A Complete Guide To Property Maintenance

what is property maintenance

Everyone wants to live and work in a safe and functional environment as that is one of the main factors that impact our quality of life.

As a property owner, you might be wondering which actions you need to take to ensure that your property fulfills those expectations. To find the answer, you should first familiarize yourself with insides and outs of property maintenance.

A great place to start is to read the rest of this article as we:

  • discuss what property maintenance covers
  • explain what is international property maintenance code
  • compare commercial property maintenance vs building an in-house maintenance team
  • outline 4 important tips for keeping your property in tip-top shape

What is property maintenance?

Property maintenance is the process of preserving a residential or hospitality building and its immediate surroundings in an optimum condition through a set of specific maintenance activities.

It refers to the different activities that are essential for keeping a building functional and comfortable for its occupants (which is why it is often used interchangeably with the term building maintenance).

Property maintenance activities include:

  • cleaning of the building’s internal and external common areas (including drains, roof gutters, corridors, etc.)
  • rodent control and removal
  • gardening and landscaping
  • garbage separation and disposal
  • servicing, repairs, and replacement of all mechanical and electrical systems (lighting, HVAC, water supply, water heating, etc.)
  • safety checks (proactive routine inspections of mechanical and electrical systems, fire fighting installations, and safety inspections of the entire premises).
Property maintenance is beneficial for both the occupants and the property owner as it works to keep everyone happy.

From the point of view of an occupant, you want to get home after a busy day and know that you can relax without worrying about issues like a clogged up kitchen sink, a dirty, poorly-lit, and greasy staircase where your kids could trip and hurt themselves or toilets that won’t flush.

For the property owner, you want to ensure that your asset retains its value over the years and that you don’t spend most of your day attending to one dissatisfied tenant or the other. You also want to avoid liability issues if someone gets hurt on the premises.

Following the international property maintenance code (IPMC)

Property maintenance should not be a haphazard process as poor or inadequate maintenance can cause serious problems for everyone using that particular property. To avoid such situations, there are several regulations and codes that property owners and administrators can follow.

One of these codes is the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). It is a set of regulations that specify the minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings. The international property maintenance code is a maintenance document created to fill the need for a modern and updated property maintenance code. It covers the following chapters:
IPMC chapters
Its purpose is to establish minimum standards for maintaining building components like the structure’s exterior, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical fixtures, sanitary installations, and fire fighting equipment. For example, it has specific recommendations for water heating equipment, the ideal temperature of heated water, how that water should be circulated, etc.

The IPMC is renewed every 3 years and is available for adoption and use by jurisdictions internationally. You can check full details of what the IPMC covers here.

International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) 2018

Commercial property maintenance vs an in-house team

One important choice you’ll need to make will be whether to outsource this task to a commercial property maintenance team or build an in-house team. We discuss both options below.

Going with professional property maintenance services
If you choose to hire a professional property maintenance company, you stand to benefit from a more structured approach to maintenance that they have developed over the years. Some of the services they usually offer include:

1) Preventative maintenance planning and scheduling
A professional property maintenance company will typically have an established system for planning and scheduling every maintenance task that your property requires. At the minimum, such a system should include:

  • Regular maintenance checks, inspections, and visits.
  • Documentation of all maintenance performed.
  • Recommendations for upgrades and improvements.
  • Standard procedures for hiring and managing vendors and contractors.
A quality commercial property maintenance service will keep your tenants happy while preserving and improving the condition of your asset.

2) Financial reporting
It is expected that one of their first roles will be creating a maintenance budget for your property. They will also present you with reports about maintenance expenses on the premises – at least on a monthly basis.

3) Handling tenants communication
If every email or text message from tenants comes to you directly, it’s likely that you won’t have time for much else. Part of the duties of a professional property maintenance company will be communicating with your tenants and relaying to you only those issues that require your attention.

4) Ensuring regulatory compliance
Similar to the IPMC we mentioned earlier, there are several other requirements that your local jurisdiction may require of property owners. It can be difficult to keep track of everything. A commercial property maintenance company is expected to monitor existing and new regulations on your behalf and ensure compliance.

This all sounds great, but you may wonder: where can I find a decent commercial property maintenance company?

Well, there are a few different approaches you can take here. If you’re fine with being hands-off, you can look for commercial property management companies and let one of them take the reigns (as property management includes maintenance management).

If you only need someone to take care of the needed maintenance work, you can do some Google searches for property maintenance services in your area and/or get in touch with other property owners you know and ask if they have someone to recommend.

Lastly, when you negotiate with a contractor, it doesn’t hurt to see things from their perspective. For example, here is what a professional cleaning company might focus on when trying to sell you their service.

Going with an in-house property maintenance team
If you choose to have an in-house maintenance team, you will be responsible for everything we outlined in the last chapter, but the difference is that you will have direct supervision over the staff and the quality of performed work, have a more flexible maintenance budget that is under your control, and have an overall better insight into all issues and maintenance activities that are happening at your property.

However, organizing a maintenance department requires some level of planning. Here are the steps you could follow to build your in-house property maintenance team:

  1. Determine the skillset and size of the team that you will be hiring. Start by listing every maintenance activity that your property requires (from cleaning to equipment repairs). This will help you to determine who you need, e.g. cleaners, gardeners, HVAC and electrical technicians, etc.
  2. After that, consider how many hours each person can averagely work per shift and how many shifts you’ll need per day to estimate how many people you’ll be hiring. Depending on how large the property is, you may need a facility manager or at least a supervisor to coordinate the staff.
  3. Don’t rush to hire. Conduct thorough interviews and check that your potential craftsmen are qualified for their intended roles. Also, you can safely hasten this process by outsourcing this step to a reputable maintenance staff recruitment agency.
  4. There are some roles that are usually not economical to fill in-house so don’t completely eliminate outsourcing. For instance, you won’t hire a full-time elevator technician when elevators typically don’t require servicing as often as other systems.
The pros and cons of each approach
Commercial property maintenance vs in-house team

4 tips for keeping your property in tip-top shape

In addition to what we’ve mentioned above, here are a few tips that will help you to guarantee that your property constantly remains in its best condition:

#1) Prioritize maintenance funding
When so many other issues in your property demand funding, it can be tempting to cut back on maintenance spending. But, this can lead to rapid asset deterioration and an uncontrollable deferred maintenance list which creates an ideal setting for safety hazards.

Avoiding these and even more problems requires that you proactively estimate and budget for Operating Expense and Capital Expense maintenance annually. Usually, it’s advisable to budget a minimum of between 2 – 4% of your property’s current replacement value for your annual maintenance budget. According to some internal data, every dollar you spend on maintenance saves you $5 in the long run.

#2) Procure and use durable components
To keep your property in tip-top shape, you’ll want to use replacement parts that operate safely and last as long as possible. When you stock your spare parts inventory (with fan belts, HVAC parts, light bulbs, motors, pumps, etc.) that are high-quality, you’re making an investment in the longevity of your property.

Although very durable items may cost a little more at the onset, they help you save on future repairs and minimize the problems of frequent rework.

#3) Automate maintenance management
No matter the competence of your maintenance team/service provider, it can quickly become challenging to stay on top of every single maintenance task. Especially in very large multi-unit properties, trying to track everything manually can quickly breed inefficiency and leave room for wasted time and resources.

That’s why more and more property managers are interested in automating maintenance management by using a computerized maintenance management system. A mobile CMMS will help you to streamline and optimize every aspect of maintenance, handle repetitive administrative tasks, track safety, measure performance, reduce maintenance costs, and much more.

An added benefit of having a CMMS like Limble is the oversight over outsourced maintenance services. You can give technicians from the commercial property maintenance company limited access to your account and assign them Work Orders through Limble. This way, you can ensure that the work is actually being performed and that it is performed in a timely manner.

#4) Enable regular property audits
Another fundamental practice for keeping your property in optimum shape is to adopt a custom of regular facility condition assessments (FCA). An FCA will empower you with comprehensive baseline data about how the entire property and its systems are performing. That information helps to highlight areas for improvements.

During an FCA, the inspection team will check things like the current condition of all the assets and identify any safety hazards for quick corrective action.

Key takeaways

If you currently own or manage a residential property, property maintenance is not something you’re allowed to overlook. It is required and regulated by law in most jurisdictions.

That said, apart from obeying the law, the benefits of property maintenance are too many to ignore.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to take too much of your time. Whether you choose to hire a commercial property maintenance company or set up an in-house maintenance team, what matters most is to ensure that maintenance is ongoing and that those in charge of maintaining your property have the skills, funding, and tools they need for proper execution.

If you’re thinking about using CMMS software to improve different aspects of your property maintenance, we’re always ready to chat.

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