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The Power Of A Plan

Taking the pain out of maintaining your commercial property is possible with a good, simple plan, explains Tellfrankie.com CEO Georgie Fenwicke.

By: Georgie Fenwicke

1 October 2020

Georgie Fenwick

‘Do or not do. There is no try’ - Yoda

Our time is precious and life is busy. Particularly if you are a commercial property owner and you also have a day job. That’s why it is important never to underestimate the power of a good, simple maintenance plan for your commercial building(s). It can help order your business by taking the pain out of maintenance.

Keeping track of the operating expenses, remembering the rent review dates and those key compliance dates is usually a five to 10pm on a Sunday job. But it doesn’t have to be. That’s where a solid maintenance plan can serve you well.

So how best to get started? Like everything, it’s best to start with the essential tasks and work down the list. We can break down the fundamental commercial property maintenance tasks into three buckets.

• Must-haves, such as rent collection, management of legal/compliance risks and ensuring no-one is put in danger.

• Should-do’s, such as a proactive, preventative maintenance plan.

• Nice-to-haves, such as aesthetic changes. But, ultimately, there are no nice-to-haves in property management.

The Must-Haves

In the “must-have” space, it’s critically important to think about what you have to do to ensure that your building can be legally occupied and leased. Here’s a quick checklist of the “must haves” that will be explained in greater detail below:

1. Building warrant of fitness (BWOF): this enables the building to be occupied.

2. Commercial Insurance: this ensures that if anything goes wrong, you and your family are covered.

3. Health and safety plan and an active hazard register: this helps to keep tenants and any contractors out of danger.

4. Asbestos inspection and management plan: this ensures any contractors should be aware of where any asbestos is before they start working.

A BWOF will be set up by the Council authority as a schedule of tasks that must be completed to assess the condition of the specified building systems. These can include fire riser checks, sprinkler systems, lift condition and the like.

As long as an independent qualified person (IQP), such as an electrical engineer or fire specialist, assesses the relevant building components at the specified frequency then you’re home and hosed.

Throughout the year, they’ll fill out Form 12A’s and together at the end of the year, you can collect those up and submit them to the Council. This ensures that the building is safe to occupy.

Companies that specialise in building maintenance and compliance services, like CoveKinloch New Zealand and the BC Group, are useful to talk to about this.

Commercial insurance is brokered through the sales process of the property and so should be checked. Donaldson Brown and Crombie Lockwood are both excellent advisers to reach out to if you have any questions here.

Health and Safety:
Every property has hazards to manage but they can be controlled, minimised and eliminated. WorkSafe can provide some excellent documentation on key types and methods to control these.

The advent of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and its requirements mean that it’s also important to ensure that you have a few of these tasks covered:

• Identify who the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) is. For many, this is both the owner of the commercial property as well as the owner of the business occupying the property.

• Comprehensive health and safety plan that is discussed at a director level regularly. Ensure these discussions are documented.

• A hazard register should cover the new and existing hazards with a location, type, severity and mitigation in place.

• New in 2020, Covid-19 is a specific hazard to manage in workplaces. Additional cleaning rotations, increasing the fresh air intake across your HVAC system and managing the number of people on site are common measures that have been documented in these hazard registers this year.

• An easy way to report hazards between tenants and landlords should also be in place. This could be as easy as active emails and calendar reminders.

• Professional assessments are also useful outside of what the IQPs do during the BWOF process.

Asbestos, as is well-known, is a common hazard on sites and can be present in ceilings, roofing and floors. There are different types and control methods available here.

Again, the WorkSafe website has some great documents that outline what you need to know about asbestos management plans. But here are some of the tasks that need to be covered.
• As the owner of the property, you are likely to be a PCBU and you must have an asbestos management plan in place for a structure where asbestos is found or is likely to be present at a workplace.
• Much of the time, asbestos is managed and controlled in place, but seeking professional assistance to both test and understand what you’re dealing with is important.
• Once tested, stickers can be applied to exteriors and interiors indicating visually what is present and where specialist equipment or personal protective equipment is required.

‘Professional and mum-and-dad investors alike are moving from a reactive, rundown- to-end-of life to a proactive, preventative maintenance culture’

There’s obviously a lot more detail involved, but this is a basic outline of what building owners can start with. Taking care of these “must-have tasks” regularly and efficiently ensures that both you and your investment are protected at all times.

The Should-Do’s

We are currently living through a seismic shift in how buildings are managed. Professional and mum-and-dad investors alike are moving from a reactive, rundown- to-end-of-life to a proactive, preventative maintenance culture.

That’s because it saves building owners money and increases the re-selling potential of the property without having to do major capital improvements.

But to do this correctly, it’s worth doing an asset condition assessment to see what state your building is in at this point in time. After that, you should set up a comprehensive maintenance calendar for your building.

There are a few rules of thumb when it comes to thinking about the necessary tasks and their “standard” cadence here. Most standard industrial or office buildings we’ve seen require the “should do” tasks for interior and exterior spaces that are detailed in the table below.

It pays to remember that based on the age and condition of your building, these checks might need to be more or less regular. But identifying them – and getting them assessed - provides a great opportunity to establish what works for you.

The Nice-To-Haves

Let’s be honest, there aren’t really any “nice-to-haves” in commercial property ownership. You either need to do something or you don’t.

Many think gardening and other aesthetic changes are “nice-to-haves”. That’s until there’s a lease renewal and the tenant who you thought was going to stay on for another 10 years gives notice.

Ultimately, as a building owner, ensuring that you have a proactive and comprehensive maintenance plan up and running effectively will prevent problems – and save you time, money and worry. But remember, as Yoda said: “Do or not do. There is no try.”

Just one final note: the needs of your property may vary from the information discussed above. Always talk to your contractors and compliance advisers to make sure you’ve got everything covered. It also pays to consult with your tenants on what would be of benefit to your building – and them.

*Georgie Fenwicke is the CEO of tellfrankie.com (at https://www.tellfrankie. com/), which produces software tools designed to help commercial property owners work more efficiently. ■

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