Whilst I have amazing memories of life as a central London property manager, there were times when I needed to freeze time or clone myself.
Talking to property managers daily in organising cleaning or maintenance work for them, I know that PMs are busier than ever, even though they have assistant property managers and on-site staff to delegate to.
One really important and contractual task often overlooked or postponed is the site inspection. The management agreement may state that you need to visit monthly, quarterly or at reasonable intervals and if they’re not carried out, you could be taken to task! These visits are a chance to see first hand the standard of cleaning, that the entrances and exits are secure, that the common parts are clear of pushchairs, that the lighting is working, the lift operating as it should and the fire alarm panel lights aren’t showing any faults. How many times are you told by a resident of a maintenance or cleaning issue, followed by “When was the last time you visited our building?”
Of course, there is one thing visiting site for a ‘fly-by’ and quite another thing doing a full site inspection which is documented, and the actions followed up with works orders. Neither is possible, practical or advisable at the moment due to the coronavirus lockdown, so there is concern that health and safety, maintenance and cleanliness issues are simply not being resolved in a timely manner.
I was watching a Ted Talk called ‘Where good ideas come from’ (which is very entertaining) and lo and behold, I came up with an idea. I realised that CIAR was in a perfect position to help managing agents fulfil their inspecting obligations without leaving their home office/kitchen table. So we started doing this:
Property managers have become video-savvy of late. ‘Doing a Zoom’ will quickly become the equivalent of hoovering or googling (if you get my drift). We’re also a tech-savvy bunch at CIAR and we arm our operatives with great handheld tech too. We began by asking some of our cleaners to do a video walk-around a building to test their videography skills and live streaming quality. We are pleased by the quality when being walked around the building live and we were able to direct our operative to point their phone at specific areas – e.g. riser cupboards and plantrooms – as they moved around the building.
Now we offer video inspections that we can send via wetransfer.com to our property manager clients if they aren’t available to do a live video inspection when our operative is on site.
In particular, property managers have been keen for us to show us common parts noticeboards/signage, so if any updates are required, they can email these to us, we can print, then pin up on our next visit. PMs are eager to see evidence of clear lobbies and corridors, so if personal possessions are finding a semi-permanent home out on the stairs, the PM can email the resident to cease and desist!
Again, from a H&S point of view, our inspections can include fire alarm bell testing and emergency lighting flick testing too.
We plan to take our inspection services to the next level. Inspection software apps like Dwellant’s csite can be downloaded to our operatives’ phone or tablet and we can follow the exact template that the property manager has set up for that specific building. That way, we won’t miss out the lift or the bike storage from our site visit – the prescriptive inspection app will guide us according. Apps like this enable photos to be added as conduct our inspection, and these appear within the inspection report itself that the property manager can proudly pass on to the client.
During the lockdown, let us be your eyes and ears. Our operatives have all the right PPE and are more than happy to extend their role to give you a live video walkthrough or record a video that we will send to you later that day. Many of our cleaners are trained to test your fire alarm and emergency lighting at agreed intervals so why call out a separate contractor when we are ready to extend our core role and increase efficiency all round. If you use site inspection software, we can down the app and carry out inspections for you for as long as you’re unable to do them. Going back to the Ted Talk… it really was a fascinating 18 minutes and got my synapses firing. This lockdown has forced us to think differently, innovatively, so many of ours and your ideas are likely to remain relevant after normality has returned. If you have any good ideas that we can help bring to life, get in touch.
Emma Frances Thomas MIRPM AssocRICS