Monday, August 3, 2015

A Property Manager's Guide to ReConstruction Projects


      Every manager of multifamily projects will encounter a large re-construction project several times in his or her career. These may be planned projects or the result of an emergency. Planned projects include those that are routinely projected by building inspectors, architects, and other building professionals—re-painting; new roof coverings; re-paving of parking lots and streets. Emergencies usually involve previously unknown problems discovered in a forensic investigation or as the consequences of age.

       As residential housing gets older, construction projects become more complex and difficult. This complexity often results from those unplanned and unexpected discoveries. Age brings deterioration of components that years before would not have been considered at risk. A routine roof project, for example, may only require replacement of the roof covering when the project is say, 15 years old. But in an older project, where moisture has had years to accumulate in concealed wood components, not only the covering, but also the wood substrate may have to be replaced. The same is true with other components largely built of wood—balconies, staircases, entry decks, and framing under siding and stucco. These components may actually leak, but not enough to alert the occupants. Instead the moisture remains in the wood or in wall cavities and supports gradual decay over time. These issues add to the challenge of preparing an adequate scope of work because a good portion of the damage is concealed.

          As projects become more difficult, property managers find that they are responsible for a wider range of tasks--not only obtaining bids to do the work, but also for determining what experts to retain to investigate and determine the scope of that work; deciding who manages the contract; negotiation over the terms; and finding the funds to pay the contractor. This guide is intended to offer community and apartment managers assistance in managing a complex construction project including recommending and retaining appropriate professionals to determine the scope of work; construction contract and bid package essentials; administering the project; and handling disputes.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hate Rules Enforcement by your Community Association?

 Get your Neighbors to Vote it out!



Read any pundit’s blog about homeowner associations and you will see a recurring theme: boards of directors over-zealously enforce the rules. True or not, I’m calling the pundits’ bluff: If you don’t like rules enforcement by your homeowner’s association then round up your neighbors and vote it out. I don’t mean dissolve the association entirely, just limit its authority to enforce certain rules and leave that enforcement to the individual owners who care the most. This has two benefits: it leaves certain disputes between individual owners to be resolved just by those owners; and it relieves the board of directors and the association from having to act as a cop.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Builders Report Lack of Skilled Labor

A diminished labor pool is impacting new construction--will quality suffer as a result?


Yahoo reports that the building industry is suffering from a lack of skilled labor resulting from tightened immigration policies and young workers choosing other fields. We reported on this problem in an earlier post on the Berkeley building collapse. Quality suffers when demand is high and the skilled labor pool is low.

"Unemployment in the construction industry fell in June to the lowest level since 2001, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. That's because contractors are having a hard time finding enough qualified workers to meet growing demand, association officials said....We've lost about two-thirds of our Hispanic and South American population in South Carolina, and that has had a profound effect on labor...Local high schools have training programs, but they have been slow to churn out new workers."

So where do builders get the labor to meet demand? We need to spend more on high school and community college technical training, that's where. In the meanwhile, more and better inspections must be employed so that mistakes left behind by untrained labor won't result in construction problems and building failures.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Berkeley Proposes Tougher Balcony Standards

PROPOSED STANDARDS INCLUDE DISCLOSURES BY COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS

Inside Bay Area reports:

BERKELEY -- City planning and building officials are proposing a package of safety-related urgency ordinances in response to the June 16 collapse of a fifth-floor balcony at a downtown apartment complex that killed six young adults and injured seven more. A city councilman, meanwhile, is proposing tougher building and inspection standards for balconies.

The City Council is scheduled to consider the proposals on July 14.

An inspection by Berkeley building official Alex Roshal and Senior Building Inspector Steve Messinger on June 16 found the cantilevered joists of the balcony, at the Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St., completely shorn off about 16 to 20 inches from the exterior building face, with a torn waterproofing membrane hanging over the joist ends, according to a report from Roshal. The deck joist ends protruding from the exterior wall appeared to be severely dry-rotted, the report stated.

The rotted wood beams that held a balcony jut out from side of the residential apartment building on Kittredge Street in Berkeley on June 17, 2015. Six people died and seven others were seriously injured when the balcony collapsed. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

Planning and Development Director Eric Angstadt proposes adding several sections to the city Building Code.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Death in Staircase Collapse--Dry Rot Suspected

One man was killed on July 3, 2015 when a staircase at an apartment building in Folsom, Ca collapsed due to dry rot in the structure.



http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article26678224.html

 Read: The Perils of Hidden Damage...Click Here to Download





   

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Berkeley Balcony Tragedy: More Inspections Aren't Enough

In the early morning of June 16, 2015, in Berkeley, California, the lives of 6 young people were snuffed out because the balcony they were standing on collapsed. Building failures happen all the time, but the press and government largely ignore them because nobody died.  With these six tragic deaths (and serious injury to seven others) the press is now all over it. We have daily reports of experts opining on the cause (rot caused by moisture intrusion into the wood beams supporting the balcony.) We have interviews with Berkeley city officials (there were numerous inspections of this 8-year old building but none of the waterproofing.) The opinions page trumpets that inspections must increase to prevent another tragic event. Yes there should be more inspections by municipalities and building owners, but it won’t be enough.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Association Reserve Analysis


2014 Community Association Financial Survey


Introduction
In 1996, Berding|Weil published “Latent Liabilities” a treatise which explored the long-term impact of underfunding of the reserve accounts of community associations. Some of the data came from our clients, and some from Levy, Erlanger & Company. We predicted that most multi-family community associations were severely underfunded for long-term maintenance and repairs and we opined this issue could lead to serious deferral of maintenance obligations and ultimately a shortened service life for these projects. Subsequent financial surveys by Levy, Erlanger & Company, with our assistance, have shown this problem to be systemic—affecting most community associations. This year’s survey finds community associations to have only 57% of the funds on hand they should have. This shows that the problem is not getting better—in 1993 that figure was 60%.
Since “Latent Liabilities” was published, we  further documented this problem in “The Uncertain Future of Community Associations” and similar treatises.   Community associations are slowly running out of cash. Borrowing from reserves for regular, and newly discovered maintenance issues has trended upward, and when the reserves run out, special assessments and borrowing from banks increase. The fundamental cause of this cash shortage is the inability or unwillingness of boards of directors to increase assessments sufficiently to keep up with inflation coupled with the discovery of needed repairs not anticipated by the reserve budget.