Spring brings daffodils and crocuses, and a reminder for condo managers to prepare for the year ahead

Canadians like to talk about the weather a lot. And given that most of the country lives in the grip of winter that sees temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius or worse, it’s no wonder that they look forward to spring and warmer temperatures.

For condo owners and managers, in fact anyone who lives in a condo, spring is also an important time to go through a checklist to start good maintenance practices, do a damage assessment from winter weather and start preparing for any renovations.

For Jim Allison, a property manager with Assertive Northwest Property Management Group Inc., in Vancouver, BC, who has more than 35 years of property management under his belt, a good maintenance plan is critical to success. “We have a schedule for all our buildings and we look at it every month to review it and determine if it’s the time of year to wash the windows, clean the gutters and dryer vents, and pressure washing the garage and other areas that get dirty over the winter,” he explains.


Spring should start with an assessment

The starting point is an assessment of the property and a complete review of gutters and drains that may have become clogged from leaves, pine needles and other debris from winter storms and winds. Backed-up eavestroughs and drains can cause havoc, especially with melting snow and mild rainy weather.

Leaks are a common problem, so it’s important to be on the lookout for tell-tale damp patches or water stains. These may require the assistance of a licenced professional like a plumber or drainage expert to make sure a minor problem doesn’t become a bigger, costlier one.

A condo’s heating and air-conditioning structure is like its respiratory system, so everything from pipes to filters need to be examined up-close. Residents should also be encouraged to ensure that their dryer vents and filters for heating and cooling systems are kept clean and are in top working order.

Allison’s checklist includes cleaning dryer vents. “If you don’t do it, your dryers don’t work. I  do it every year or every two years and we do one year we do just from the outside. And then the alternate year we do it inside and when we go inside the suite and clean everything there. And then the next day they go in they do it from the outside which involves putting suction down the pipe before they can go usually right in the dryer and sucking all the dirt out of there.”


An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure

Checklists are an important part of a customer service approach, Allison says. “When a garage gate breaks and nobody can get in or out of the underground parking, emergencies like this are defined by the inconvenience to the resident rather than the cost of repair. If you can’t get home after a long day at work, you’re upset,” says Allison. And that’s why he believes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “The inconvenience to residents is often worse than the cost of fixing the problem,” he cautions.

Other important areas that need attention are greenspaces and landscaping as well as parking facilities. Readying the flowerbeds, pruning trees, and removing winter damage becomes a priority. Everything from parking lines to safety decals, signage, traffic control stencils, light poles, speedbumps, and the roadways themselves often show signs of wear from harsh winter conditions along with de-icing and snow removal, or the relentless rains and the atmospheric rivers that have been depositing deluges on the West Coast.

Spring also brings birds. While many residents love the sound of chirping birds to greet the day, our avian friends can cause no end of damage if they decide to start roosting in roofing or seeking grubs and making their home on grassy areas. There are simple deterrents such as spikes in places where birds land in nooks and crannies found in roofs and around garages, as well as asking residents not to install bird feeders. In fact, many wildlife advocates ask that people refrain from installing feeders as they often result in the spread of diseases that take a huge toll on birds and attract rodents and even larger animals like bears and racoons, depending on where in Canada the building is located.

One of the most serious considerations for your spring check list is reviewing fire and sprinkler systems. These need regular testing to ensure that batteries are charged or working and ensuring that the systems are fully operational. Short circuits can cause false alarms, which can mean the unnecessary dispatch of fire services. Remember that while rules vary across the country, if false alarms occur too often, they can result in financial penalties and loss of trust by residents. Recurring false alarms could mean that people don’t pay attention in the event of a real emergency.


Communication with residents is essential

A key element of all these programs is to ensure that you have a good communication plan with residents of the building. Do you have a newsletter, or an online update that keeps people informed? Other options are regular meetings to review safety plans and drills, as well as welcome kits for people who’ve just moved into the building.

The final item on the checklist is to ensure that the property insurance blanket covers the physical assets owned by a corporation. BFL CANADA’s Strata Protect insurance program insures against all risks of direct physical loss or damage to the property. Insured perils include: fire, lightning, smoke, windstorm, water damage, sewer back up, flooding, riots, earthquakes, strike, and vandalism. Fully compliant with all the provincial legislation, the program provides coverage for replacement cost, including by-laws or building code upgrades.

A strata corporation must obtain and maintain property insurance on the common property. The property insurance must be based on full replacement value, and insure against major perils, as set out in the regulations, and any other perils specified in the bylaws.

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