Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Take the Stress out of Site Visits: Preparation and Organization Make for a Smooth Inspection

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Take the Stress out of Site Visits: Preparation and Organization Make for a Smooth Inspection

Article excerpt

A site visit by a monitoring agency (e.g. state housing credit agency, Project Based Contract Administrator, Rural Development) can be a source of stress and hard work. One approach is to view a site visit not as an event, but a process. Through the preparation, review and response phases, there are opportunities to improve.

DOS AND DON'TS

A good first step in successful inspections is having staff at all levels of the company attend training offered by the agency or funder to encourage relationship building and get to know the people performing the inspections.

Plan ahead: The days shortly before the inspection are not the time to start preparing. Preparation should not be an event, but rather a process. How soon after notification of a planned visit do you start to prepare? Do you have internal checklists for the review in addition to any sent by the monitor? Checklists are an effective means of ensuring critical items are completed. Note: checklists should be specific to a task and have a limited number of items to check off. LEDIC Management Group, a property management company based in Memphis, Tenn., holds an internal call with all relevant staff once notice of a site visit is received (see flow chart).

Do not wait until the last minute to review resident files and ensure the files are neat and organized. Be sure to include any missing documents, while avoiding accusations of fraud by not backdating or changing documents. Make sure a process is in place for quality assurance of tenant files on an ongoing basis. Remember, as a general rule, non-compliance discovered through the course of owner due diligence that is corrected before notification of an audit (the "Bright Line" in IRS parlance) cannot be reported as non-compliance to the IRS.

Conduct regular inspections of units throughout the year plus an additional walk through before an inspection. Not inspecting units regularly can result in significant non-compliance. Additional costs can be incurred when it is time to turn a unit and it is discovered the resident caused major damage. A minimum of two inspections per year of each unit at least provides an opportunity to change air filters in HVAC units.

If there is a scheduling conflict, request a change in the inspection date sooner rather than later. The longer the time between receipt of the notice and the request to change, the less likely it will occur. The reason for the change should be valid. Creating more time to fix problems is not a valid reason.

Do not wait until shortly before the review to send the documents requested by the monitoring agency. Most agencies set a deadline for receiving pre-review documentation. Meeting the deadline, or even submitting documents early, can show the property is serious about the inspection.

On the day of the inspection, plan to have enough staff onsite to conduct the physical inspection. The number of staff required for the physical inspection should be verified with the lead inspector, who will able to identify how many inspectors will be conducting the actual physical inspections. A representative of the project will have to accompany each one. Someone will also have to be available in the office if staff will be reviewing files at the same time.

Require the maintenance staff to have batteries and smoke detectors on hand for quick replacement. Correcting these findings as they occur may not avoid a write-up in the inspector's report, but it will save time. To ensure a successful correction of an issue, it is helpful to prepare the work order and leave a note for the resident at the same time. …

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