Rock the
Housework

written by
Craig Berendt

Spring showers bring May flowers and with them,
a lengthy to-do list. Stay on top of spring maintenance for
the sake of your building, your tenants, and your wallet.

It’s that time of year again. Whether your deferred maintenance tasks have piled up or you’ve been able to stay on top of things, spring is the time to tackle regular building maintenance.

Before we dive into what needs to be done, take a moment to make sure that all of your vendors are properly insured. I want to emphasize the word “properly.” I’ve run across vendors who carry general liability insurance, but don’t have workman’s compensation insurance. If a vendor and her subcontractors don’t have proper workman’s compensation insurance, and someone is injured while working on your property, you could personally be held responsible for paying for that person’s workman’s compensation insurance for the indefinite future.

Exterior

As we roll toward the spring and summer months, it’s important for rental property owners filling vacancies to put their best foot forward. There is only one chance to make a proper first impression, and a great way to do this is with a building’s exterior.

  • Facade—Have a professional painter or general contractor check the entire façade of your property for blemishes (leaks, cracks and any appearance of dry rot). That small crack in your stucco or visible rot from the street could become a serious issue if not handled timely. If you’ve painted your building in the past few years and it’s in a heavy traffic area, consider power washing the building.
  • Walkways—Walk the perimeter of the property, and promptly address cracked sidewalk or any tripping hazards. If you have not cleaned your drains around the building since the winter months, go ahead and maintain them now with a certified licensed and insured plumber.
  • Stairs, Fire escapes and the Roof—Check stairs for proper traction (fog and rain are just around the corner!), tripping hazards, and make sure the handrails are secure. Sandpaper treads are readily available and a handyman can install inexpensively. Look for dry rot and paint and sealing issues. Don’t forget to inspect the fire escapes, which should be clear egresses. They should be free of all debris and clutter, including limbs from nearby trees and residents’ personal belongings. This is a good time to check the roof, which should be looked at my a professional every year to see if any work is required.
  • Security—Make sure the gates secure and that the fire doors close properly. Is the exterior of your building well-lit, especially tradesman areas, trash areas, the front and back landing, and all of the common area staircases (inside and out)? If you haven’t invested in motion sensors yet, I suggest that you start looking into it.
  • Pests—We know that the warmer months can bring ants, roaches and rodents. Rodents are everywhere in San Francisco, and your trash cans and boiler rooms can make comfortable homes for them. The best way to deter this is to set up monthly pest control, which will cost about $95/month, and spray periodically for those pesky silverfish. It’s also a good idea to sanitize your blue, black and green bins for fruit flies. You should also set the long tape traps that grab a hold of the fruit flies to help in exterminating them.
  • Plants—Before you leave, check the exterior plants to see how they fared over the winter. Plant new flowers and succulents to spruce up your front entry.

Interior

When performing routine maintenance to the interior of a building, keep future vacancies in mind when considering the your scope of work.

  • Paint—If it’s been more than six or seven years since you’ve painted the common hallways, they’re probably starting to look a little dingy. Bid out an entire interior painting, and while you’re at it, look for any leaks and imperfections in the walls. NOTE: If you’re planning an interior paint job this or next year, consider facilitating your low frequency bedside horns upgrade first. Your bells will be removed, and your fire pull stations may be removed if they’re not the correct height.
  • Floors—Clean and sanitized common area carpets. If you have a tile or brick lobby, consider having the grooves steam cleaned; they will look amazing.
  • Laundry Room—Give the laundry room a good, deep cleaning. Now is also a good time to clean the vents for the laundry machines, something that should be done annually.
  • Boiler Room—Check the boiler room door and make sure it’s locked off to tenants. Check the room itself for anyone’s personal belongings, which will need to be removed. The only items that should be stored in the boiler room are paperwork from technicians, equipment, and an annually serviced fire extinguisher (For more on fire extinguishers and a mandatory fire safety checklist, turn to page xx.)
  • Fair Housing—Make sure you have a “fair housing” sign posted on the ground floor of each of your buildings. The SFAA has this sign available for members.

Hardware and Systems

To make sure your building is in compliance with local and state law, use the below as a checklist for what you should be inspecting, maintaining and tracking on a regular, annual basis, unless otherwise noted.

  • Fire Extinguishers—These should be in the boiler room and no less than every 75 feet throughout the building.
  • Fire Escapes, Ladders and Egresses.
  • Fire Panels.
  • Boiler—Check the city’s site for the last date the “Permit to Operate” was issued.
  • Backflow—Check with SF Public Works when the last service was facilitated.
  • Water Tanks—Depending on size, water tanks will need a permit to operate.
  • Elevators—Elevators should have a monthly oil service and a state annual inspection. Reminder: it’s YOUR job as a property owner/manager to request this inspection from Cal Osha. They will probably tell you they are at least two years behind. If they do, request that they send you a letter stating that you requested state inspection and are awaiting testing. Post this letter in your elevator.
  • Fire Sprinklers—Service fire sprinklers every quarter, year, and a full five-year certification, per state statue. If you have fire hoses in your building, they can be serviced by the same sprinkler vender, as required by law.
  • Emergency Lighting and Back Light Fire Exit Signs—These should be hardwired with a 90-minute backup. If you don’t have these in your building, you should get them. They are required by law in new buildings, and the city is beginning to crack down on them in older buildings when signing off on low-frequency horns. They aren’t cheap and the conduit can be a bit unsightly, but you want to make sure people know how to exit your building in the event of an emergency. These should be checked regularly.
  • Section 604 Inspection—Make sure you have a licensed general contractor check all your decks, escapes and exterior stairwells to make sure they are safe. File the 604 affidavit with the city periodically as required.
  • Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors—Inspect and record annually. They should be in all sleeping areas and specific common areas as required by state fire code. File the mandatory affidavit every six years with the city.
  • Personal Belongings—Check for residents’ unwanted personal belongings in common areas. Pursuant to state fire code 1020-3, no staircases or means of egress are to be blocked by any belongings of any kind at any time.

Craig Berendt of Berendt Properties can be reached at craig@berendtproperties.com