SFAA – President’s Report 2013 April Issue by Robert Link

SFAA – President’s Report 2013 April Issue by Robert Link


Its late February as of the writing of this article, and while winter came roaring in like a lion in December, it seems to be leaving us like a lamb in March. It hasn’t rained much lately which means the slopes in Tahoe are shedding their puffy outer layer. An example for us all to follow considering the excesses of the holiday season. As we all eagerly anticipate the changing of the seasons, the movement out of winter into spring, brings with it the opportunity to complete maintenance projects that either have more utility and/or practicality in milder weather.

Considering that we are 2 weeks away from day light saving time, the first point of order in your spring maintenance punch list would be to adjust your common area lighting timers so that the lights are not coming on at 4:45pm. Lighting is not likely a large line item expense but in the interest of energy conservation, it might be wise to adjust on/off times to accommodate for the later light in the eves and darker mornings. This might be a good time to consider a LED light installation, slightly expensive upfront cost but recoverable through a capital improvement pass through and factoring in the monthly energy savings; this is a project worth considering.

Landscaping projects commenced in the next 2 months would appear to have the longest useful life span of any; do it now.

Boiler repairs or replacements are better done when the need for heat is not dire as it has been lately. Cold spells usually result in maintenance requests to repair heating systems from your tenants.  Repair or replace projects that entail having your system down for a few days should be considered in mid to late spring when your tenant may not even notice the temporary interruption of service. This avoids the litany of perturbed residents voicing their objection over your choice of timing and the possible reduction of services discussion.

Roofing replacement projects are the big capital improvement projects that you just can’t help deferring until absolutely necessary, you’ve gotten the last winter out of this roof and while economic life has long since expired, now it’s useful life has clocked out on you while still giving you more than expected.

The blue tarp really isn’t cutting it anymore and that mystery leak that has been the bane of your existence. Its time to replace the roof and you will find that there are newer alternatives to tar and gravel.  Modified bitumen roofing is now the preferred method of replacing flat roofing surfaces.

This method involves nailing a base sheet to the roof deck, spreading a cold adhesive over the sheet, and then bedding a top membrane (the modified bitumen roll material) into the adhesive with a roller or by walking back and forth over the material.

The membrane is made of a polyester mat impregnated with asphalt (bitumen) that is modified with a rubberized polymer.   It resembles regular asphalt roll roofing, but is more durable and much more resistant to drying out. Modified bitumen costs more than asphalt roll roofing, but the increased longevity more than justifies the additional price. As always, keep all copies of your contract and all payments for your Rent Board cap pass through petition.

Roofs need maintenance to realize the full life expectancy; I recently inspected a roof on a new building I took under management. This 12 unit building is well located in Russian Hill and the owner constructed a roof deck some years ago to supplement the building amenities and provide a great vantage point for his residents to take advantage of the SF skyline and activities done in good weather.

Upon closer look, I noticed that many if not all of the plumbing vents were uncovered and easily accessible. Some of those vent line were large; 4″ diameter one looked like a 6″. One could almost fit a mayonnaise jar down one of them, but a beer bottle could pass no problem; until it hits the first 90 degree angle in the line. This is likely what happened a few months prior which ended up in a untimely plumbing emergency to remove a broken bottle in drain line that resulted in an insurance claim.

If you have a roof deck, you should also presume that your tenants will be imbibing while enjoying it. We all know often leads to irresponsible and erratic behavior that can result in unintended damages to your building.

Before the spring and summer comes,  I would recommend installing vent covers on all  vent line larger than 3 inches wide. The caps do not block the air flow but deter anything from being thrown into the line by either an unaware or vindictive tenant.

Roofs can be passed through to tenants who have resided in the building for 6 months prior to the commencement of work at a 50% of cost, 10 year amortization. SFAA associate members offer a fee based service to prepare the petition and represent your interest at the eventual Rent Board hearing.

Another maintenance project that most defer until better weather is exterior painting. This business goes into hibernation for a few months in the winter when many of these crews lean up as there is not much work around. Painting contractors will focus more on interior jobs and will start to line up jobs for the spring/summer season. Their pricing might be slightly more elastic in the early time of the season rather than mid-summer when their schedules get busier. My advice is to call now for estimates and always negotiate on price.

If you plan to  do a painting job and the building is scaffolded and draped , this would be an opportune time to consider window replacement if and where needed. Most of our buildings have the older wood frame single pane windows which lack any real energy efficiency. Be sure to consult a reputable window installer that is keenly aware of the SF Building Dept guidelines for this undertaking. Ie: don’t hire someone from Stockton because they have the best deal on aluminum windows.

The most important maintenance project you can undertake is often the most most overlooked. A well-deserved vacation to clear your head might render the highest yield of any undertaking you choose.  Its still low season in many places so  leave your worries behind you; travel  south of the border before it gets too hot or visit Europe before all the tourists converge on the most popular places in July-August. There are an infinite number of places to visit and an equal number of travel worthy spots within a 90 minute radius of our city.

— Robert Link