Archive for the ‘Physical Inspections’ Category

Spring Inspection & Clean Up!

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Written by Cathy Turner, Spectrum Enterprises

It sure has been a difficult time to do property inspections in the east coast this winter.  So glad that Spring has finally arrived!  A special thanks goes out to the managers and maintenance personnel that braved the cold temperatures with me this winter. 

It is clear that due to the grueling winter conditions and stress on property budgets, managers had to focus all efforts on safety and snow/ice removal.  General site inspections and routine maintenance had to take a backseat.   Now that the weather is improving and temperatures are raising it is time to get back out on your properties.  It is time to take note of storm damage and make a plan for repairs.  Obviously, the big repair items such as roof damage are already in the works.  However, I am willing to bet that once you get out and walk the grounds and building areas, you will find many other projects needing attention sooner rather than later.     

Here are some of the items that I have noticed in my recent travels.

  • Look for tripping hazard on walkways and grounds. 
  • Repair potholes.
  • Pick up trash left under the melting snow.  Especially, broken glass. 
  • Check playgrounds.  Look for damaged equipment and sharp edges.
  • Look for fallen or hanging cable and telephone wires.
  • Look for damaged trees and vegetation. 
  • Walk all of the halls and look for water damage.  I have found many damaged ceilings in closets.
  • Check handicap parking spaces.  Be sure signage is not damaged or missing.
  • Repair fence damage. 
  • Look for damaged or missing window screens.
  • Storm doors can take a beating in the winter wind.  Be sure all doors properly close and latch.  Repair screens as needed.

If you want more ideas and suggestions for your properties spring clean up check out this blog by Laine Nadeau.

Snow!

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Written by Wil Whalen, Spectrum Enterprises

As of March 7, Boston’s snowfall amount was 105.7, just shy of the record of 107.6 set in 1995-1996. Keep in mind that snowfall in March is not all that uncommon, so they are still poised to break that all-time record.  To say Bostonians are tired of the snow would be a monumental understatement, but most, if not all of them, would like to see this record broken.  In some small way, it’s almost the reward for their perseverance.

Boston is a congested city in many ways.  Apartments, condos, restaurants, bars, office buildings and colleges all occupy the same neighborhoods.  Couple this with the amount of personal vehicles that need to park and you’ve got a recipe for a winter disaster.  Some of the side streets are so narrow that you can barely maneuver them in the summer with cars parked on both sides.  In winter, you’re lucky if you can get down the street at all.

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A common practice in Boston and the outlying areas is to “mark your space.”  Since the city itself isn’t very good at removing the snow on the side streets, the residents are forced to dig out their cars.  Once they have spent hours digging out their car and creating a parking space, they then mark it with something such as a chair.  This tells everyone else that this space is now reserved for the unknown owner of the chair.  If you feel brave enough to remove this chair, be ready for something to happen to your car.  

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Recently, I heard of a plumber whose tires were slashed because he used a marked space for an hour.  One resident replaced the snow he removed onto the car who took his spot.

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That’s just the snow.  If the temperature warms up for even one day you then have to contend with falling ice.  And the aforementioned ice is no joke.  Have a look for yourself.  Ice falling from buildings has been known to destroy cars and even cause fatalities.

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So now you’re wondering why there is a story about snow on the Spectrum LIHTC blog. I’m sure the LIHTC communities in warmer climates are having a hard time wondering why this is such a big deal.  Well….Imagine all this snow and now imagine what it would be like if you were the property manager or even a maintenance staff member on an LIHTC scattered site.  Remember that budget you did last year?  Now you have to figure out how to manage all of the overtime hours your maintenance staff will incur due to the never ending bouts of snow.  Now imagine that you have just suffered through a debilitating blizzard and your maintenance staff has been working around the clock to keep your property clear.  It’s taking a few days because you have numerous walkways, stoops, parking lots, egresses, etc.  Then you remember that Spectrum is coming to conduct an annual inspection. You’d love to cancel it, but you remember that you’ve already notified your residents, Spectrum has driven down from Maine, you’ve pulled all the files and the keys and your staff is ready.  As big of a pain it is, you go through with the inspection.  You just hope that no one slips and falls or gets hit by falling ice.

You also have to contend with the damage that can be caused by this snow and ice.  The weight of the snow can cause your entire roof to collapse.  The ice dams that form on your roof can cause extensive leaking and even pull the gutters off your building from their sheer weight. The ice falling from your buildings can damage people, property and cars.  The snow and ice will wreak havoc on your parking lot and walkways with frost heaves and pot holes.

So how does an LIHTC property in Boston manage in conditions like this? They just do, because they’re Boston Strong.  It may be a congested city, but it’s also a resilient city.  The mayor can close down public transportation, call parking bans and declare a state of emergency, but Bostonians will carry on with life because it’s what they do.  So the next time you grow weary because you think it’s too hot to conduct an inspection, or too cold, or even too wet, just be thankful you’ll never have to conduct an inspection in 9 feet of snow.  Yes, you read that correctly, 9 feet of snow.  If anyone city was looking forward to spring this year, it’s Boston. Happy Spring Boston, it’s just around the corner.

 

LIHTC Spring Clean Up!

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Written by Lainey Nadeau, Spectrum Enterprises

Spring is here! Here are some things to check around the exterior of your property at this time and consistently throughout the year. Guidance comes from the HUD UPCS Inspection Protocol.

Fencing and gates:  Make sure there are no damaged or missing sections. Check for broken hinges or locks. Make sure any fences are not falling or leaning. Check for chipped or peeling paint. Make sure there is no penetrating vegetation. 

Erosion: Check for any natural or man made erosion. Look for any collection or removal of ground/surface material. For example you may find a buildup of sand/soil or you may see areas where soil or mulch is missing. Look for ruts, grooves and depressions. For example you may find depressions in the ground that could now pose a trip hazard.

Signs: Check all exterior property sign to ensure they are not damaged and do not pose a safety hazard. 

Litter:  Clean up any excessive litter at your property. Check trash enclosures for any damages.

Parking Lots, Driveways, Roads: Check for cracks, height differentials (greater than ¾ inch), ponding (water accumulation), pot holes, loose material, and for settlement/heaving (where the pavements has sank or risen). 

Play areas & Equipment: Check to make sure equipment is not broken, incomplete or inoperable. Make sure the play surface (sand, soil or mulch) has not deteriorated or washed away. Check to ensure the playground is and remains accessible per ADA standards (for example, can be accessed via a wheelchair.)

Storm drains: Check to make sure all storm drains are structurally sound and are not blocked by debris.   

Walkways/Steps: Check from damaged or missing stairwell hand rails. Check walkways and steps for cracks, settlement or heaving. Check walkways for spalling (if walkway is crumbling, flaking or chipping). 

Exterior doors: Make sure all exterior doors are functioning and in good condition. Check the frame, header, jamb, threshold, lint and trim. Make sure the door is not warped, split, cracked or broken. Make sure all hard ware (including hinges, tracks, hangers and door knobs) and locks are working properly. Make sure there are no holes, peeling or cracking paint, broken glass or significant rust in or on the door. Check that all sealant, stripping or caulking is not missing or deteriorated. 

Foundation:  Check for any cracks, flaking, chipping or crumbling. Make sure no underlying material (rebar) is exposed. 

Lighting: Check all exterior lighting. Make sure there are no broken or inoperable bulbs or fixtures. 

Roof: Check the roof to ensure there are no damaged or clogged drains. Check for damaged soffit/fascia, vents, ballast or gutters. 

Walls: Check exterior walls (for example, wood, siding, concrete) for any cracks, gaps, missing pieces, holes or damaged caulking or mortar. Make sure walls are not stained, peeling, in need of paint.

Windows: Check to ensure windows are not broken, missing, or cracked. Make sure screens are not missing or damaged. Make sure sills, frames, lintels and trim are not damaged by decay, rust, rot, corrosion or other deterioration. Check all window caulking and sealants to ensure there is no deterioration. Make sure painted window frames are not cracking, flaking or otherwise deteriorating. 
 
Entry Ways, Decks, Porches: Make sure all are structurally sound and do not show signs of deterioration. Make sure painted surfaces are not cracking, flaking or otherwise deteriorating. 

How to Prepare for an Audit

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Written by Katie Rawson, Spectrum Enterprises

When you receive notice that you will be having an onsite audit that will review both the physical property as well as the files; what should you do?!  PANIC!  Once you are done panicking you should prepare for the review.  Ideally, you will be doing all of the things I am about to suggest on a regular basis anyways and if that is the case then you will be in great shape for an audit.   As the very wise Massachusetts monitor Ed Clark says, “We (as auditors) should be able to just show up and as property management you should be ready for an audit at anytime.” Don’t worry we won’t really do that to you. Ed might, but the rest of us won’t. 

The first thing you should do is promptly respond to the company requesting the audit.  It can be very irritating when trying to schedule a road trip when we don’t hear back from some properties.  Second, make sure to carefully read the confirmation letter and any other documentation the auditing company sends to you.  The confirmation letters Spectrum sends out spells out exactly what we will be doing the day of the audit, what will be needed on that day, as well as requests specific documentation.  I cannot tell you how many times we have visited properties and staff is surprised by how we want to test the emergency lights, even though it is explained in detail in the confirmation letter.  Also, make sure you have the documentation requested ready at the time of the audit and some documentation may even need to be submitted prior to the day of the audit.  I regularly have to chase people to get the documentation that we request prior to the audit.  Third, read Cathy Turner’s blog “Talk a Walk” which goes over some physical inspection items that may help give you some preparation ideas.  In addition, make sure the emergency lighting is tested, that you have access to all units, and look out for any major life, healthy, safety items that need attention.  In your notice to the tenants make sure to state the importance of all smoke detectors working properly.  It may also be a good idea to request that tenants bring you a copy of the key if they have changed the locks-nobody likes that surprise during an inspection. Lastly, review the files.  Check to make sure the files are well organized and correct any errors you come across.  If you know the files have a lot of compliance issues you may want to hire a company to review the files prior to the scheduled audit.  This is a service Spectrum would be happy to offer you.

An audit may seem overwhelming but if you keep up with little pieces day to day, you will be ready for an audit at a moment’s notice.  Keep in mind everyone wants this program to work and we should all be doing our best to work together.

Bed Bugs

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Written by Deborah Bechetti, Spectrum Enterprises

I have been seeing more infestations of bed bugs recently and thought it might be a good idea to go over some important information.

Know how to identify a bed bug. Bed bugs are reddish-brown with a flat, oval body that measures approximately ¼ of an inch long (about the size of an apple seed).  Bed bugs usually hide close to the bed but can spread to other areas of the room or home over time.

Know how bed bugs are able to get into your home. Bed bugs enter a home many possible ways, the most common being catching a ride on your luggage, computer, clothing or other belongings after you have stayed somewhere else, or traveled where bed bugs are present, including on public transportation.  Used furniture should be inspected carefully before even bringing it into your home.

Bed bugs like warmth. They are known to enter laptops, netbooks, and DSL ports, which are also very portable objects that you might inadvertently carry around to other rooms and homes.

Bed bugs don’t like daylight.  Bedbugs typically wait until nightfall to make an appearance, often nibbling on you or your pet while you sleep.

After eating, bedbugs will leave blood spots and dark fecal stains.  As they grow, bedbugs shed their skins and leave behind light-brown shells.

If you can confirm that you have bed bugs, you are best off calling a professional exterminator to get rid of them.

Take a Walk!

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Written by Cathy Turner, Spectrum Enterprises

I spend approximately 10 to 12 weeks a year inspecting LIHTC properties in several States.  As I walk through various sites it often surprises me how unfamiliar property managers are with the sites they manage.    They are often shocked to see what has been left in basements, boiler rooms, and storage closets.  I realized the job of a site manager is enormous.   However, I strongly encourage all property managers to take the time to walk the property as often as possible.

Here are some of the areas often overlooked.

Grounds

  • Check for uneven pavement and trip hazards.
  • Closely inspection the condition of playground equipment. Check for broken equipment, sharp edges, and trip hazards.  Could a parent or child in a wheelchair enter the playground area?

Basements

  • Check for garbage and debris left by staff and tenants.
  • Storage items/trash should not be located near boilers and water heaters.
  • Be sure gasoline cans are properly stored.  We often find gas cans with covers missing.
  • Does your maintenance staff have a fire proof cabinet for flammables?

Common Halls

  • Check back up systems for emergency lights and exit signs.  Don’t forget to check the lights in the management office and community room.  These lights are often overlooked.
  • Are the electric panel breakers clearly labeled?
  • Check all storage areas/janitor’s closets.  You may be surprised about what you find.
  • Do the trash chute doors self close?
  • All fire doors must self close and latch.  Is the hardware intact and working properly?
  • Fire Extinguishers must be re-inspected annually.  Check the tags.  When were the fire extinguishers inspected last?  Are any of the extinguisher tags missing?
  • Check laundry rooms.  Are unused sewer drains capped?

The site staff has access to grounds and common area every day.   I encourage you to take advantage of the lovely summer weather and take a walk around the property.

There’s No Place like Home

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Written by Wil Whalen, Spectrum Enterprises

Last week I was conducting an inspection in a high rise building.  As the property manager, the maintenance supervisor and I rode the elevator to the top floor of the building, they began talking about which tenants would give us a hard time or be upset about being chosen for the inspection. As it went, no matter how gruff the tenant was when they let us in, they were wishing us well as we walked out the door.  At the end of the inspection the property manager turned to me and said, “Wow, I wish I could take you with me on every inspection.  They loved you.”

At Spectrum, we inspect thousands of units each year.  We’ve walked into units where we didn’t want the bottoms of shoes to touch the floor and we’ve seen units that were immaculate.  Some units are covered with “Godfather”posters and others look as though Martha Stewart decorated them herself.  This is because the tenants are individual people and the units are their homes.

I’ve found that if you treat the tenant with respect and kindness and be conscious of the fact that you’re in their home and not just a unit, that you’ll have a much better experience.  I don’t waste time with too much small talk or get into conversations that would extend the unit inspection; I just treat both the unit and the tenant with respect.  I say hello, thank them for letting me into their home, and make a few positive comments while conducting my inspection.  If the unit is filthy, then I comment on the weather.  If the weather is awful then I comment on a photo or the styling of the apartment.  I also assure the tenant that I don’t intend to take up too much of their time.  One woman was so bothered by the fact that we were in her house, I took a second to let her know that I understood her time was just as important as mine and that I didn’t intend to take too much of it.  I followed that with a simple compliment on a beautiful painting she had on the wall.  By the time I walked out of her unit 3 minutes later, she was thanking me and wishing me a good afternoon.

That said, some tenants will be difficult for the sake of being difficult and no amount of smiles, flattery or good manners are going to change that.  Remember that some tenants may suffer from some sort of mental illness and this may come off as them being difficult.  For those units, just do your inspection and move on.

This isn’t about trickery or false compliments or even trying to “charm” people.  It’s about treating tenants like people and giving them the respect they deserve.  Yes, one of the down sides of living in affordable housing is the amount of inspections the tenants have to endure every year.  Not every inspection has to be painful though, a little respect goes a long way. So remember, just as you like to be treated with respect and as much as you expect people to respect your home, it’s important that we show our tax credit tenants and their units that same respect.  Because it is true, there’s no place like home.

My Mini Rant

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Written by Deborah Bechetti, Spectrum Enterprises

I have recently had a very difficult review week.  Loads of files to review and properties that were unprepared for an audit.

At least in Maryland, we will always complete the physical inspection and the file review at the same time.  All tax credit tenants must be notified of the possibility of a unit inspection.  This has been the standard operating procedure for at least ten years and should not come as a surprise to any site manager.    Several of my sites lately have said they had no idea that I would also be inspecting units.  They blame upper management for not passing along this information, which is explicitly explained in our notification letter.  This policy has been in place long enough so that all veteran site managers should be fully aware of the procedure and all new managers should be made aware by their supervisors.  Make sure that maintenance personnel is available to accompany our inspector.  It seems to be the same management companies that are unaware of the inspections over and over.

Per the 1.42-5 IRS Monitoring Regulations the units selected will not be disclosed until our arrival at the property.   The units selected for review will have the file pulled and the unit inspected.  Please make sure you know which units are not tax credit units, as we will not inspect those units.  If you have separate files for tax credits and HUD, please make sure that all required forms are in the tax credit file (lease, application, certification and all verifications).  If you have one file for both tax credit and HUD, please make sure that the EIV form is either:  not in the file, or in an envelope so that we cannot see it.  As ridiculous as it is, HUD will not allow us access to the EIV information.  Please pull all of the files requested at the beginning of the audit.  The piles will not intimidate us, but the one last file that is not in the stack when we get to what we think is the end of the audit, may not be so easily located in a short period of time.

In short, audits are nothing to be afraid of, just be present and prepared.

Happy New Year from Spectrum Enterprises and Spectrum Seminars!

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Written by Wil Whalen, Spectrum Enterprises

Happy New Year from Spectrum Enterprises and Spectrum Seminars!

In 2012 our illustrious leader Steve Rosenblatt will be trekking from Honolulu, to Anchorage to New York City and everywhere in between conducting his world famous seminars! For a full schedule of seminars being offered in 2012 please access Spectrum Seminar’s website HERE

Here are few reminders for you:

  • The 2012 Income Limits have already been posted. You can access them HERE.
  • Effective 1/1/12 Social Security will increase by 3.6%. Click HERE for more information.
  • A revised Audit Guide was published in January 2011 and is available HERE.

January is the first quarter, which means your state agency will start conducting the annual inspections. Unfortunately for many of us, January also means SNOW! Do understand that inspections are scheduled in a very specific order regarding both date and time as well as location. Even if you are experiencing bad weather, it’s important that you do your best to go through with the inspection. In the most extreme cases, inspections can be postponed, but it’s in the best interest of all involved, i.e. management, tenants, inspectors, maintenance crews, etc., that inspections happen at the time and date they are scheduled.

Check our site often for news and updates regarding the world of tax credits and stay tuned for details regarding this year’s Symposium that will be held in November in Washington DC!

We here at Spectrum hope that you had a great holiday season and we welcome you to join us for a fantastic 2012!

Pay Attention during a Physical Inspection

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Written by Katie Rawson, Spectrum Enterprises

When you have an inspector coming out to your property to conduct a physical inspection management should see this as a great opportunity to walk the property and get into some units you may not otherwise enter. Often times management will stay behind during the inspection and send the inspector with only a maintenance person, who may or may not give you a good picture of how the inspection went and the condition of the units.

Bring a notepad and write down any issues you see. Ask the inspector to tell you the issues in each unit as you go. After each unit make sure you have noted the same issues as the inspector. By playing an active role during the inspection, it shows you care and the inspector will be much more likely to point out any issues to you. In addition to bringing a notepad along have maintenance bring a bucket with some extra supplies such as replacement batteries for the smoke detectors, extra smoke detectors, and some basic tools for any easy fixes along the way. This allows for some of the issues to be fixed on the spot, making less work for everyone later.

At some properties with highly organized maintenance staff they will have one or two maintenance people following the inspectors who stay behind in the unit and repair any issues found. I realize that this is not a possibility for every property but if you have some maintenance staff you can pull from a nearby property for the day it is certainly a great way to get the work down quickly and is quite impressive.


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