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20+ Condo Maintenance Issues

Whether your condominium association is breaking down your maintenance annually, seasonally, monthly, weekly, or daily, property maintenance is all day, every day. Then mix in the drop-everything-you-had-planned-for-the day emergency maintenance, and truly it’s infinitesimal. When it comes to maintenance, project priority is in constant motion. It’s important to have a schedule, but to be flexible and ready for the unexpected. Residents should be aware of maintenance issues too.

multi level dwellings
Condominium maintenance is all day, every day.

Common maintenance issues and policies that you might include in an awareness manual for new residents when they move in are listed below:


Regarding snow removal, the message should be clear about who is responsible for what snow removal: For example: Maintenance is responsible for plowing the parking lots.  Clearing out the parking spaces and clearing off vehicles are the responsibilities of the unit owner.  However, give residents the courtesy, that if they wish to move their vehicles while parking lot plowing is underway, that their parking space may be plowed. Balcony Shoveling is vital in multi level buildings. Advise residents to make every effort to remove excess snow from their balcony to prevent any possible moisture penetration inside their unit, neighbor’s units, and common areas below.  Offer some help with shoveling, and work with your snow removal contractor to charge residents a nominal fee for clearing snow from balconies. Invite residents to call the management office for assistance in this area. 


Storage Rooms that are not climate controlled:  Valuables and property that can be damaged by moisture should not be stored in storage rooms.  Given the winter precipitation, storage units will be damp and cold and not appropriate for items that require controlled temperatures.


Have a Christmas Tree disposal plan:  When disposing of Christmas trees and wreaths, instruct residents to discard them over balcony railings.  This will alleviate the pine needles from indoor common area halls, elevators, and garages. Have maintenance staff dispose of Christmas trees properly. 


Barbecues: You might consider that electric operated grills are the only acceptable outdoor cooking equipment for all balcony units at your community.  Gas grills and/or open flames should be permitted on ground floor patios only.  If not, residents could be violating City and State Law and be subject to a fine by the municipality. Remind residents that this law was implemented for the safety of all residents.


Driving & Parking: Designate a speed limit in your community and enforce it.  The speed limit might be somewhere in the range of 15 - 20 miles per hour when driving on the complex.  Anyone seen driving over 15 miles per hour should be subject to fines.  School children may be waiting for the bus near or on your property and they are vulnerable to speeding cars.  Post signs and remind residents in memos and newsletters to adhere to the speed limit to ensure safety for all. Be clear about where parking is prohibited. Communicate that any vehicles parked in front of elevators, fire panels, or illegal zones designated "no parking areas" will be towed at the owner's expense.  Residents should be encouraged to report these incidents 24 hours a day by telephone or email. 


Garages and Idling Vehicles:  Warming vehicles in garages for extended periods must be prohibited.  Exhaust fumes in an enclosed area present life-threatening conditions. Ensure the safety of all residents by getting this word out.  Garage Clickers/Remotes – who provides them? If the association is not stocking, coding, selling clickers, then inform residents of some local contractors, who can help them when a garage door clicker needs repair or replacement. If you’re referring them to outside contractors, be upfront that Management cannot endorse the outside businesses if that’s the case. To help with security, tell residents that new remote clickers can be brought to the Management Office for coding.


Elevators: Be sure your Elevators are serviced regularly for safety reasons as well as to avoid fines from the public safety department in your area. Be sure your certificates are up to date and all emergency phones are tested weekly for service. Elevator emergency phones are most likely provided in each elevator on your property.  Should an emergency occur, while someone is in an elevator, they should be aware that they simply need to open the telephone box and press the button marked "emergency" to automatically ring the office or the answering service, or the alarm company, who will send immediate assistance.


Trash & Recycling: When disposing of trash, residents should be considerate of neighbors.  Kindly, refer them to guidelines and rules such as these listed below for disposal of garbage, trash, and other items:


No loose garbage or trash should be permitted in trash chutes and auxiliary dumpsters.  Wrapping and bagging trash securely in plastic before throwing them down chutes or placing them in auxiliary dumpsters will save money on cleaning and repairs. Advise residents of specific items that cannot be put in a garbage disposal, such as, uncooked rice or  pasta, bones, seafood shells. Be specific about which items must be bagged before tossing, such as: soiled diapers, personal items, pet waste, kitty litter, baby food and other foods. If breaking down and flatting cardboard for your recycling bins saves space and money, make this a rule. A note on kitty litter and glass, never allow these items in your trash chutes, they should be carried to the dumpsters. Remind residents to protect hallway carpets by doing everything they can to keep trash bags from leaking even if that means double bagging or purchasing heavy-duty trash bags. 


With respect of quiet hours in your community, advise residents to not throw items down the chute after 9:00 pm and before 7:00 am. As for oversized trash items obtain a 10 yard dumpster for this purpose.  Encourage residents to have contractors dispose of water heaters and appliances. Have a policy and a plan for the disposal of carpeting, furniture and mattresses.


            Hypodermic needles:  Be aware of the legal procedures for the disposal of hypodermic needles and communicate this to your residents:

  • Obtain a sealable container, i.e. a Sharps Container, or an empty Bleach bottle with a lid.

  • Break off the tips of the hypodermic needle.

  • Drop them into your container.

  • Seal the container.

  • Hand carry the container to the auxiliary dumpster.


One more note on trash: Improper disposal of any item is not only a Rules and Regulations' infraction, for which subsequent expense incurred will be charged to the offending unit owner, but also causes odors throughout the building and may cause the chutes to back up and break down.  In the case of hypodermic needles, improper disposal is illegal.


Recycling: Recycling should be encouraged by all. Recycling bins should be located within all buildings for the convenience of recycling paper, plastic, and/or glass. If you have a municipality with a good recycling program, the more your property recycles, the more you might save on our trash removal services.  Inform your residents about your recycling program. Be specific and list exactly what is and isn’t acceptable. For example, if you have a paper recycling program, consider this list: The following items are recyclable:  Junk mail (including plastic window envelopes), newspaper, shredded office paper, copy paper, phone books, cereal boxes (without plastic liner), mixed office paper, magazines, drawing paper, cardboard, box board.


When it comes to Keys/Locks, there is an opportunity to beef up security. Common Area Entrance Keys should be a defense against unauthorized duplication. A Medeco key is a good option for opening the entranceway door to a building. Only trained security experts can duplicate Medeco keys. It is a lock program designed to give residents absolute control over the keys.  The keys are solid brass; the locks are drill resistant and pick resistant.  Keys should only be available for purchase from your management office. Charging residents for the cost of these keys will make careless loss of keys less likely. 


A note on unit keys: consider keeping extra keys for unit owners on file for emergency access only, even if you don’t duplicate keys. Be clear about your key policy and don’t provide personal access services to residents (deliveries, contractors, etc.) with your key on file.  This key should be for emergency purposes only.


Unit Lock Out: Consider having the management office provide lock out service to any resident during normal business hours Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm free of charge.  However, if they are locked out of a unit after these hours, charge $50 payable immediately in cash to the maintenance man, who is on call.


Work Orders and Common Area Maintenance: Who should residents call when they see a common area that needs maintenance? Any common area maintenance first noticed by an owner should be phoned into the office, so that the information can be logged into the work order computer system.  Work order reports should be produced daily and distributed in a prioritized manner to the appropriate man for repair. This has proven to be an efficient process that works well for staff when all residents comply.


Unit Owner Doors: The unit doors are often the responsibility of the unit owner.  Management and the trustees reserve the right to prescribe repairs or paint work to owners’ doors as they affect the aesthetics of the common area hallways.


HVAC Units:  Know the original installation date of HVAC units at your property.  It is to be expected that these units will need to be replaced somewhere between 15-25 years of age.  Often time, the original make and model HVAC unit is no longer being manufactured, when it’s time for a replacement.  As a result, it is imperative that residents, management, and maintenance communicate with each other prior to the installation of a new HVAC site, keeping in mind guidelines unique to the structure of the buildings where the installations will take place. Here’s some examples:


  • If you own a middle condominium unit you may install an HVAC system on your balcony or in the wall at the existing HVAC site. 

  • If you own an end unit, you must install a through-wall unit only. The balcony unit is not an option because of the existing location of the current HVAC site and the distance to the balcony.

  • Save the existing grill.  Due to concern with the aesthetics of the exterior of the buildings, it may be possible to reinstall the original grill, which will maintain uniformity.   


Remember you have an obligation to inform the Association of the specification and plans for taking such action.              


Windows:  Windows not only affect the inside of a unit, but also the outside of the building, so it is important to have a window specification and approval process of the same, in order to preserve aesthetics outside the building. You may need to hire an engineer to create a window specification in the form of an architectural drawing and report.  Have the the Board endorse any window from recommended manufacturers that follow specifications set forth by the engineering firm of hire.  For example, lets say, this is the specification:


This aluminum commercial grade window, correctly installed, maintained and used properly will stop water infiltration into the unit and common areas for many years. Unit owners must notify the Association of any proposed window replacement on storm window installation in writing prior to any work being done.

The Board will allow a rolling lite slider storm windows with screens to be installed on existing windows, but cannot endorse this as a long term solution to preventing future leaks, since it does not follow the specifications endorsed by our engineer.  A unit owner who chooses storm windows must accept the responsibility for his/her choice.  If an installed storm window fails to prevent water infiltration and damage results, the unit owner will be held responsible.  If the Association detects water infiltration from a unit owner’s window and it is determined that the unit owners window is the cause of damage to common areas and/or other units, the owner will be held responsible for the corrective measures as described above.  Unit owners must disclose this information to the Association.  All owners should disclose their obligations if the unit is being sold.         

My grandma used to say that when you own your own home, there is always something. She was right. The issues discussed here regarding maintenance in no way represent the endless concerns at hand when maintaining property. The important thing is that you do something every day to ensure that buildings and land are in a state of repair and safety for the benefit of all who live in the neighborhood. Whether you are a unit owner, a tenant, or a property manager or supervisor it is up to all to keep homes well maintained. If you see something broken, say something. If you see litter, pick it up. Daily walk throughs, regular inspections, repairs, replacements, and simple cleaning can go a long way in raising home values and making folks a proud part of the community in which they live and work.


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