Understanding Deferred vs. Preventative Maintenance

For most property managers, doing more with a smaller budget is one of the greatest challenges in their position. Shrinking budgets often inspire a delay in general maintenance of the property. System upgrades and repairs to apartments aren’t cheap, and skipping out on routine maintenance is indeed tempting. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management understands the allure of delaying or even indefinitely postponing maintenance until more funding becomes available.
Unfortunately, deferred maintenance comes with a cost. Too often, repairs become replacements. Consider a broken door knob that needs repaired. When a fix is not in the budget, it is tempting to leave the door knob as is until next month. After all, the door still works, folks will just have to be gentle with the knob until it can be repaired properly.
The reality? That door knob will still be used daily. Chances are good that the door knob will become even more broken and perhaps even require replacement rather than a simple repair. Replacing a broken door knob, window or lock is much more expensive than your average repair might have cost. Staff productivity will also take a hit, as replacing such items will likely take longer than it would take to repair instead.
When repair projects are put on hold, the cost of deferred maintenance can multiply to extreme costs. That’s why preventative maintenance is so critically important for successful property managers. Prevention can save time and money and helps property managers avoid replacing costly materials. When planned in advance, preventative maintenance is the most affordable and least disruptive form of care for an apartment complex possible.
Just how much of your budget should you allocate for preventative maintenance? Experts say between two and six percent of your annual operating budget should allow for routine maintenance. Periodic assessments of a building’s condition can help inform maintenance budgets and decisions. Take a look at the mechanical and electrical equipment as well as interior structures, finishes and the building’s shell.
Of course, most property managers would rather invest in preventative maintenance, but budget cuts are often the catalyst for deferred repairs. In order to convince stakeholders that the budget should be increased a little, remind them about the increased risk of liability associated with delayed repairs.
Showing the financial ramifications of delayed repairs can also bolster your argument. Work up a comparison of the costs of preventative maintenance versus deferred maintenance and have an honest conversation about expected outcomes for each. The reality is that the faster a repair is taken care of, the better.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management