Budget season is the ideal time to double-down on inspection workflows for critical compliance requirements. With item-level analytics, you can now calculate the expenses associated with safety and compliance and forecast accurately.
Budget season is the best time to talk about inspections because it’s the best opportunity to solidify your strategy for success in the coming year. Between shedding light on the expenses and assets that will define your budgetary possibilities next year and making sure your property is protected from compliance-related lawsuits, the steps that multifamily property operators need to take to improve their inspections in the coming year can lead to big rewards down the road.
Not paying attention to these concerns can be painfully expensive — from high replacement costs that could have been avoided with a superb preventative maintenance program, to the high cost of premise liability lawsuits, to the very worst case scenario, like the deadly Berkeley balcony collapse.
Because the lack of a rigorous compliance program is both expensive and high-risk, property professionals should take advantage of this year’s budget season to double-down on their inspection workflows. With the advent of mobile inspection technologies, you can now calculate the expenses associated with safety and compliance and analyze them from an item, property and portfolio-level lens. This not only allows the most cost-effective strategies for compliance and increased NOI from better preventative maintenance, it also means you can accurately forecast what you’ll spend on compliance-related issues, empowering you to invest more in your revenue-generating programs.
“HappyCo helps us prevent neglected items from deteriorating — allowing us to reduce liability, drive down replacement costs, and raise NOI by 1.2%, or $1.5 million dollars.”
Senior VP of Operations, Apartment Management Consultants (AMC)
Focus on revenue-generating investments with item-level inspection data
A lack of detailed inspection data results in a lack of accurate property and asset information and leads to budgeting based on historical spending. But if you’re spending too much on replacements versus more cost-effective repairs, you’ll always spend more in compliance and maintenance than you should. And you’ll risk missing critical repairs that could add up to expensive lawsuits. Peter Drucker was right when he wrote: “What gets measured gets managed.” By gathering comprehensive inspection data at an item-level, you’ll be able to accurately forecast the maintenance and upgrades required to maintain your properties in a competitive market most cost-effectively. And those dollars saved can be applied to revenue-generating investments, like the kinds of premium amenities that are becoming increasingly important to renters.
Millennials, who now represent 51% of the renting population, have a long list of features that they look for in their multifamily communities. Transit options, common areas, and sophisticated package distribution systems are all being implemented across the country to cater to this dominant demographic. This is one reason why mobile inspections are becoming such a popular part of the manager’s toolkit. A good inspection software platform gives regional managers and the home office granular controls over what property staff inspect daily, weekly, quarterly, and annually, thus providing real-time oversight of high-quality data collection on the ground to ensure high-quality assurance across your portfolio.
Once this data is collected, it’s automatically uploaded to the cloud and can now be accessed and relied upon for forecasting maintenance and upgrades. In this way, thorough mobile inspections help operators determine how much money they will need to allocate to repairs based on past trends and the current conditions. What’s left over is how much they have to spend on new amenities and other revenue-generating programs throughout the year.
Keep up with every aspect of the regulatory environment
The safety of residents is the property operator’s foremost duty. That’s why housing regulations are so strict and expenses associated with compliance and negligence claims so extreme. Yet many owners and managers still use paper-and-pen inspections, unaware of how ambiguous or missing inspection data can lead to tragic consequences and lawsuits.
"The key is to document every day in case something happens. Before HappyCo, if an accident happened and the resident reported it to us a few months later, I’d have to go through all the papers and hope we had that date recorded. Now, in the Happy app, the snow log is documented every day."
Property Manager, Park Edge Apartments, Maxus Properties
If the seemingly endless wave of highly-visible payouts from managers to residents is anything to go by, today’s legal climate leaves no room for any compliance missteps. Unfortunately, pen-and-paper inspections have always made reacting to new regulations difficult. Every time a change is made at the local, state, or federal level it needs to be distributed to every building impacted. Changes need to be made to every inspection sheet, new copies need to be printed and old supplies need to be discarded. This is a process primed for human error, and any mistake could be costly to the legally-liable manager. Mobile inspection platforms drastically reduce human error and make it easy to update and distribute new forms across your portfolio. Additionally, they make all the essential data about your communities available instantly to managers, who can show it to auditors should they need to.
For property owners’ insurers, mobile inspections also provide an invaluable defense by automatically organizing and time-stamping all photos. If someone slips and falls on a property, these inspections can be used to prove whether or not the owner was negligent. If a plaintiff claims that he or she slipped on a patch of floor wet from a leak, the defendant might have a photo of that floor (time-stamped a day prior to the fall) showing no leak at all.
“That’s really the difference between a payout of a few thousand dollars and a few million. Mobile inspections can give insurers the evidence they need to prove that they take safety seriously — and dramatically reduce their settlements.”
San Francisco Attorney, representing property owners
Even in a case of he-said/she-said, simply producing a record of regular, diligent inspections and maintenance shows that even if the conditions for the fall did exist on the premises, these conditions are due to factors other than negligence. “That’s really the difference between a payout of a few thousand dollars and a few million,” says San Francisco attorney Matthew Whatley, who represents a number of property owners. “Mobile inspections can give insurers the evidence they need to prove that they take safety seriously — and dramatically reduce their settlements.”
Head off breaches in compliance to avoid:
- Slip-and-fall lawsuits
- Negligence claims & premises liability
- Fire risks
- Balcony, deck hazards and code violations
- Patio violations
- Storm damage, flooding and insurance issues
- Toxic mold and moisture intrusion
- Pest infestation claims
- Inadequate security & lighting
- Pool health & safety deficiencies
- Playground incidents
- Dangerous living conditions
Let inspections be your marketing tool of choice next year
How you utilize inspections can significantly impact your property’s brand and reputation. Not only are image-conscious managers using mobile inspections to keep residents safe, but they’re also building a database of rock-solid information to demonstrate that safety and compliance will continue long into the future. Paper-and-pen inspections are a series of checkboxes, and trying to turn them into usable property and portfolio-wide statistics is a nightmare of endless data entry. Mobile inspections, on the other hand, can make inspections a source of positive visibility and contribute to brand security.
Inspection software helps property owners stay two steps ahead of conspicuous headlines about lawsuits and negligence. Not only can mobile inspection platforms help property executives and operators keep onsite managers and staff in compliance with the latest regulations, but information about inspection processes can even be used to market to potential residents who might be concerned.
The lesson here is this: Don’t wait for compliance process missteps that threaten your residents’ safety. Do thorough, frequent mobile inspections throughout the year, and you’ll find that budget season represents just another opportunity to demonstrate your competitive edge.
Jennifer Tyson is a seasoned marketing professional with more than 15 years experience at leading Silicon Valley companies and startups. During a decade at Apple, Jennifer launched three generations of Apple Internet services including the blockbuster iCloud 1.0 launch in 2011. iCloud became the fastest growing Internet service of its time acquiring 45 million users within the first 30 days and over 300 million in less than two years. In December 2015, Jennifer joined HappyCo leading marketing. Jennifer holds an MBA from Dominican University of California and a BA from the University of California Santa Cruz.