By Bob Gourley
Is there any time more critical to keep residents informed than when a new construction or maintenance project is about to get under way? Contractors are on site, residents can be confused and chaos is often the general order of the day. What can you do as an association manager or board member to keep the confusion to a minimum? In a word, communicate!
Construction and maintenance projects vary in scope but they all have certain things in common. These projects have generally been well discussed and planned by the condominium’s board of directors who has likely been working on the project for a year or more before the construction actually begins. In successful associations, the community newsletter or website is used to announce the earliest stages of these projects so that all homeowners have the opportunity to learn about the project before it even goes out to bid. This helps keep community members involved and informed. It also stops them from being surprised when the first construction vehicle appears to get the project started.
There are often significant logistic issues to coordinate between residents and contractors so the project can be completed. It is best to establish a time frame for what these issues are and when they need to be addressed. For instance, if every resident’s car needs to be moved off property so a new parking lot can be installed, it would be wise to give residents ample notice. They will need find an alternate place to store their vehicles for the few days they won’t have to access their parking lot. It would be a good idea to communicate viable solutions, like a nearby parking garage or lot, to residents at this time as well.
More advanced projects will require larger inconveniences such as utilities that need to be turned off so work can begin. Again, it is imperative that the exact dates and times of utility shut-offs be communicated to residents well in advance so they can make alternate arrangements. While a newsletter might do well to serve as an advance notice, letters, phone calls or even door-to-door communication efforts may be called for as the project gets closer. No one will be able to call you with a problem once their electricity and phone lines are down.
Another consideration is to provide residents with the reasons for the construction or maintenance project. For instance, if an insurer were to inform the board that the beautiful elm trees that grace the property’s perimeter are now a safety hazard and need to be removed, it would be best to explain to residents why the trees are being removed before the first one comes down. It is very difficult to explain something like that after the fact and the lack of adequate advance explanation will anger many residents. That anger is completely avoidable with proper communication.
Finally, construction and maintenance projects should be celebrated with residents once they are completed. Significant money and effort always go into such projects so it is important to celebrate their successful conclusion. A ceremonial ribbon-cutting to welcome repairs to the club house, christening the new common entrance with a champagne toast, a cook-out to celebrate the refurbished pool and tennis courts, are just a few ideas to bring the community together and celebrate the accomplishment. Don’t miss the opportunity to build community while building or rebuilding your community!
Bob Gourley is founder of MyEZCondo, a communications firm that produces newsletter and website content material for condominiums and homeowner associations throughout the USA. He has also served as board president of his local HOA.