This article about contractor selection after the new WA strata laws has been provided by Greg McCulloch, Westside Fire Services and Shane White, Strata Title Consult.
Table of Contents:
- QUESTION: As our strata council are not experts, how do we acquire a scope of works for contractors when organising strata maintenance for our building?
- QUESTION: The COO has identified several issues needing repair/maintenance. The commercial residents are insisting that no repairs are carried out during working hours and have asked that all work is done after hours.
- QUESTION: Our book keeper also acts (under a separate contract) as our yardman. Does the wording in the strata title regulations part 13, section 91 (1) forbid this?
- ARTICLE: Tips for Contractor Selection and Gaining Control of Your Budget!
Question: As our strata council are not experts, how do we acquire a scope of works for contractors when organising strata maintenance for our building?
Answer: There should be plenty of contractors who would happily sit down with somebody to map out a scope of works.
During the contractor selection process, there should be plenty of contractors like ourselves, for instance, that would happily sit down with somebody to map out a scope of works.
It’s not that difficult if you know what you’re doing. I would expect there are similar companies to ours who would do the same thing. Those who would actually want to make the industry better by helping council of owners put together a scope of works and head councils in the right direction.
This post appears in Strata News #447.
Question: The COO has identified several issues needing repair/maintenance. The commercial residents are insisting that no repairs are carried out during working hours and have asked that all work is done after hours.
I am in a multi-purpose strata building – half commercial and half residential.
The COO has identified several issues needing repair/maintenance; however, the commercial owners are insisting that no noise is acceptable during working hours and have asked that all work be one after hours.
The contractors are either not available or apply premiums for after-hours work. While the commercial owners are not impacted by the work, the residents are affected after hours.
What are the guidelines for regular maintenance and work relating to safety issues (i.e., steps/pathway needs high-pressure wash to remove potential trip/slip hazards)? Commercial owners have recently stopped the contractor engaged by the COO and told him to return on the weekend.
Answer: The commercial tenants need to understand that they are part of the building’s community and that building maintenance is part of the deal.
Were the commercial tenants advised that the work had to be done before work started?
Were the commercial tenants given the opportunity to select a date for the work to be done that would cause them minimal disruption?
Unless the work poses a safety risk to the commercial tenants it should proceed during normal hours.
The commercial tenants need to understand that they are part of the building’s community and that building maintenance is part of the deal.
If the commercial tenants don’t want the disruption during normal work hours then they should pay the difference between normal hours rates and after hours rates.
This post appears in Strata News #404.
Question: Our bookkeeper also acts (under a separate contract) as our yardman. Does the wording in the strata title regulations part 13, section 91 (1) forbid this?
Answer: This regulation refers to a contractor such as a Tradesperson etc who only performs contracted work required of them to perform an agreed task etc.
A “scheme function” is defined in the Act.
scheme function for a strata titles scheme means –
- a function of the strata company; or
- a function of the council of the strata company; or
- a function of an officer of the strata company;
Your bookkeeper has a dual role and should perform the tasks such as Yardman under specific agreed terms of engagement.
Strata Title Consult
This post appears in Strata News #381.
Article: Tips for Contractor Selection and Gaining Control of Your Budget!
The new Western Australia strata laws require all Council of Owners to act honestly, with loyalty and in good faith.
Owners have a duty of care to ensure building services are always operating effectively and are compliant. A significant portion of a strata company’s budget is allocated to repairs and maintenance. To gain greater control of your budget the Council of Owners should nominate and train a responsible person to oversee all matters relating to each major building service, even if a Strata Manager coordinates the work. It’s your money so take an interest.
Larger strata schemes have building services such as lifts, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical, security and fire systems. Before appointing a maintenance company, the responsible person should familiarise themselves with the various types of systems in the building and the relevant Australian Standards. If you actively engage in the management of the building’s services you are more likely to gain control over your budget.
Vetting Contractors During the Contractor Selection Process
Modern building systems are complex in design; therefore, you need companies that have knowledge about the components, configuration and performance specifications of your systems.
- Before calling for prices, confirm potential candidates have the technical knowledge to maintain your particular systems.
- What is the depth of their knowledge?
- Is it only held by one person?
- Ensure a scope of works is provided to each candidate to provide the best chance of consistency with pricing. Special requirements should be in the scope of works such as:
- access times,
- response times,
- spare parts kept on site etc.
Can the candidate provide the level of service you require?
- Arrange a site inspection to ensure each candidate fully understands the equipment to be maintained and the condition of the property. Also, interview a manager of the company to ensure you are comfortable working with them. This is important because when things go wrong it will be the manager that you rely on to resolve the issue.
- What documentation is provided by the candidate? Most reputable companies have a customer portal that provides all the maintenance reports, repair quotations and invoices. They should also provide an asset register for each type of system.
Conventional wisdom is to obtain three prices. Over time contractors have developed different pricing models to differentiate themselves. Each price may not cover the work you expect. If you have provided a scope of works then ensure all items are included in the price.
Remember that the lowest upfront price will not always result in less money being spent over the year. The price for routine maintenance should include all the usual consumables. Confirm if zero defects are found that no additional fees will be charged. The pricing model of a low initial price followed by expensive consumables is similar to that of some car mechanics.
It is important to confirm if the contractor’s salespeople and technicians work on commission. If a portion of their pay is reliant on sales then be aware that their advice may be biased towards the oversupply of products and services.
Confirm the call out charges for normal and after hours visits. What do the callout charges include e.g. travel and one hour labour? What are the labour rates once the included labour has been used? What are the normal and after hours time periods?
Strata Managers and Council of Owners generally don’t receive commissions from contractors. If they do this should be disclosed as part of the selection process.
Breakdown replacements are not normally included in maintenance agreements. It is best for the incumbent maintenance contractor to undertake the work, as they have the best knowledge of the system. Usually, it is an emergency and there is no time to obtain quotations. The relationship with the contractor should be strong enough to trust that the price will be reasonable.
For major upgrades confirm who determined the need for the work to be done. In some cases, an industry consultant should be called on to verify that the work is required and that the proposed work is the best solution. Obtain at least three quotes from suitable contractors based on a scope of works, prices can vary based on the workload of the contractors.
The relationship should be more than a visit by a technician and an invoice. The contractor should be part of the team that is looking after the safety and comfort of the building’s occupants. It is important that the relationship with the contractor is two way. Some maintenance requires access to all apartments, this can be very difficult to arrange because occupants don’t see it as a priority. In the event of an insurance claim, the assessor will review the equipment’s service records. Owner’s don’t want to be in a position of having a claim denied because the contractor was prevented from carrying out required maintenance. Contractors don’t want to be in a position of explaining to an insurer, or worse, a coronial inquest that the system failure was due to uncooperative occupants.
Implement an education program for all occupants of the premises to make them aware of the building’s systems, how they operate, the maintenance requirements and what the common faults are. Working together ensures faults are quickly investigated and fixed. It also ensures the systems are compliant with the relevant Australian Standards.
Strata Managers and the Council of Owners are responsible for managing contractors. Technical building systems should not be a barrier for non industry people getting value for money. The Strata Manager or Council of Owners’ representative should have regular meetings with all contractors to review their performance, maintenance records, outstanding defects and recommendations for improvements. If you are unhappy with any aspect of a contractor’s performance, then obtain a second opinion from a suitable alternative.
Westside Fire Services provides free of charge a contractor selection card. The card can be used for any building service to vet potential contractors and provides a record of the process. This will assist in the requirement for Council of Owners to act honestly, with loyalty and in good faith.
This post appears in Strata News #347.
Have a question about contractor selection or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
- WA: Temporary Suspension of Fire Maintenance Services Due to COVID-19 Concerns
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- WA: Maintenance Planning and Insurance: The Strata Titles Amendment Act 2018 (STAA 2018)
Looking for strata information concerning your state? For state-specific strata information, take a look here.