Keys to a Smooth Management Transition

Probably the most difficult, important and often delayed decision the board of a co-op or condominium makes is deciding to change management companies.  Numerous factors, both realistic and psychological, play into this, but one of the most prevalent is the fear of change and the requirements of getting a new management company up to speed.

Unfortunately, the final decision is often made after communication has virtually broken down with the manager and the company, the building’s services and physical plant have deteriorated and the financial records are in poor shape.

Our Strategic Management Program Uses Sound Business Principles

What many boards fail to understand is that some management companies are organized and prepared to move in, take control and bring order to a deteriorated situation.  At Matthew Adam Properties, we follow the policies outlined in our Strategic Management program.  Strategic Management is our adaptation of sound business principles.  We set objectives and a timetable so our performance and the property’s improvements can be measured.  It is a planned approach to property management rather than the usual band-aide cure.

We follow this approach in the transition process.  As we transition the property into our portfolio, we are cognizant that every detail – every record, every management professional’s decision – must be incorporated into management files for the property.  Our Strategic Management program facilitates the transition process and helps us move quickly when we officially start.   We keep the board informed of our progress and alert it to any problems encountered.

When we are retained, we immediately conduct a full evaluation of the property’s operations and finances.  We then create a customized Strategic Management Plan that includes financial issues, service contracts, maintenance, repairs and long-term capital improvements.  This is reviewed periodically with the board.

Organization and Communication are Key Points in Management Transition

While we are working on the Strategic Management Plan, our transition team is working to get the property up to speed.  In taking control of the process we emphasize two points: communications and organization.  It is important that we develop a solid working relationship with the board.  Often, we find board members wary of property managers after a disastrous experience with the previous company or companies.  We work hard to demonstrate our capabilities and professionalism in getting the tasks accomplished.  In organizing the transition, we follow our Management Transition Checklist and the procedures outlined in our Strategic Management program.  These guide us in collecting the information we need.  In some instances, we have found that bookkeeping is totally disorganized and a great deal of information is missing, or hasn’t been recorded.

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) has instituted a professional pledge signed by most management firms saying they will provide the required records and information.  In reality, often the fired management company is lax or resistant to turning over the records. In these instances much of the needed information can come from the auditor, if he/she is still on board.  Sometimes, the auditor has also been fired making it more difficult to obtain records.

We need copies of maintenance contracts, the general ledger and bills that have been paid or are outstanding.  We also have to understand a building’s cash flow requirements and need to know the schedule and amount of mortgage and real estate payments (for co-ops), the payroll and which residents are delinquent in their monthly payments.

Communication and people skills are a significant part of a property manager’s job description and these talents come into play when dealing with the staff.  Very often, when the previous property manager has been lax in his responsibilities, the work quality of the staff has deteriorated.  The new manager must walk a fine line between acting like a bull in a China shop and wanting to change everything immediately and one who shows his/her authority, but will listen to the employees and work with them to make improvements.

To improve the quality performance of the staff, a manager can modify work schedules and job descriptions, however, the union must be kept informed of changes and the changes must comply with labor agreements.

The building’s superintendent should play an important role in this, unless he is a large part of the problem.

Overall, a professionally organized and implemented transition can be smooth while affording the board an opportunity to evaluate operations and services and discuss additional improvements with the new manager.

Complying Early with Local Law 87 Has Benefits

Buildings that comply with Local Law 87 prior to their assigned date can benefit from various incentives before funding runs out or regulations change.

The legislation requires large buildings to conduct an energy audit and a retro-commissioning study every 10 years.  The energy audit identifies areas where energy and cost savings could be implemented, though not mandated. The retro-commissioning requires “base building systems” to be at performance capabilities. If not, corrective measures are required.

Incentives for Completing both Retro-Commissioning and Audit

The heating requirements of the retro-commissioning require analysis be conducted during the heating season, which ends in March, negating the possibility of compliance this year. The law provides an incentive for buildings that complete both the retro-commissioning and the audit by the end of 2013.  If accomplished, the date for the next round of compliance is 10 years past the assigned date.

Reports are required based on the last digit of the tax block number.  For example, buildings with the last digit of 3 are required to file in 2013, with 6, in 2016.  The later a building is required to file, the more advantageous it is to comply in 2013.  Those buildings whose tax block number is 2, would be required to file in 2022.  But, if they comply in 2013, the next mandated compliance period would not be until 2032.

Buildings covered by the law are larger than 50,000 gross square feet or two or more buildings on the same tax lot that comprise more than 100,000 gross square feet as we’ll as two or more condominiums governed by the same board that together exceed 100,000 gross square feet.

But, there are significant benefits for buildings complying before the required timeframe, says Brian King, president and CEO, Ecological LLC, an environmental sustainability company.

Incentives are offered by NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and others to improve the energy use in buildings.  Changes to the incentives or a lack of funds may make them unavailable in future years.

Energy Auditing Can Save You Money Long Term

While changes are not mandated in the energy auditing component of Local law 87, buildings can save money long term by implementing some or all of the recommendations.  One incentive available involves financing upgrades to heating and cooling systems through the payment of utility bills.  For example, if NYSERDA lends a building $1 million for upgrading, which saves approximately $200,000 annually in energy costs, the building can pay this off in five years through an agreement with Con Ed on its utility bill.  The building will be charged the same amount as if it hadn’t upgraded (which would be an additional $200,000 annually over the actual expense) and in five years that would total the $1 million loan from NYSERDA.  After five years, the building is saving at least $200,000 in energy costs annually.  An option being considered is Pace Bonds, which would be similar to the NYSERDA loans and could be paid back through incentives in real estate taxes.

Several cities, including Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, DC, have passed legislation similar to Local law 87, and about a dozen states are looking into various aspects of it.

Matthew Adam Properties is working with Ecological LLC to conduct the audits and retro-commissioning in buildings we manage and developing plans for compliance.  A key part of the audit is a cost benefit analysis.

Matthew Adam Properties is on the leading-edge of management firms in promoting energy conservation and “Green” technology.  We are one of the few, if only, management company in New York with a division headed by a LEED certified professional dedicated to sustainability and promoting “Green” initiatives. The goal is not only to reduce costs and gas emissions, but to create a safer and healthier environment for residents of properties we manage.

Local Law 87 is part of a package of four laws called the “Greener, Greater Buildings Plan,” enacted in 2009 to improve the energy and water efficiency of the city’s largest buildings.

Another of the laws, Local Law 84, requires annual benchmarking of energy and water systems with the city publishing the results. Local Law 85 requires that plans for renovations or upgrades demonstrate how the project complies with the Energy Code.  Local Law 88 requires upgrading to lighting systems and installations of electrical submetering in apartments. Buildings covered by this law have until January 1, 2025, to comply.

The goal of the package is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.