Tension between the maintenance shop and office staff is nothing new in the apartment industry. Everyone knows it exists, and stressful lease-ups and new building systems can compound the problem. The question is how to bridge the gap between the two teams when issues arise.
“Cross-training is important for promoting teamwork across departments,” said Chris Lincoln, CAMT, Regional Maintenance Manager for Greystar, during the session “What the Maintenance Team Wishes the Office Knew About Maintenance” at NAA’s Apartmentalize.
“It benefits the maintenance team to have an understanding of the daily activities of the office staff and for the office staff to know the complexity of the technical work that the maintenance team is managing.”
The sophisticated mechanical systems in today’s new buildings can take longer to fix than their predecessors, but property managers may not necessarily know the complexity of each project.
“To provide a manager with a comprehensive overview of the repair and work that needs to be completed our maintenance team will invite the manager to join the inspection,” Lincoln says.
It also helps if you educate the office staff. “From doing a lot of new construction, I let property managers know that the equipment we deal with is evolving,” says Demetrius Rodriguez, CAMT, Service Manager for Simpson Property Group. “There are lots of things that could go wrong,” he says.
Rodriguez says companies that recognize the skills needed to maintain the new systems are paying their maintenance supervisors higher salaries, in part because “handling new construction is chaotic.”
Panelists recommended that maintenance supervisors begin working at a new community at least 30 to 45 days before it opens.
“The sooner you get onsite to deal with things like water and electrical hookups, the better,” Rodriguez says.
“The best property managers let the service managers manage their people,” Rodriguez says.