D.I.Why Not? Performing Maintenance In-House vs. Outsourcing

Amid moments of economic uncertainty, a condominium, cooperative, or homeowner’s association may instinctively want to pinch pennies when it can, especially in regard to maintenance projects. Should an association have a full-time, in-house maintenance staff – whether that consists of a super, multiple handymen, or any incarnation thereof – then that’s all the better when it comes time to doling out responsibility for fixing a creaky door or a squeaky step. But some projects will necessarily fall outside the purview of a building’s stable of trusted workers, thus requiring a specialized outside contractor. The ability to recognize the line between small aesthetic quick fixes around the property and an endeavor that requires specific training is essential for board and management, lest an attempted cost-saving operation open the association up to serious losses due to liability issues.

Manage Expectations

A qualified property manager can act as a board’s conscience when it’s considering whether to allocate funds to a maintenance project, or attempt a quicker fix in-house. The best sort of managing agent would have set criteria on hand as to the type of work that can be passably performed by staff, as opposed to something on a larger scale that demands a seasoned professional.

Nicolas Marin, a property manager formerly with Wesley Realty Group in Evanston, Illinois, lays out categories of factors that a board must consider when making a work-order decision:

• Personnel: Does the in-house staff have the experience necessary to perform the task at hand? Who will supervise them during the work? Is there a possibility that their naivete may exacerbate the existing problem? In a scenario where an association has limited staff in general, will attempting this task interfere with the daily operations of the property?

• Tools, equipment, and supplies: Does the association have everything necessary to perform the maintenance and repair? Some maintenance or repair may require specific tools that the association may not possess, in which case it will have to review whether purchasing that tool could be an investment (in the case that it will see repeated use). Should the association procure said tool, is there an assurance that it will be used safely? 

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