Keeping Up Appearances Regular Maintenance Makes a Good Impression

Keeping Up Appearances

There’s nothing quite like making a first impression. For those living in condominiums or homeowner associations in South Florida, a great deal of creating this important impression is often out of a resident’s hands, so it’s necessary for a manager or board to keep things looking great at all times.

“High-rise condominium lobbies, hallways, social rooms, fitness centers and pool areas experience a lot of traffic and creates the first impression for guests, realtors, potential buyers and business associates,” says Marcy L. Kravit, manager at Galleon Condominium in Fort Lauderdale. “It is imperative that from the moment a guest steps out of their vehicle, to the entrance of the lobby, steps on the mats, visits the front desk/reception areas and sits on the furniture, all must be presentable, fresh and clean.”

In order to accomplish this, it is recommended that managers provide housekeeping staff specific job-related tasks, products and checklists for each designated area. Light fixtures need to sparkle, windows need to be free of fingerprints and elevators need to be spotless.

“It’s important to have a maintenance program with a reputable cleaning service, but there are day-to-day things that need to be done that those working at the condo are responsible for,” says Maria Panela, president of The Hemispheres Condominium Association in Hallandale Beach. “You can’t rely on the people themselves, because let’s face it, although they want to live in a spotless environment—and think they do their part—most are just messy.”

A good manager will have a procedure in place to ensure that all areas of the condo are neat and tidy and will make sure that residents aren’t complaining about the overall appearance.

“As a manager, I give it the ‘white glove’ test as I perform daily property inspections and walk-throughs,” Kravit says. “I include the staff in providing their thoughts, ideas and input regarding the tools, products and equipment that they are using is working. As managers, we are expected to manage the building to the highest level and manage the housekeeping staff. We are expected to pay attention to details and be sensitive to the residents’ needs in providing the lifestyle that they deserve.”

Cleaning Help

Most condo decision makers realize that they can’t rely on their staff for everything and contract with a cleaning service that specializes in this sort of work. If the condominium utilizes an outside vendor for janitorial or maintenance services, they should make sure the vendor is following the specific tasks outlined in the agreement. The staff should also be trained and supervised so they know what they should and shouldn’t be doing.

“At least once per quarter, we schedule a periodic management meeting to address any concerns or questions they may have and will meet more frequently for special project work,” says Paul Monroy, president of All County Maintenance Services, which offers comprehensive janitorial and maintenance services for condominiums throughout South Florida. “Our services are designed to remove the burden of hiring, training and supervising a cleaning and maintenance staff for your building.”

A common maintenance program includes complete floor care consisting of stripping and waxing, marble restoration, buffing and polishing, carpet cleaning and deodorizing, changing locks, maintaining and clearing trash chutes, exterior pressure cleaning and landscape sprinkler repair and plumbing.

“We also inspect building common areas and exterior grounds and meet with inspectors, service contractors and utility companies,” Monroy says. “You have to respond to after-hour emergency calls and purchase and maintain materials and supplies, with prior approval from the property supervisor.”

In addition to the services listed above, dumpster room sanitation, light bulb replacement and touch-up painting are typically under a maintenance agreement.

“Things should be done weekly,” says Jim Fischer of Cleaning Systems Inc. in Sunrise. “You need to take care of any common bathrooms, mopping the floors or vacuuming the lobby and dusting.”

Typically, the unit owners don’t use the same cleaners for their own homes, but occasionally, a company may offer a discount to residents in the condominium if they also have a component of the business that deals with home cleaning.

Cleaning Time

Common area janitorial service for condominiums includes cleaning clubhouses, pool areas, parking lots, elevators, laundry rooms, catwalks and stairs.

“Board members and managers are constantly challenged with maintaining the common areas to the highest standards and keeping costs down,” Kravit says. “This involves analyzing the costs of chemicals and products used and the number of staff required to carry out the tasks.”

During the holidays, many homeowners host holiday parties and utilize the social rooms, which create an increase in traffic and trash. Funds should be ready to deal with the excess cleaning that may be required in these circumstances.

One job that staff should be responsible for daily is cleaning out all trash cans in all common areas regularly. “Residents do not like to see trash overflowing,” Kravit says. “The dumpster rooms should be equipped with an odor control system and rinsed down regularly. If not, the odor carries throughout the trash chute rooms into the building.”

Fischer says that if your condo has a fitness center, it’s necessary to deodorize and disinfect the room and equipment regularly as this is an area that is prone to problems if not done regularly.

An area you might not think about in the cleaning process is the mailroom, which receives a lot of traffic and is known for owners congregating in. “Most mailboxes are made of some sort of metal and it takes a proper polish that can shine those mailboxes until they sparkle,” Fischer says. “It’s also important that the cylinders are lubricated.”

Cleaning Products

Before making any decisions on the types of cleaning material to use, a board or manager should consider the price, environmental impact, safety and the opportunity to buy in bulk.

“I rely on my janitorial supply representative to suggest the proper products for cost savings and he provides samples to test first,” Kravit says. “This helps us come to a decision that is best for everyone and educates us about what is safe and what keeps it looking best at all times.”

Many cleaning products are concentrated and have gone “green” with the specific intent of minimizing toxicity in the environment and minimizing the consumption of natural resources.

The parking garage is the first area that the residents see when they step out of their vehicles.

“Having the proper equipment—such as an outdoor vacuum and a garage floor scrubber—is important to remove dirt, sand and debris from parking garages,” Kravit says. “It is essential that dust and cobwebs are removed from walls and ceilings in all parking garages. Pressure washers should be considered when removing dirt, grime, mold, oil stains and residue from pavers.”

Specialty Needs

Carpets, furniture and curtains should be cleaned on a routine basis and may require an outside professional company unless the staff is trained on using the proper equipment.

“Depending on the floor surface, cleaning may require outsourcing a commercial company to maintain the specific floor covering,” Kravit says. “A marble polishing company is trained and specialized in providing honing, cleaning, sealing and restoration.”

The Elements

While there may not be the harsh winters that other areas of the country have to deal with, South Florida does have its share of common culprits that do its share of damage to its floors, carpets and lobbies. Rainy weather, blazing sunlight, and the messiness that comes from those at the beach all take a toll on a building or HOA common spaces.

“Hurricanes can create all different problems when it comes to cleaning,” says Fischer. “High winds causes debris and dust to be flown about and often people are more in a rush so they are not thinking about courtesy things that help keep an environment in the condo clean.”

Windows on an oceanfront community require extra attention as film collects on the glass. “Condominiums in close proximity to the ocean typically suffer the most damage due to the salt,” Panela says. “Walk-off mats at the entrance-ways are good to have because it will keep the dirt on the mats for the most part.”

Winter is also a busier time for cleaning because there are more people around with seniors heading south for the winter.

“People leave the cold and come here during the winter months, so that adds to the amount of traffic and that means there is more to do as far as cleaning,” Fischer says. “A cleaning contract should be aware of the increases and decreases in residents in the building so there is always the proper amount of people on the job.”

Remember, residents can do their part in keeping up a strong appearance by not littering, wiping their feet before entering, shaking off their towels at the beach and being smart about the little things.

“When everyone is a little more respectful, it makes for a cleaner environment,” Panela says. “And that’s good for all.”

Keith Loria is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The South Florida Cooperator.

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