common elements.

In fact, the current condition of the economy has placed additional pressure on Association budgets. Even so, studies show that it is much more cost-effective to address maintenance issues proactively rather than to seek to affect repairs after damage sets in when issues quickly turn from prevention to “emergency” repairs and responses. In fact, when maintenance is not properly conducted or is cut back due to poor planning or budgetary pressure, the failure of structures, parking surfaces, HVAC and other critical equipment will only increase over time.

The term preventive maintenance (also known as preventative maintenance) implies the systematic inspection and detection of potential failures before they occur.  This term is the polar opposite of unplanned maintenance which is a response to an unanticipated problem or emergency.

A preventive strategy in addressing HOA and Condominium Association maintenance is meant to achieve at least three results: a safer environment due to common areas remaining free from defects, a lower cost of replacement, and a more efficient use of time, manpower and materials.

A Safer Environment

Certainly safety for all residents is a key criterion for association boards when considering what and when to implement maintenance activity.  Rough or significantly uneven sidewalks, loose steps on stairways or wooden porches and decks, low-hanging tree limbs near parking spaces, broken tile around pools, and other such items simply must be granted priority attention on any repair list.  Similarly, replacing broken or failed street and parking structure lighting, repairing video surveillance equipment, or addressing inoperable entry gates or security entrances, must also be the focus of first-priority repairs.  Every such situation needing repair, especially those that could adversely affect the safety of the residents or guests of the community, must be given the prompt attention of those overseeing the common area elements of the association.

With such safety factors in mind, preventive maintenance is an essential tool that can actually look-ahead to those items which, if not kept in proper repair and appropriate working order, could result in excessive risk to people who live in or visit the association property.  With these types of items, preventive maintenance is a tool that can keep adverse conditions from ever developing in the first place.  As we commonly hear, this boils down to a matter of placing safety first.

A Lower Cost of Replacement

Having preventive maintenance programs can help to minimize or even eliminate sudden “emergency” repairs that result in after-hour or rush-order and extra costs to the association.  Such a strategy can help to avoid major unplanned repairs and unknown malfunctions in the association’s common areas or common area equipment.

In contrast to urgent and unplanned repairs, preventive maintenance can help to maintain a constant work flow thus keeping labor and vendor costs in line with an annual budget plan since they can actually be scheduled on a seasonal basis, in accordance with a planned work schedule, and during normal work hours.

Preventive Maintenance Checklist:

  • Gutter cleaning
  • Power washing
  • Touch up painting
  • Siding repairs
  • Water prevention (caulking)
  • Deck and fence repairs
  • Wood rot repair
  • Dryer vent cleaning
  • Drywall repairs
  • Tile sealing and grout repair
  • Changing light bulbs
  • Irrigation repair
  • Pest control
  • House cleaning (common areas)
  • Window cleaning
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Carpet cleaning (common areas)
  • Duct and furnace cleaning and repair

This strategy should also include regularly scheduled inspections that follow routine seasonal schedules. These inspections can also be based on the annual budget, one that includes preventative maintenance; thus eliminating or at least drastically reducing surprise and reaction-based repairs that result in equally surprising costs or cost overruns.

Yet another way that preventive maintenance can save costs is that taking good care of existing common area elements can often extend the useful life of such elements. With simple routine maintenance it is often possible to expand the amount of time that key equipment and structures are able to be used in a productive manner.  This can reduce the cost of replacement which more than justifies the minimal cost of the preventive upkeep that is routinely provided along the way.

Efficient Use of Time, Manpower, and Materials

Scheduled Inspections and scheduled preventive maintenance can be choreographed in a much more time and labor efficient manner.  These efficiencies can save significant costs with both labor and materials.  Obviously, when work is scheduled well in advance, the use of manpower can be coordinated and tasks can be group into common categories which can reduce wasted time and partial day trip or hourly charges.

In a similar manner, materials for maintenance and routine repairs can be ordered well in advance thus saving on rush-order charges or deliveries that are not properly matched to the availability of the workers assigned to the task.

Most, if not all, reserve studies will suggest or even specify items that need attention in the form of maintenance and repair.  These elements can be translated into a seasonally appropriate time-efficient schedule that includes item-by-item checklists that make addressing each item a matter of a scheduled routine.  In cases where the reserve study provider’s report does not include items that may need attention for maintenance, replacement, or repair in a given annual cycle, most quality service vendors will provide options that include inspections and proposed schedules to address elements that need attention.  Simply make certain that such reports or service providers produce not only a list of needed repairs, but that they also supply the association with items where preventative maintenance would be recommended.

Summary

A preventive strategy in addressing HOA and condominium association maintenance can produce three productive results: a safer environment, lower repair and emergency replacement costs, and more efficient use of time, manpower, and materials.

As stated previously, the current condition of the economy has placed additional pressure on Association budgets. Keeping in mind that it is much more cost-effective to address maintenance issues proactively rather than to instituting repairs after damage sets in can help to save precious human and financial association resources.

When it comes to association maintenance and repairs, it truly is correct that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

By Sean Hughes

Director of Operations, RW Handyman

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Preventive Maintenance for Common-Interest Communities

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Preventive Maintenance for Common-Interest Communities

The basic goal of preventive maintenance involves noticing small problems and correcting them before major ones can develop. This attention to detail can create an intangible effect of well-being for residents and visitors alike, regardless of the age or style of the complex. Further, a well-maintained property reduces long-term maintenance costs, extends the life of components (which reduces reserve contributions), reduces the likelihood of special assessments, minimizes liability issues, fulfills many of the Board’s responsibilities, and increases marketability.

A few simple rules regarding routine maintenance can help a community keep its common property in good condition.

Rule 1. Keep your eyes and ears open.

When something does not look right, or sound right it probably is not right.  Be aware of your surroundings. Enlist the aid of your neighbors to keep their senses tuned to any issues that arise in your community. If something seems amiss, move quickly to Rule 2.

Rule 2: Create a checklist.

A checklist, customized for your property is most important because the five senses are not always enough to remind you of those recurring needs that do not signal their presence until something fails, and the problem is much bigger. Think “Routine Maintenance.”

Rule 3. Investigate promptly.

Often a noticeable annoyance can turn out to be a bigger problem than it first appears.  Little things can turn into to bigger things rather quickly.

Rule 4. Fix it fast.

Get the required tasks underway, and finished, as soon as possible. (But do not rush the actual job, of course).  Inanimate things do not heal themselves.  A leaky faucet or a squeaky ventilation fan motor will not come around to right by itself.  If it cannot be done by a skilled homeowner volunteer with enough time and expertise to do the job right, seek out a professional, without delay.  Some jobs are actually dangerous to undertake without proper training, specialist tools, or safety gear.  The CAI website has a directory of service providers.  Small problems always become bigger problems over time. Bigger problems always cost more, take more time, and cause more annoyance or aggravation.  Just do it. The cost will assuredly prove to be a savings in short order.  Pay now or pay more later on.

Rule 5. Keep good records.

In this busy world, who wants to try to remember everything that needs to be done, everything that has been done, and when, and by whom, and for how much?  Secure a bound maintenance book, or keep a computer file (backed up, of course).  Make note of who, what, when, where and how, as well as how much.  Color code your categories, if that helps. Keep the book or file where it can be found by you and, as importantly, your successor.

Common problems at common ownership properties are many and varied. A few to be aware of at a typical Condominium property include the following:

-Caulking joints

check for cracked, missing or brittle caulk

-Deck support posts

check for decay

-Deck surfaces

perform routine cleaning

-Deck Coating Damage

burn holes, cracks

-Dryer Vents

check for lint build-up: fire hazard

-Exterior lighting

gaskets should be water-tight

-Flues

check for soot build up

-Gas Fireplace Vents

Charred metal vent surfaces

-Gutters/Downspouts

Watch for overflow staining, add clean-out devices, and diverters where roofs connect to walls

Disconnected downspouts

Crushed, broken, damaged sections

-Hose-bibs

Check for leaks, and protect from freezing

-Moss

Check all horizontal and almost flat surfaces , and remove moss regularly

-Painting

Touch up small areas of chipped or flaking paint

-Rail Caps

Replace cupped rail caps with sloped caps to preserve entire rail assemblies

-Roofing

Prevent organic material such as algae and moss build-up in valleys and on roofing materials

Repair or replace loose, damaged and missing shingles or shakes

Check cable, vent pipe and skylight penetrations annually

Check for, and correct water ponding areas during rainy season

-Siding

Check for loose siding boards or shakes

Check for and repair areas of dry rot / decay

Check for buckled or cupped siding

Check for dirty or algae-covered vinyl siding

-Soffit Vents

Check all vents to ensure a free flow of air

Check for staining, as this might indicate condensation or other water intrusion

-Stairways

Check for worn, rotted, loose or slippery treads, risers and stringers/supports/connections

-Windows

Check for failure of gasket seal/moisture between double panes of glass

Checks for leaks around the window frames

This is not an exhaustive list, but should suffice for most communities with a little editing. A customized Maintenance Plan is a good idea for larger or more complex communities.

By Ken White, AIA, RS

President, Construction Decisions, Inc.

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