Six Keys to Cooperation When Painting Residents' Units
Your maintenance plan includes painting resident units on a regular schedule, but your residents might not always cooperate. For example, they may drag their feet when asked to prepare the unit for painting or grumble about giving the painters access to the unit.
Housing maintenance professionals advise painting units every three to five years to keep painted surfaces in good condition. Failure to properly maintain painted surfaces could cause you to be hit with a HUD inspection violation. Peeling, cracked, or deteriorated paint raises a red flag with inspectors.
Since you need the cooperation of your residents when it comes to painting the units they occupy, we asked Paul Crosby, director of maintenance operations and safety at the Gene B. Glick Company, for some ideas on how to work with residents to make the painting process go smoothly. The Glick Company is based in Indianapolis, Ind., and manages more than 18,000 units in 10 states.
One of the most helpful strategies, Crosby says, is to use a written agreement that outlines the resident's responsibilities as well as management's role in the painting plan. The agreement should include specific instructions about what residents need to do to prepare their unit for painting and should require their sign-off.
What to Put in Agreement
Here are six suggestions from Crosby about what to include in your agreement and ways to enhance cooperation:
1. Emphasize the importance. Explain to residents why regular painting is a “must do” maintenance measure. Be sure to let them know the consequences of not keeping up with painting, such as possible violations during HUD inspections and the potential health and safety hazards of peeling or deteriorating paint. Additionally, residents may not realize—and should be advised—that repeated inspection violations could put their housing assistance at risk.
2. Offer choice of colors, within reason. Residents generally appreciate the opportunity to select a color for their unit. But, Crosby says, make sure to limit it to two or three and keep the choices generally neutral.
“This should help you save money by buying paint in bulk and not having to keep a lot of different colors around for touch-up,” Crosby explains. “You might also consider offering several color choices for an ‘accent wall.’”
3. Spell out specifics about scheduling. Explain how and when you schedule painting appointments, including what residents must do if they need to cancel a scheduled appointment. Crosby suggests language such as the following for your agreement:
Resident will be contacted by the maintenance staff to schedule an appointment for painting. If it is necessary to change the appointment, the resident will notify management at least 24 hours before the scheduled time.
4. Be very detailed about preparation. Nothing's more frustrating than having your painters arrive to paint a unit and it isn't ready for the job. They either have to do the prep work themselves—charging you to do so—or return at another time—also possibly adding to your costs.
The following are customary preparation steps that residents should take for unit painting, according to Crosby. Be sure to list these in your painting agreement:
Take down all draperies and curtains.
Remove all hanging plants, pictures, and any other decorations from walls and ceilings.
Place all cosmetics, perfumes, and lotions in drawers.
Clear kitchen counters as well as stove and refrigerator tops, and put all utensils in cabinets or drawers.
Move all furniture, TVs, video games, etc., to the center of the room.
Place all lamps on the floor in the center of the room.
If closet interiors are being painted, remove everything from them and leave closet doors open.
“Of course, there can always be exceptions, but generally speaking you should never agree to move anything for the resident,” Crosby says. “There's just too much potential for trouble when you do.”
5. Address the issue of liability. Your painters could accidently cause damage to a resident's personal property, so it's best to plan for that potential, Crosby says.
“But you don't want the resident to hold you responsible for damage that the painter didn't cause or damage caused by the resident's own negligence,” he adds.
Your agreement should include language that covers liability. A statement such as the following addresses the issue:
The resident will not hold the [owner/management agent] responsible for damage to personal property unless the damage is caused by the [owner's/management agent's] negligence or by the painters employed by the [owner/management agent].”
6. Give the option not to paint. You should be prepared to deal with residents who do not want their units painted. If you have a painting agreement, you can include a section at the end of the document that covers this situation. But, Crosby cautions, be sure not to give up your right to enter the unit at some point for maintenance painting. “If you determine during the unit's annual inspection that it needs painting, you are within your rights to paint it,” he says.
Your agreement can address this situation using the following language, which also specifies the consequences of not complying:
By signing below, Resident indicates that he/she does not wish to have his/her unit painted at this time. Resident understands and agrees that the maintenance supervisor will inspect his/her unit during the annual inspection cycle and determine if it needs to be painted. If painting is needed, resident agrees to schedule an appointment for painting at that time. Resident also understands that failure to cooperate with the inspection or give access for painting could lead to eviction.
Be sure the resident signs this specific section of your agreement, if it applies.
Crosby says a good time to have residents sign a painting agreement is on the occasion of lease renewal, if the unit is scheduled to be painted during the lease term. If you put together a painting agreement, be sure to have your attorney review it.
Paul Crosby: Director of Maintenance Operations and Safety, Gene B. Glick Company, Inc., Indianapolis, IN; email@example.com.
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