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The Blue Print – July 2022

posted by MC

In general, we are seeing actions taken by community associations to protect residents from tragedies such as with the Champlain Towers in Surfside. Recent changes in lending criteria encourage us all to be focused on maintenance needs in the interest of keeping the door open to loans to soften those expenses.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, collectively relied upon by lenders to purchase or guarantee their loans, have updated the standards that must be met to secure a loan. Buildings with deferred maintenance will likely be ineligible to borrow the money to fix their problems and will have to rely on special assessments. This also means that board members “kicking the can” and choosing to avoid structural evaluations or reserve studies which would make transparent the bigger maintenance needs of the property are potentially setting future owners up for an unpleasant, or even impossible, special assessment experience.

I’ve always advocated for Community managers to have bigger roles in board decisions and the training to do so. There is a bias with board members, especially when they know decisions increase their own assessments and don’t perceive their own “renter” mentality. We encourage Association Managers to be more vocal in highlighting the risk to losing the option of a loan to ease the cost of bigger maintenance needs and protecting the value of the property.

This issue of the J. Hershey Blueprint highlights a few examples of creative maintenance approaches designed to work within reserve limitations.

Handling Repairs in Phases

Phasing larger projects over a number of years is a good financial solution to avoid a special assessment or to spread reserves across multiple projects. This approach offsets a large one-time hit to the reserves. The balcony repair project below required new railing installations and sealing of the cantilevered concrete platforms. The more urgent balconies were repaired in the first year, the balance of balconies repaired in year 2 and 3. J. Hershey Building Consultants performed the initial evaluation, repair drawings, and construction monitoring.

Exterior parking areas are usually a work in progress during the best of times. The project below phased the parking area repair by laying new asphalt in half of the lot one year, and completing the lot in year 2.

J. Hershey Building Consultants work with you and your board to prioritize projects and balance existing reserves against current and future needs. We believe reserve studies are not complete without a reasonable action plan of next steps and work with boards to design a pragmatic maintenance and repair schedule.

Installation and Maintenance Expertise Matters with Composite Materials

We see many communities shifting to use composite decking materials in effort to reduce maintenance needs. Composite materials are not all created equal, and have specific installation and maintenance approaches that must be adhered to if you want to avoid issues such as noted below. Below left side pictures show splitting and softening of the boards which can happen if the outer material is not kept properly sealed and the inner material has wood fiber content. Below right pictures show splitting and softening which can happen if the composite boards are not given space to expand and contract, are not properly sealed, or installed close to horizontal surfaces where water accumulates.

J. Hershey Building Consultants recommend that installation and maintenance of composite deck components and building trim boards include identifying a point person on the board that understands the manufacturer warranty and recommended methods for ongoing maintenance.

Structural Assessment Needed for Multi-story crack

J. Hershey Building Consultants and one of our consulting structural engineers is assessing the resolution to a vertical crack in a building stairwell. Cracks may appear in structures as a result of movement, but when the crack extends up through multiple floors there needs to be a structural assessment done to understand cause of the crack and make sure the repair is appropriate to rectify the cause. The pictures below center and right show the crack at two different stairway levels.

What is Wrong with the Picture Below?

Let’s all improve our ability to spot property needs!

Answer: Some of the vinyl siding is warped. This is likely due to the heat from a barbeque grill used too close to the building. While the siding can be replaced, this was indeed a fire hazard. Local building codes may cover required distance that a grill must be from a structure, typically 10 feet away. Associations should include grill use rules in their agreements. In addition, the homeowner should be encouraged to understand their own homeowners/renters insurance coverage limitations regarding accidents that result from grill use.

More Family Room, Less Basement!

J. Hershey Architecture is continuing work with a client on a full basement remodel. While the project is not yet complete, the “close to after” picture on the right showcases how the remodel plan was able to capture the charm of the existing arched window and elevate the space to what will soon be a lovely family room. Note that the pipes have disappeared from the ceiling. Adjacent spaces include a study, laundry room, and full bathroom.