All posts by Buffalo Maintenance

Exterior Lighting Controls

Dear Maintenance Men,
It won’t be long before we need to change our clocks for Daylight Saving.  I’m a bit concerned about the lights at my apartment building.  I have various fixtures, sensors and timers, not one of which turns on the lights at the same time. Some don’t turn off or on at all.  Any suggestions?

Dear Burt:
There are two ways to effectively control exterior lighting:
1:  A timer clock.
2:  A photocell for detecting light and dark
Both time clocks and photocells have been around forever. We prefer to activate landscape lighting with a photocell as it is virtually maintenance free.  A photocell will ensure the property has light only when it is needed and turn off automatically with the approach of daylight.  Be sure the photocell located where it can “see” ambient light and not near an artificial light source.

A time clock needs constant attention in order to keep up with the changing seasons and adjustments for longer or shorter nights.  There is nothing more frustrating than seeing the property all lit up at 5pm and it only gets dark at 7pm or even worse; the lights turn on at 7pm and it has been dark since 5pm.  Remember: the safety of your residents is at its greatest risk when it is dark and the lights are out. 

One Critical Piece of Communication your Maintenance Team May Be Missing

Maintenance relates to marketing and we should not overlook that valuable marketing tool.

Communication effects resident relations and it is important for management, maintenance and your residents talk to each other.

Jen Piccotti from Property Management Insider wrote this communication-based article addressing the importance of keeping your residents in the communication loop:


According to the 2011 national resident study, “Getting Inside the Head of the Online Renter,” the number one factor in a resident’s decision to renew is “Quality of Maintenance Services.”

Additionally, the current SatisFacts Insite® Index for Work Orders indicates that 18% of all service requests are not completed right the first time. And of those, only one-third of residents received notification that there would be a delay in completing the request.

Thinking of one property that had 100 service requests: that would mean 18 residents have an issue that was not resolved after the first visit, and of those, 12 are still wondering if the job is finished or if there is more to come.

tin-canCommunication is the foundation for all service, so one critical element to add to your standard communication is updates on ordered parts for a specific repair, on the vendor that needs to be called in, the warranty issue, or just the fact that the resident needs to wait until the property’s internal HVAC expert, Joe, comes back from vacation on Thursday.

This critical piece of communication can come from the maintenance team or from the office team, but it needs to come from someone – and it needs to happen as soon as you know there’s going to be a delay!

Letting a resident know what to expect is one of those little things that makes it “easy” to be a resident in your community. 

resident-communicationIf Mrs. Jones knows the part for her dishwasher won’t be in until Friday, that’s one less thing she has to think or worry about for the time being. The other important component, however, is that if a delay is communicated, the resolution needs to happen when you say it will.

The more your resident knows, the easier it is to remain a resident in your community.

Property Management Questions

 By Jerry L’Ecuyer & Frank Alvarez

Dear Maintenance Men:

I manage a number of properties that use a master key system. Do you have a plan or solution to prevent vendors from losing master keys? This is becoming a problem and an expensive risk.
 — Janet

Dear Janet:

Never, ever, ever give a master key to a vendor or anyone else not employed by your
company. If the building is on a budget and cannot afford state of the art systems for key
control or access, try this simple and cost effective approach:

Install a temporary lockbox with the unit key inside and hang the lockbox on the door
knob or a water pipe near the unit. Any locksmith and even some hardware stores sell
these boxes. If a vendor needs access to a unit, give him access to the lockbox only.
Should they lose the key, you are only out the cost of a key. Save yourself a trip and
install the lockbox when you visit the property for the move out inspection. Note: The
locks should be changed or re keyed after completion of work.

If your vendors need access to a unit where on site personnel is available, the unit must
be opened by your employee or provide the vendor with the unit key only, not the master.
If your main office is centralized and your portfolio is dispersed throughout a particular
region with buildings under 16 units (which do not require onsite managers)
appointments should be made in advance and coordinated between the vendor and the
resident (keeping you in the loop). This will put the burden of entry, missed
appointments, etc. on the resident and the vendor, freeing up your valuable time.

If entry is needed due to an emergency, you should respond to the building to assess
damages or necessary mitigation at the same time allow entry. Take a lock box with you
and a unit key incase the repairs will be prolonged and access will be needed by others.
Never give a master key to a vendor!

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a conundrum! I am thinking of charging an automatic cleaning fee to my new residents. (Of course, after executing a fully signed disclosure with the new resident at the time of contract signing.)

The issue has arisen because when a resident moves, they expect their cleaning deposit to be returned if they clean the unit. However, I find I must clean again at my expense as the unit is really never clean enough.

Is the automatic cleaning deposit a good idea or will the residents just leave the unit in far worst conditions, since they feel they have already paid for the cleaning?
 — Kelly

Dear Kelly:

Due to the fact that individual units may differ in the size, construction, appliances,
finishes amenities etc., establishing a one size fits all cost or fee may hurt you in the long
run. People have different ideas of what “clean” is and this is why property owners and
managers must set the standard of how clean the unit must be. Give the resident a
description of what management considers a clean unit to be and have the new resident
fill out and sign a move-in inspection form as to the move-in condition of the unit.

When you are given a notice to vacate, inspect the unit and document the conditions. Do not discuss the cost or what you will be charging or deducting from the security deposit with the resident at the time of the inspection. However do let the resident know what is
expected when the unit is returned and supply the name of your preferred cleaning

The rational in supplying the name of your cleaning service for your tenant’s use
is that the cleaning service knows what is expected and how management wants the units
cleaned. Upon move out, if the vacant unit does not meet that standard, charge the
resident a cleaning fee, backed up with vendor receipts and take pictures of the
substandard unit should the matter go to court.

Keep in mind that there are always costs in turning a unit such as normal wear and tear, smoke/Co2 alarm batteries and other cost of doing business associated with being an owner or manager of an apartment building.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have rented a unit to a retired building contractor and he has offered to do work around the building in exchange for a rent reduction. He says he knows what he is doing and the arrangement will benefit both of us in the form of lower rent for him and lower apartment maintenance costs for me. He views it as a win win for both of us. Is this a good idea?
 — Gloria

Dear Gloria:

This is a management and maintenance question all in one! Both will have the same answer and it is a firm NO! You will lose all leverage over the work since you are not directly paying for the work and you are blurring the lines between resident and landlord.

Do you evict the tenant because he did a bad job installing a garbage disposal unit or
because he is short on his rent? It would be better that your resident work for someone
else and keep your maintenance and rent separate. Also, please keep in mind the liability
and workman’s compensation issues that may be involved by hiring a resident to do work
at your building.



We need more Maintenance Questions!!!

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Please call:

Buffalo Maintenance, Inc for maintenance work or consultation, or
JLE Property Management, Inc for management service or consultation

Frankie Alvarez at 714 956-8371
Jerry L’Ecuyer at 714 778-0480

CA contractor lic: #797645, EPA
Real Estate lic. #: 01216720
Certified Renovation Company