In this series we are focusing on you, the board member, and the challenges you face each day when running your homeowners association. We are exploring the challenges of self-management and ways to work through them. This series will answer questions from readers. If you see something that seems common or you identify further challenges, email firstname.lastname@example.org. I will add your comments and feedback as the year goes on.
Board Members and Owners, Speak up!
1. Deferred maintenance: When should it be fixed, replaced or maintained?
2. Trusting a board: Get involved and go to meetings.
3. Contracts: Not just for their sake but yours as well.
4. Board fraud: Boards make mistakes, but what if?
5. Agendas and announcements: Where do I find our info about meetings?
Deferred maintenance: When should it be fixed, replaced or maintained?
Wikipedia defines deferred maintenance as "the practice of postponing maintenance activities such as repairs on both real property (i.e. infrastructure) and personal property in order to save costs, meet budget funding levels, or realign available budget monies.”
Deferred maintenance is one of the biggest issues facing self-managed boards. With the economy tight, most boards think they should just hunker down until things get better and protect what they have. Instead, one year leads to two and three and soon the maintenance costs that once were manageable have become uncontrollable and almost debilitating. Now the association has both a maintenance issue and a property value issue.
For example, let’s say a homeowners association has masonite siding that is rotting. Instead of replacing the siding, the HOA decides to paint the rotted siding. But there may be underlying issues like rotted fiber board, insulation and sheetrock. Water may be a couple inches away from entering your home at any time.
"A board should never shy away from taking on one piece of a bigger project at a time,” says Greg Snow with Maverick Construction. Each year a board puts off replacing masonite siding for one unit brings them closer to the time in which they will be forced to replace siding for all units.
Work towards a rotating maintenance schedule. Each year, paint a few units, refresh a few landscapes, and do some brush clear-cut around the perimeter; every bit helps.
You may think it is too late to get on a schedule, but think again. Most self-managed boards lack the guidance of experts or the partners that are willing to take the time to consult and not sell. If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and form a committee to take some of the research time burden off of you.
Knowing the difference between maintenance and replacement will have a key effect on your property appearance, attractiveness to interested buyers and homeowner pride. In addition, it hits the bottom line at the time you are trying to sell. That value is something you don’t take lightly. If you split the responsibility among other owners and board members, you will have a better chance of avoiding deferred maintenance and having a plan for years to come. It’s not too late!