Apartment management: How to avoid problems post handover

Record and file everything.  It is essential that the MC (Management committee) formally document and file everything pertaining to the handover.  Many problems, which have their roots in ineffective handovers, crop up only after several years.  During the intervening period, people change – both in the MC / Association as well as the Builder. 

Further, vendors’ memories are notoriously short when it comes to delivering on promises made.  All important documents should be copied and filed properly – in a logical manner, which allows easy retrieval at a subsequent date.  Originals and copies should be stored separately – e.g. the Originals can be maintained at a safe, central location (Association office) while the copies can be retained by the Secretary and handed over to his/her successor at the end of his/her term. 

All communication with the Builder – especially that pertaining to outstanding defects – should be in physical form (i.e. typed letter) with an acknowledgment from the Builder that he has received the same.  Critical emails should be printed and filed along with the hard-copy documentation.

Apartment Complex Management System.   Given the breadth and depth of activities that a MC has to deal with in today’s typical apartment complex, it is fast becoming essential for them to have proper tools to assist them in their task.  Today, there’re a range of software packages – most of them online – to help MCs better manage the affairs of an apartment complex (Refer Citizen Matters’ guide to apartment management tools). 

Almost all of these have some features that would be very useful during the handover phase itself – e.g. Issue Tracker, Complaint Tracker, Document Repository, etc.  It would be a good idea for the first-time MC to adopt usage of such a tool, right from the beginning.  Apart from creating a good precedent for subsequent MCs, the tool would help record all issues pertaining to the handover in a central place for subsequent reference.

Handover Workload Management.  The activities listed above, even though potentially an incomplete list, clearly bring out the amount of work involved in ensuring a proper handover.  Given the low occupancy and consequent limited resources available to the MC, it would be very difficult to do everything required, within the short warranty period that builders offer.  Here are some strategies that can be considered, singly or together, to manage this issue:

1.    Consider External Help: Consider recruiting a facilities management agency to do all the handover activities.  This, of course, would be at a cost – maybe, a significant cost – but it’s up to the MC to decide whether the expense is worth it.

2.    Involve AMC Vendors: Most of the major sub-systems (e.g. Lifts, DG Sets, and Fire System) require AMCs from professionals to keep them running smoothly.  In some cases, like Lifts, the same vendor (normally the manufacturer) continues the AMC.  In others (e.g. DG sets, Fire System), however, a third-party vendor can be considered.  As part of this third party’s process of taking up the systems for maintenance, the MC can get them to do a due diligence, to clearly identify all possible defects, which can then be reported to the Builder for rectification.  A little bit of clever negotiating – with both the third party and the builder – can ensure that this exercise has minimal or no cost impact for the Association.

3.    Pool in members from the General Body:  As mentioned before, it is unreasonable to expect a handful of MC members to do all handover activities by themselves.  The MC should identify those activities that can be done by a larger body and then courteously (but firmly) request the larger resident body to help out.  A good example for this is the Fire System testing.  The MC can ask residents to gather together and walk them through a sample testing exercise of the Smoke Detectors and Alarm Panels and then request them to get this done for their respective floors / apartments within a set period of time.

4.    Prioritize: Finally, the most obvious strategy is that of prioritizing key areas and only handling these in the time available.  An additional step could be to formally notify the builder of this prioritization and also of the fact that some aspects of the building would be verified only after the Warranty period is over.  This may not prove to be of much use, but it can’t hurt, and it just may help in post-warranty disputes over significant lapses on the builders’ part.

All in all, effecting a proper handover from a builder does seem a daunting task.  But, a little bit of effort and a structured approach in the early days may reap dividends several times over in later years, by avoiding lakhs of rupees of expenses, and more importantly the significantly more effort and stress required to resolve issues that should rightfully have been taken care of by the Builder himself.


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