Doing regular repair and renewals work and having a good preventive maintenance program needs to be a priority for all strata corporations, big or small.
Strata corporations on Vancouver Island must maintain and repair shared common property and assets. In some strata corporations, sections and types also have repair and maintenance responsibilities. For bare land strata corporations (“strata subdivisions”) repairs and maintenance for common property can include private roads, water, and sewage pipes, and other infrastructure.
Strata corporations and strata lot owners with home warranty insurance could also risk limiting their coverage because of negligent or improper maintenance.
Renovating my condo: What can I do?
We often see home renovations as a necessity and not as a luxury to improve our environments and protect our investments. Because many strata corporations have not provided sufficient funding for long-term repairs, owners often tap into their resources for special levies and leave their units unattended. Every strata home at some point will need some renovations and upgrades and while it may be the next owner who takes up the paintbrush and starts improving their space, doing the renovations in a way that keeps you in line with your strata bylaws and neighbors are just as important as the renovations you are considering.
The Plan-Do-Check-Act model
The “Plan, Do, Check, and Act” (PDCA) model can be useful for strata councils and section executives to approach maintenance, repairs, and renewal work. The PDCA model is also known as the Deming model or the Deming wheel.
Planning: the strata council knows who is responsible for what maintenance and renewal work (strata corporation, sections, types, strata lot owners), prioritize the work, assign responsibilities for getting the work done, budgets, and communicates with owners.
Doing: the strata corporation approves funding and the strata council hires contractors and ensures the work is done.
Checking: the strata council ensures that the condition of common property and assets is checked, and maintenance and renewal work is inspected.
Acting: the strata council acts to revise plans and budgets, update documents, communicate with owners, and continue repair, maintenance, and renewal work.
The strata council (or section executive) will need to:
- know who is responsible for what repair, maintenance, and renewal work (strata corporation, sections, types, strata lot owners).
- identify and assign maintenance and repair roles and responsibilities.
It is also invaluable to get advice from knowledgeable professionals. Developing ongoing relationships with contractors who have worked on the strata corporation’s common property and assets is very helpful.
Maintenance, repair and renewal work may be presented as individual tasks. The strata council (or section executive) will want to:
- Organize tasks in a logical order.
- Are there opportunities to group activities together to save money and/or minimize disruption to owners and residents?
- Develop a list of maintenance and renewal work to be conducted over the next year, the next two years, the medium term and the longer term.
The depreciation report and maintenance manual will be very helpful in planning and budgeting. The strata corporation will need to plan for both types of common expenses: operating fund expenses for work done once a year or more often and contingency reserve fund expenses for work done less often than once a year.
The depreciation report may identify certain “peak years” for maintenance, repairs and renewals – years when many items will need replacing at the same time. That may be because standard lifespan estimates are often multiples of four or five. Or it may just be the way the numbers add up.
If these peak years lead to temporary shortfalls, consider “flattening the peaks” by spreading out the work over several years.
For example, the strata corporation could get full value out of carpets that are in good shape by replacing one-fifth of hallway carpets every year for five years, starting with the carpets in worst shape or by replacing carpets in the lobby on a more frequent basis.
Be careful though not to lose out on bulk discounts or savings by not having contractors complete all the work while they are on site.
The depreciation report will provide three different cash-flow models for consideration by owners. For example, cash-flow models could outline funding work from the contingency reserve fund (CRF) only, from special levies only, from increasing strata fees, or from a combination of approaches.
Another issue to consider when budgeting is how much flexibility is provided and how much transparency and disclosure is provided? Are the maintenance and renewal tasks listed as individual items in the budget (which places some limitations on how money is spent), or are they grouped together?
Getting work done
A solid preventive maintenance program should be a priority for any strata corporation.
After the budget is determined, funds are approved, contractors selected, and necessary permits obtained—conduct the maintenance, repair and renewal work.
Work can include systems reviews as well as minor maintenance, major maintenance, repair and renewal. Routine maintenance can extend the life of interior finishes, decks, roads, machinery, equipment, and other assets.
Have regular physical inspections of systems and assets by qualified professionals. This can mean annual or monthly inspections or some other frequency. Regular inspections can spot small problems before they become big ones.
It is important to have maintenance, repair and renewal work completed by qualified personnel and companies and that they meet WorkSafeBC requirements. The qualifications will depend on the type of common property and other assets for which the strata corporation is responsible.
The strata council will need to decide on how to get the work done and how work will be contracted. Does the strata have a bylaw that sets out minimum standards for tendering and procurement? Some strata corporations will negotiate some of these services as part of the strata management contract or hire staff. Services can also be independently obtained.
If there are bids, decide on the timelines, who will review bids, who will negotiate the contracts and ensure that it meets legal requirements such as WorkSafeBC. Strata associations have examples of Request for Proposals (RFP) or Call for Bids (CFB) on their websites.
Make sure to document the maintenance, repair and renewal work. Documentation provides key information regardless of changes to the strata council and strata managers.
Communicating with owners
Communicating with owners and residents about their homes and investments is essential in in repair, maintenance and renewal work. The strata council plays a key communications role.
The designated person (or committee) will need to work with staff and contractors, report and explain findings and recommendations to the strata council. Council in turn will need to communicate with strata lot owners and residents.
It is vital to regularly communicate with owners on repair and maintenance work including: planning the work, funding the work and reporting on progress.
It is a good idea to provide information to strata lot owners well in advance of general meetings. Many stratas hold information sessions for owners and residents to discuss plans, objectives and costs six weeks or so in advance of annual or special general meetings.
As well, the strata council should:
- regularly remind strata lot owners and residents what they are responsible to repair and maintain (for example cleaning patios and balconies)
- check this work
- ask owners to report maintenance problems – whether in the strata lot or common property – promptly to the designated contact on strata council or strata property manager. This helps the strata corporation to identify and quickly address emerging problems.
Checking and acting
It is important to inspect work and common property and see how effective the renewals and maintenance work is. Is common property in good repair? Does the strata corporation have a proactive approach or a reactive one?
While buildings and assets always age, owners can help protect their investment with careful maintenance and care in operation to help buildings and other assets achieve their full life span. Owners can get the best value for their money and avoid being surprised with unexpected repair costs.
Gordon McKinlay is the owner of PropertyGuys.com in the Comox Valley & North Vancouver Island. Gordon loves helping people sell their own homes and save tens of thousands of dollars.
PropertyGuys.com has developed a system that has helped over 90,000 private home sellers in Canada to sell their homes successfully. PropertyGuys.com is the largest private home sales network in Canada.
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