12 May Spring Discussions: Reporting and Submitting Requests for Work in Communities
With the warm weather here to stay and some Covid restrictions disappearing, HOAs‘ and property management teams will find their hands full. Seasonal projects and the use of common areas will see plenty of activity as pent-up demand for visiting neighbors, friends and enjoying community functions will all come to a head. Over the last year, residents likely haven’t been using common areas as frequently as in prior years, and specific maintenance issues may have gone unseen. As long as the HOA, property managers, and residents work together and utilize a process for submitting and managing repairs and maintenance requests, everyone benefits.
Keeping up with community maintenance
Running an active community takes proactive planning and execution. There need to be regularly scheduled inspections and walkthroughs to ensure proper maintenance. Nothing will frustrate residents like an HOA that is not proactively maintaining the property and the common areas. Any form of negligence can pose safety concerns, affect home values, and keep potential new residents from selecting your community. Having a clear understanding of what constitutes the HOA’s responsibilities versus the resident’s responsibilities for both maintenance and repairs will likely be laid out in the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). For instance, the homeowner could be responsible for maintaining the door on an individual residence, but repairs would go through the HOA.
One of the best ways to keep on top of potential issues is preventative maintenance and using the eyes and ears of residents. When a resident notices what may be considered a seemingly small thing like a leak or a crack, it’s best to have a predetermined way for it to be reported to a property manager or HOA before it can turn into something more serious. The HOA can set up detailed guidelines for what type of issues to report and the process for requesting work or service. For instance, if a neighbor notices a cracked window or a flickering light bulb, communicating this to the HOA or property manager would help to keep the community in good order.
Additionally, a request for community improvement should also be available. Residents care about the community they live in and often want to help it thrive, even more so because the dues and assessments they pay directly impact the care of the community. When there is a viable suggestion on enhancing the enjoyment of a shared area or ways to update an otherwise bare or outdated landscaping installment, residents should feel comfortable and confident in the process of doing so. The rules and regulations found in the CC&R’s can guide the review of requests. The method and response for the request type will each have their process.
Putting a process in place for submitting inquiries
Make sure residents feel comfortable reaching out to the HOA and property management team. Have residents approach it in a similar way to what airport security says about unattended luggage – “if you see something, say something.” There’s no harm in alerting the property managers about something, and in many cases will help stave off future complications that could arise. Ensure residents know not to try and fix problems on their own that fall outside of their property responsibilities. The potential liability involved and the possibility of exacerbating the issue are not worth the risk.
The HOA should request the following information for inquiries:
- A description of what the issue is and its severity.
- The location, time, and day.
- Any applicable pictures or, if possible, a video.
- Contact information for the person submitting the request.
- Be available to answer your phone or email after submitting the request.
When the HOA and property manager receives the inquiry from a resident, it should take the following steps:
- Confirm the request was received and the process for handling it.
- Update the resident upon completion.
- Get feedback.
Make sure to have a list of locally vetted contractors and maintenance staff best suited for various tasks. There should be a high level of confidence that these vendors will take care of things fast and effectively. The list should always be up to date. Upon completion of any project, review everything with the vendor and sign off of its completion. Over time trust with vendors will be established and the community will recognize the quality of work.
If, however, damage should occur to a common area at the fault of a resident or a guest of a resident, the HOA will still be required to complete the repair in a timely fashion. The HOA may then charge the homeowner a reimbursement assessment to cover the cost of those repairs. Make residents aware, so they treat all areas of the community with respect.
Keep the lines of communication open.
As in most matters, meeting expectations and providing transparency helps everyone involved. It’s a good idea to track and keep the resident who submitted the inquiry informed on the progress and completion. Depending on the severity of the inquiry, it may take a couple of days or a few weeks to be addressed. Also, offer multiple ways for residents to reach out, such as phone, email, and online form or portal, and stopping in during established office hours. Responding to non-emergency inquiries should happen within 24 to 48 hours, while emergency situations should be responded to as promptly as possible.
Communication between the HOA and residents always helps to build trust. Once work is complete, ask for feedback from the resident who initially brought the matter to the HOA or community manager. Let residents know their opinion is valuable and that the input, whether positive or negative, will be considered. It also helps to protect the HOA from a finicky resident who (regardless of quality) can find fault in work done and raise an issue at a board meeting. If a resident does want to be more involved, suggest joining a committee that oversees repairs and maintenance.
Having a management company mediate requests from residents to the community’s board ensures a smooth and professional process from start to finish. With the board’s help, the community managers can expedite projects and maximize residents’ satisfaction. With high expectations for this spring and summer, it’s the perfect time for everyone to rediscover what the community has to offer and the value it provides.