You own and operate a property management company in California. You have your license, you’ve done the training, you’ve provided excellent service to your clients, and built your business … but, you’re concerned aren’t you? What if something goes wrong? What if there is a fire? What about deferred maintenance? Am I doing everything I can and should do for the houses and buildings that I manage? Am I exposed to litigation? These concerns are real and they should cause you a moment of pause.
In the California Fourth Appellate District case of Brown v. Rodriquez, a property owner sought nearly $295,000 to repair the damage to his properties he contends the property manager caused by failing to perform ordinary repairs and maintenance. In the owner’s view, these extraordinary repairs would not have been necessary if the properties had been properly maintained with routine annual maintenance.
The property manager had failed to perform routine annual maintenance such as roof cleaning, gutter cleaning, window washing, water heater flushing, furnace filters, dryer vent cleaning, pressure washing, etc. The trial court agreed that the property manager’s failure to repair and maintain the properties required the owner to perform extraordinary repairs that would not have otherwise been required. The property owner sought over $286,000 in damages. The court awarded the owner approximately $93,000 for the repairs caused by the property manager’s failure to perform routine annual maintenance.
So what steps can a property management company take to prevent claims for deferred maintenance against the company? First of all, the property management company should have a routine annual maintenance recommendation for the client. This list should be provided to the owner as part of the property management package. As an example of routine annual maintenance activities, the following, at minimum, should be performed:
- Gutter Cleaning (Dry Rot Prevention)
- Downspout Negative Pressure Vacate (Dry Rot Prevention)
- Minor Tree Branch Removal from roofs and gutters (Wear & Tear/Dry Rot Prevention)
- Driveway or parking area pressure washing @ 4200 psi (Slip & Fall Prevention/Driveway Longevity)
- Exterior Window Washing (Dry Rot Prevention/Curb Appeal)
- Water Heater Service-Flush (Energy Savings/Appliance Longevity)
- Furnace/HVAC Service-Filter Change (Energy Savings/Appliance Longevity)
- Clean accessible air conditioning coils
- Dryer Vent Cleaning (Safety-Fire Prevention)
- Smoke Alarm Test and Battery Replacement (Safety-Fire Prevention)
- Carbon Monoxide Test and Battery Replacement (Safety-Personal)
- Refrigerator Coil Cleaning (Appliance Longevity)
- Range hood filter cleaning (Fire Safety/Appliance Longevity)
- Oil/Lube Garage Door (Appliance Longevity)
- Garage Door-Return/Pressure-Safety Test (Safety-Personal)
- Garage Light Bulb Replacement/Remote Opener-Test & Battery Replacement (Safety-Personal)
- Clean and deodorize garbage disposal (Energy Savings/Appliance Longevity)
- Clean and deodorize accessible sinks/P-Traps
The property manager should strongly recommend to the owner in writing that these activities be performed annually to protect against deferred maintenance and also for the health, welfare, and safety of the building occupants. If the owner chooses not to follow the property manager’s recommendation, the property manager should get the owner’s denial in writing. Documenting the file with the owner’s written denial will be vital to the property manager’s future defense against deferred maintenance claims.
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Don’t wait until it is too late. You’ll be glad you did. Smile … it’s done!
About the Author: Jesshill E. Love is a licensed California Attorney, the former chair of the Real Estate Department for RMKB Lawyers, and the CEO and Founder of HomeSmiles, Inc. He has been a frequent speaker and contributor for AOA. For more information, visit HomeSmiles.com or call 1 (888) SMILE11.