Old Ben Was Right


One of the earliest advocates of preventive maintenance was Ben Franklin. He wisely wrote: “A little neglect may breed mischief…for want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost…” Old Ben nailed what happens when relatively small repairs. Little things have major impact on homeowner association assets. For example, a small lack of flashing can lead to major dryrot, structural problems and major expense. Ka-CHING!

Preventive maintenance is critical to managing an HOA’s assets. When executed properly, it extends the useful life of buildings, grounds and equipment. Stretching out useful lives means stretching member contributions and reducing downtime from component failures. Preventive maintenance involves fixing something before it breaks. Here are five objectives for a every preventive maintenance program:

  1. To perform maintenance that keeps the property safe and functioning.
  2. To promote the most effective and efficient use of resources.
  3. To estimate the human resources needed for proper operation and maintenance.
  4. To determine long range funding requirements and project scheduling.
  5. To evaluate the effectiveness of the maintenance effort.

Preventive maintenance programs are common with elevators, HVAC and pool equipment, usually because there is a service contract. Other components, like paving, roofing, decks and paint require monitoring and planning.

Functional obsolescence is also a legitimate concern. Lack of parts, improvements in efficiency, computerization and changes in fire and building code can make equipment obsolete even though it’s working just as designed. This is particularly applicable to elevators, boilers, pumps and HVAC. Buying new equipment is often a great investment in reduced operating costs. For example, by replacing all common area lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs, the light level will be significantly increased, the energy consumption reduced by 70% and the useful life of each bulb extended by 10-15 times thereby saving an enormous amount of labor costs. Within 12-18 months, the cost will be recouped in energy savings and then, it’s money in the bank.

So, what is the best way to address major preventive maintenance? Two words: Reserve Study. A Reserve Study identifies all the significant components that the HOA is responsible to maintain, assesses current condition, cost of repair and replacement and charts a 30 year maintenance plan to keep the components in their best condition.

The Reserve Study can provide for cyclical preventive maintenance so components achieve their optimal lives. For example If cracks, minor repairs and sealcoating are performed at least every five years on asphalt paving, major repairs will not be required for 20-30 years. If this relatively inexpensive preventive maintenance is not done, significant and costly major repairs will be required much sooner. Pay a little to save a lot.

A Reserve Study will also guide the board how to systematically accumulate funds without special assessments. A full funding plan will have all owners contribute a fair share relating to the benefits received. A fair contribution plan means no one will get a better deal than anyone else and the money will be there when needed. The Reserve Study is absolutely the best way to prepare for a future which will certainly come to pass.

Remember Old Ben’s nail analogy. Little things have a way of causing great things to happen. But rather than fail in the little things, plan for them and hit this nail right on the head.

by Richard Thompson

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