Developers cultivating working relationships with new homeowners and HOA’s is a recipe for success
By DON NEFF
Post-construction services are critical steps in creating successful communities. These services include turnovers, maintenance plans, inspections, monitoring, and HOA financial planning for asset replacements. Developers forming long-term trusting relationships with homeowners and HOA boards of directors through active participation in the management transition process can help ensure assets are properly maintained. Through these pro- active measures, communities can retain and enhance their economic values. Thoughtful disclosures, well-written maintenance manuals, training on implementation, and well-documented turnovers will minimize surprises down the road. LJP Construction Services has also found these practices can help prevent deferred maintenance from occurring in HOA communities, which could otherwise lead to defect litigation.
The transfer of important project documentation, such as architectural and engineering plans, performance specifications, maintenance guidelines, and manufacturer warranties is a critical step in the turnover process. In some large and complex communities, there may be a list of 50 separate documents to archive and transfer. Well-organized and complete documentation provided by the developer establishes a firm foundation for helping an association successfully manage their community. An annual maintenance review of common areas is a means to monitor conditions and enable the association to confirm maintenance technicians are doing their part.
The Turnover Process
Homeowner and homeowner association turnovers should be part of the project planning process which starts in pre- and during-construction phases. The turnover walk and orientation with the homebuyers will set expectations and help educate them on their maintenance responsibilities prior to close of escrow. Similarly, the turnover
process for the community associations will transfer the management and maintenance responsibility of the community from the developer to the association. Establishing good relationships and homeowner involvement and training prior to turnover can help prepare homeowners and homeowner boards to assume the responsibility of association management and assure a smooth transition.
The turnover process between the developer and the association board and property management includes transition of important project documentation that identify the items and areas that are to become the homeowner association’s maintenance responsibility. During the turnover walk and meeting, a thorough explanation of the items and common area assets, locations and maintenance recommendations can be communicated.
Educating association boards on their fiduciary responsibilities is also essential to a successful turnover.
Maintenance manuals that include maintenance detail and best practices for all components of the homes and community can help ensure the required maintenance will be performed. Maintenance manuals presented and explained during the homeowner orientation and at time of turnover set the standards for preventative and regularly scheduled maintenance and is an important component of compliance with the right to repair laws.
Maintaining buildings, systems, and components on a regular schedule in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications, association budgets and requirements is part of a successful maintenance plan. The maintenance manuals should convey a well thought out and managed plan and system that is also simple and easy to follow. Deferred maintenance can result in significant problems down the road and lead to special assessments, failures, and buildings and property in disarray. In addition to ensuring the required maintenance is carried out, the maintenance plan should create a recordkeeping process that includes documenting, organizing and archiving maintenance data and activities.
Annual Maintenance Reviews
Maintenance reviews of the association common areas, provided by a third party on a recurring annual schedule, provides a method to confirm service providers are in fact keep- ing up with the inspection and maintenance requirements of the assets and according to the recommendations in the maintenance manuals. Addressing deferred maintenance should be a critical focus area for associations and these regularly scheduled reviews examining the conditions will provide timely information and oversight.
The developer may initiate the maintenance review service to monitor the maintenance operations after homeowner’s have moved in and common areas are in use and after they have turned over the project to the HOA. Associations should continue these reviews each year to help keep up with the maintenance requirements, identify any deferred maintenance, and provide insight into budget allocation for future.
Don Neff is the President and CEO of LJP Construction Services. To learn more, visit www.ljpltd.com.