Washer/Dryers and Dishwashers Require Preventive Maintenance to Avoid Flooding

Several appliances in the home can cause damage to the apartment where they are housed as well as to neighbors’ apartments, says Ira Meister, founder and CEO, Matthew Adams Properties, a leading property management firm.  While these incidents are not frequent, they can be costly and are easily preventable.

Specifically, Meister cites washer-dryers and dishwashers.  If a break occurs in a water line, it can lead to serious flooding in the apartment and also to the downstairs neighbor’s unit.  Floors, carpeting, walls, art, furniture and many other expensive items can be damaged

Meister encourages residents to replace the water supply lines that come with the clothes washer with specialized long-lasting lines, such as those marketed by Floodchek.  The weaker lines can break, yet still continue to carry water that can cause flooding.  The hoses should be checked annually for kinks, cracks, stiffness or brittleness. The replacement costs only $10-$20, while a flood can cause damage in the thousands.  There should also be a shut-off value in the event the line breaks.

Always install a backflow preventer on the appliance, Meister says.  This can also be installed in dishwashers. This would be useful if the internal valve sticks and water starts to back up and forces hot water into the cold water lines.

An important preventive measure for clothes dryers, Meister says, is cleaning the vent that connects the dryer to the flu.  This should be done at least annually using a vent brush or vacuum to remove the lint. Lint buildup can decrease the efficiency of the appliance and eventually have the lint back-up into the dryer.  A blocked vent can create excess moisture in the room and possess a fire risk.

The lint trap in dryer should be cleaned prior to every use.

It is also wise to have homeowner’s insurance that covers flooding accidents in both your apartment and a neighbor’s.

Legislature Extends NYC’s Co-op/Condo Property Tax Abatement

Several months ago we discussed the failure of the New York State Legislature to extend the property tax abatement for co-ops and condos, says Ira Meister, president and founder of Matthew Adam Properties, Inc., a premier property management firm.  Well, the good news is that earlier this year, the  legislature voted to continue the abatements, though with several significant changes.  However, the legislature’s action came too late to include the abatements in the 2012/13 fiscal year, so they will be applied to the 2013/14 taxes.

The legislature also failed to make permanent the abatements, which have been authorized with continuing legislation since the late 1990s, Meister notes.

The impact of the abatement is significant. “There are approximately 365,000 co-op and condo units in the city and the city estimates the abatement saves these taxpayers on average approximately $1,200 per unit,” Meister says.

Condo owners pay the property tax directly to the city.  For co-op shareholders, the tax is included in the monthly maintenance charges.

The most significant change is in eligibility. To qualify, the unit must be the primary residence.  If not, the abatement will be phased out and completely removed for the 2014/15 fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014.  If the eligible taxpayer owns three or fewer units in the building, all  are eligible for the abatement.  If four or more, none are.  The city’s Department of Finance is checking income tax records and other filings to ascertain whether the unit is the primary residence.

The abatement is based on the assessed valuation of the property.  For fiscal year 2012/13 it is 25% for properties assessed at $50,000 or less,  22.5% for properties between $55,001 and $55,000; 20% for those assessed at $55,001-$60,000 and 17.5% for those assessed over $60,001.

The abatement increases again in the next two fiscal years for all except the highest level.

Before the extension, the abatement was 17.5% for all units valued at more than $15,000 and 25% for those assessed at $15,000 or less.

“Remember,” Meister says, “this is the assessed valuation based on a complex formula and not the market price of the unit.

“While the new legislation increases the abatement for co-op shareholders and condo owners, it still assesses them at a higher rate than owners of single-family homes,” Meister says.

Ira Meister’s Fire Safety Tips

.Since childhood, we’ve repeatedly heard tips on fire prevention and what to do if there is a fire

“While most of us have heard these tips, they bear repeating,” says Ira Meister, founder and CEO, Matthew Adam Properties, a leading property management company. “And remember, one of the easiest and most important steps is to check the smoke and carbon detectors in the apartment.”

When clocks are moved each spring and fall, there are announcements that residents should check their detectors, Meister points out.  Unfortunately, many people ignore this.  It is easy and takes less than a minute.  Each detector has a test button that can be pushed to see if the battery is charged.  The city recommends changing the battery every spring and fall.  Detector batteries also give off a shrill sound when they are dying, a sign to replace them. These detectors, by the way, are required for all apartments under city law.  The city also recommends changing smoke detectors every 10 years and carbon monoxide detectors every five to seven years.

In addition to having the detectors in apartments, buildings should place them in the hallway as well as in incinerator rooms and the garage, Meister says.

Ira Meister Keeps His Residents Safe and Secure 

Equipment that should be checked periodically by building staff are the sprinklers and standpipe located in stairwells to make certain that all are working properly.  This can be done by outside contractors.  Yet, Meister believes the best procedure is to have it done by the superintendent, who has been received certification from the city.  Certification requires taking an approximately 25-hour course and passing a written exam.

The benefit of having certified staff is two-fold, Meister says. The inspections should be conducted monthly and doing them in-house is much less costly. Secondly, in the event of a malfunction, personnel are on-hand who are familiar with the system.

Residents, particularly those with children, should develop a fire evacuation plan and also remember to obey Fire Department instructions.  This would include knowing when to leave an apartment, and when to stay, having an escape route to the exits in the event of a heavy smoke, arranging for a meeting point and what to do if it is best to stay in the apartment.   As a quick guideline, Meister says, fire travels up, so if the fire is below, evacuation should be considered.  If the fire is above the apartment, it may be best to stay in the unit.

There is considerable literature available on fire safety from the city and Fire Department.

“It doesn’t take much time to be prepared, and it can save lives,” Meister says.