In most parts of SA, winter is definitely the best time for the trustees of sectional title schemes to schedule any major improvement or renovation projects that are in their budgets for the year.
“The usually dry and sunny days mean that anything from painting and varnishing to fencing, paving, pool renovation and waterproofing is likely to take less time in winter – and may well cost less too, because this is a slower period for many contractors”, says Andrew Schaefer, MD of leading national property management company Trafalgar*.
“Having said that, though, contractors should never be appointed on price alone or in haste. It is important for the trustees to check that they are properly qualified, properly insured and have a verifiable track record of completed projects similar in size and scope to the one being contemplated”.
“Really large and well-known contractors may not be set up to undertake the work planned for a smaller sectional title scheme, and trustees need to remember that it is not uncommon for smaller companies to get in over their heads when trying to generate work – no matter how good their intentions.”
When calling for quotes, he says, the trustees will also need to provide contractors with a clear and detailed brief of the work envisaged, so they will be able to compare “apples with apples” when the prices come in.
“And if the project involves building or any other work that could affect the structure of the buildings in the scheme and thus the building insurance premiums or cover, it might in fact be a good idea to have the work brief written by a specialist maintenance advisor such as Curasure (http://www.curasure.co.za/) and the quotes checked by that same specialist”.
“This will minimise the risk to the owners in the scheme and help to ensure that the winning contractor delivers a top quality job with the fewest hitches.”
For larger projects, Schaefer says, the trustees should make use of formal (JCBB) building contracts, and even on smaller ones they should ensure that any contract they sign contains the contractor’s contact information and physical address, proof of any professional memberships or affiliations, a project schedule, and any building plans, permits and guarantees or warranties that are necessary.
“There should also be a schedule of payments, and once work begins, the trustees must never give in to any requests to deviate this and make advance payments. This is often a danger sign that the contractor has a cash flow problem and needs ‘quick money’ to pay wages or supply bills so that he can stay in business. In this case the current client could easily be left high and dry with uncompleted work until the contractor is able to draw money from the next project”.
“Trustees should thus only agree to make progress payments for work already completed – after it has been inspected to verify quality – and should also keep a suitable retainer until the whole contract has been satisfactorily completed. In fact, if the project is large, they should seriously consider hiring an independent project manager to oversee the work and ensure that it is done properly. In most cases, this extra expenditure will more than pay for itself in reduced aggravation, timely completion of work and superior workmanship.”