Association of Residential Managing Agents

Members' Area


By Anthony Wells, Building Surveyor, Lamberts Chartered Surveyor’s Building Consultancy Department.

There are two main elements of repair maintenance for the property manager to consider, preventative and corrective, both are unavoidable in the day to day running of managing property but the more that can be foreseen and dealt with the easier it becomes to find time to react to corrective tasks.

The purpose of a planned preventative maintenance schedule (PPMS) is wide and varied ranging from preserving the value of a building to satisfying legal obligations of which there are many. The main obvious objective is to keep a building in good condition to preserve it for current and future use, buildings form people’s homes, their workspaces and places of recreation. All materials used in the construction of buildings throughout time have a life expectancy, nothing lasts for ever and buildings and their materials wear out. Planned maintenance is an asset, a tool to not only prolong the life of the materials in place but to replace or renew materials before failure to ensure the building continues to serve its purpose to the individual or community that uses it.

A product of the PPMS is being able to see where expenditure is required on a building over a certain time period, usually ten years but can be up to twenty depending on the requirements of the property manager. The schedule is laid out in such a way as to highlight the priority maintenance items and those that should be considered but are not urgent.  It does this by the way of a timeline, starting in the first year, indicating those elements of the building that require immediate attention. The timeline will continue through the subsequent years highlighting the year in which certain elements may need to be considered for inspection and subsequent repair or replacement.

For those items appearing early in the PPMS, the timeline will continue to provide information regarding repeat maintenance and how often that item should be maintained in the future. Undertaking maintenance at the correct intervals and ensuring materials are maintained before being allowed to fail has a positive monetary effect, saving money in the long term as planned works can be properly specified and tendered. A good example is failing to undertake external decorations to a building with timber windows and doors. This leads to decay and failure of the timber which will then need to replace the windows and doors much earlier than would have been necessary if regular maintenance had been undertaken. The timeline serves to provide an inspection so that the windows and doors are regularly checked, allowing smaller repairs to be made before the item falls in to disrepair.

The compiling of a PPMS is a multifaceted exercise and takes specialist knowledge of many different building materials and their life expectancy, an understanding of building defects and knowledge of costing exercises. Setting up the PPMS is often the first hurdle for the property manager, the up-front costs and organising for it to be completed. PPMS’s are often loaded with costs in the early stages for the building, not only the fee for the PPMS itself but the result of the inspection will begin the process of maintenance to the building, tackling the areas that require the most immediate action first. Effectively, planned maintenance begins with a reactive year(s) of refurbishment works. The first year is often the most extensive and most expensive and there may be a requirement to stretch out high priority works over the first few years. This leads us to another advantage of the PPMS, that they are flexible.

The PPMS is often seen as a strict set of rules that cannot be changed, often leading people to suggest that maintenance can be carried out whether the building needs it or not – wasting money. The PPMS is merely a comprehensive guide, a tool to ensure that inspections and subsequent work is carried out and items are not forgotten about leaving them to deteriorate. Before the maintenance work is carried out the inspection takes place to confirm the amount of works required and to produce a specification. If after that inspection it is deemed that an item is still serving its purpose this can be noted in the PPMS and rescheduled. The point here is that the item has been inspected and not forgotten about, leaving it to the point of failure resulting in potential further damage and higher repair costs than if it were repaired before failure, creating a safer environment for employees or residents of a building. The result of these inspections is that items and materials will increase their life expectancy.

The PPMS is however by no means a fail-safe and in no way puts an end to reactive maintenance. Unplanned maintenance will still be required, as accidents and emergencies cannot be avoided. Whether it’s a plumbing leak or a break in, the property manager cannot rely solely on the PPMS to protect the building in to the future. What the PPMS should do is reduce the occurrence of failures and in the long run save money on the higher costs of emergency repairs versus planned and properly tendered repairs. The PPMS supplies the information about the costs required to fund the planned repairs yet funds must still be collected in to an emergency or contingency account in order to be able to react to emergencies.

Managing the accounts of the building in line with the recommendations of the PPMS will ensure that the building is actively collecting enough money. The constant fluctuation of the costs in the building trade serve as good reason to have the PPMS revised every few years. Even though the timeline may serve far in to the future it is almost impossible to forecast accurately the costs in ten to twenty years’ time. Whilst the maintenance elements should be accurate, increases in the costs of building materials and labour can affect the accuracy of the PPMS over time.