Property Management: Leaving Things Broken

Property Management: Leaving Things Broken

How do you know when to leave broken things... broken?  As seldom as possible, of course.  Matters of public safety require immediate attention; water leaks, controlling utility costs, these are always near the top of the list.

Dollars and Sense

Unfortunately, dollars and sense (spelled this way on purpose) requires we perform constant triage; giving the most attention to the areas that produce revenue or control expenditures.  This "methodology" means some things do not get done.

Have you ever had to walk by the same exterior wall, time after time, knowing it needs painting (just one wall- not the whole building)?  How hard can it be to paint a single wall???  Well let's see.  First we must assess the wall for structural soundness, do any prep work necessary, probably apply primer or some type of sealant, then paint. 

Prioritizing the Work

But most of us know the issue is not getting the wall painted; the issue is prioritizing the work.  And in terms of running day-to-day operations from make-readys to electrical problems or addressing water leaks painting an ugly wall is low on the list. We must prioritize the work and have responsibility centers.  Then there is always the matter of items that jump the line.  So how do we get to that 'one wall"?

Initially by making sure non-essential work  stays on the list no matter how long the list is. The wall in need of paint stays on the list even if at the very bottom, for a long time.  Who wants to replace gutters?  Anyone? Wanting to and need to are two different things, of course.  So want to or not eventually there will be gutters that require replacing... make sure this stays on the to-do list.

What's Broken?

Sometimes what's "broken" is ownership. Property management cannot usually fix broken ownership, but you are there to guide their hand to the best of your ability.  Maybe a re-fi is in order to free up capital expenditure dollars.  Maybe there is an improved method for addressing vendor relationships that has an up front sunk costs but will pay for itself three times over.  These are examples of potential owner assist that management can bring to owners.  

Sometimes what's "broken" is management. Ownership must determine the factors that lead to considering a management change. Not all markets are good markets.  You may have a stellar management team doing the absolute best they can considering market dynamics.  What ownership should not do is "auto-default" into assuming that problematic operations are exclusively the result of management.  Communication is key to ascertaining problematic areas.  Once determined problem solving can begin. 

We never want to leave broken things broken but at the same time we must live within our means- our budgets.  Doing this requires prioritizing those tasks that maintain stabilized operations.

Please comment on the following questions:
• Question: How do you prioritize non-essential work?
• Question: What are the determining factors in making it to the top of your list?

About This Blog
Multifamily Insight is dedicated to assisting current and future multifamily property owners, operators and investors in executing specific tasks that allow multifamily assets to operate at their highest level of efficiency. We discuss real world issues in multifamily property management and acquisitions. This blog is intended to be informational only and does not provide legal, financial or accounting advice. Seek professional counsel.

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