Preventive Maintenance: An Ounce of Prevention Means a Better Bottom Line for Owners

Preventative maintenance programs conducted on an ongoing basis can increase property values for multifamily property owners.

There is no denying that multifamily is and has been the hottest ticket in the commercial real estate industry in recent months. With that in mind, both new and experienced owners alike are seeking the most efficient ways to maintain and increase the value of their properties.

As a leader in the field, and a manager of multifamily properties for over 40 years, Western National Property Management is actively assisting owners in increasing property values. One specific way to do this is to focus on preventative maintenance programs on an ongoing basis.

The foundation is simple: Notice small problems and fix them before major ones develop. It may sound like a common practice, but the truth is that many private owners do not have a current effective system in place. Without one the owner can experience high levels of unanticipated or projected maintenance costs.

The benefits of preventative maintenance programs radiate throughout an entire community. Perhaps the most important benefit is loss prevention pertaining to accidents. A regular program of inspection and maintenance can help maintain a safe environment by avoiding unnecessary accidents.

Another benefit is cost savings by recognizing and repairing a potential problem before it evolves into a larger issue. This type of proactive management will save an owner a great deal of money in the long run.

Owners who implement a preventative maintenance program will also benefit from loss prevention.  By consistently conducting preventative maintenance, the property and building systems will perform better and possibly endure through their full potential. This has a direct effect on property values, as properties which are well-maintained and without large problems will maintain a higher value than communities where preventative maintenance has been deferred.

Owners who wish to establish a preventative maintenance program can look to their property management company to ensure that all programs are current.  Three main components are present in successful programs, including:

1)  A team of dedicated and trained individuals.

The property management team should be trained in preventative maintenance and prepared to continue the programs on an annual basis. Owners should ask their property management company about the plans they have in place, and should select a property management team which is well-trained and well-educated in preventative maintenance.

In addition, sometimes the required maintenance work will be beyond the control of in-house employees. In those instances, property managers may outsource work to expert professionals from the specified field. Owners should ask their property managers about the relationships they have with expert service technicians in order to facilitate these inspections and repairs.

2)   A maintenance schedule.

The maintenance schedule must outline when each building and property component should be inspected. Schedules should be broken into four categories: monthly, quarterly, semi-annually and annually. For example, items such as fire extinguishers and playground equipment should be inspected more frequently than HVAC equipment and storm drains.

It is important to prioritize inspections on the schedule, and recognize which elements are most essential. For example, Fire Life Safety is the most important item to focus on during inspections. The preventative maintenance schedule must include items such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and HVAC systems in order to ensure these systems are well-prepared to protect the lives of residents. In addition, inspecting items such as lighting and cement around the common areas of a property can help to prevent trip and fall incidents.

3)    A maintenance log.

Maintenance logs also play an important role, as these documents keep track of the exact date of inspection, and reference the trained individual who conducted the inspection. These logs are useful not only in identifying and preventing potential hazards, but also in protecting owners against unwarranted claims, as owners can refer to these logs to ensure that all inspections are up to date.

As companies maintain the three elements above, property owners will begin to see that maintenance costs can be anticipated and included in yearly budgeting. For example, a good property management company will reach out to the service technicians who perform scheduled maintenance in order to identify items which will need to be repaired or replaced throughout the upcoming year. Because these technicians are involved in ongoing inspections, they are well aware of potential problem areas. By including these anticipated costs in the yearly budget, property owners and managers can ensure that the community remains well-maintained, without any surprise costs.

Overall, preventative maintenance is a major factor in both cost control and loss prevention for property owners. By regularly inspecting multifamily communities, property owners and managers can ensure that the property’s value is maintained, while also ensuring that community residents are enjoying a safe and secure environment.

Julie Manthey is the vice president of Operations for Western National Property Management.


Below is a recommended timeline of service items which can contribute to a successful preventative maintenance program for a multifamily community:

Inspect Monthly:
-Fire extinguishers
-Fitness Center
-Garage doors
-Gas main valves
-All access gates, pedestrian or vehicle
-Irrigation controllers
-Playground Equipment

Inspect Quarterly:
-Boiler systems
-Gutters and downspouts
-Water heater
-All wood structures

Inspect Semi-Annually:
-HVAC Equipment
-Roofs- flat or shingle
-Smoke detectors, CO detectors
-Structural members
-Any A/C unit installed in the wall

Inspect Annually:
-Asbestos condition report
-Back flow devices
-Electrical systems
-Mold: Inspect all areas for moisture problems
-Water intrusion