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Why you should resolve to adopt new technologies

I recently had the privilege to speak at a conference about the future of property maintenance.  Part of my message was focused on why we need to adopt new technologies.  Since we at Facilgo study this topic frequently, I’d like to share some personal stories that shaped my perspective as to why adopting new technologies is important.   The Power of Timely Information in the hands of the Right People Almost 20 years ago, I was riding on a ferry between two islands in Indonesia.  It was the typhoon season, and while there were some winds, the ferry ride was uneventful.  Two days later, I read the newsand was shocked at what I saw.  The very same boat which I had ridden had capsized the next day.  As the ferry took on water, a British passenger on the boat texted her boyfriend, who was in a pub in London.  The boyfriend immediately contacted the Royal Navy, who in turn contacted the Indonesian Navy.  The Indonesian Navy dispatched a search and rescue ship and saved all of the ferry passengers.   If you are unfamiliar withsinking ferries during the typhoon season in Indonesia in 2001, I can assure you that this outcome was quite rare.  This was an incredibly amazing occurrence, and it made me start to understand the power of getting the right information to the right people at the right time.  While property maintenance may not see such dramatic effects,obtaining timely information can make processes increasingly more effective and efficient.   Y......
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Nikolai Narvestad
Great article, Ken! Receiving information in a timely manner is so important in business and your examples made it clear how valua... Read More
Tuesday, 08 January 2019 10:45
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$43.5 Million NIBCO PEX Class Action Settlement Announced

$43.5 Million NIBCO PEX Class Action Settlement Announced

It appears as though allegedly defective plumbing products have hit the market again. On October 26th, 2018, the NIBCO PEX Settlement Administrator and Plaintiffs’ law firms announced a class action settlement involving allegedly defective PEX tubing, fittings, and clamps. Per the settlement website: “You may be entitled to benefits from a class action settlement if: (a) you have owned or occupied at any time since January 1, 2005, a residential or commercial structure in the United States that contains or contained NIBCO’s Pex Tubing, Fittings or Clamps and have unreimbursed costs or damages resulting from water leaking from one of these products, or (b) you have repaired or paid to repair damage resulting from water leaking from one of these products in one of these structures.”

This is yet another setback for product manufacturers and represents a continuing set of challenges for the industry. Back in the late 90’s, certain PEX piping systems used yellow brass fittings which, under certain circumstances, dezincified and failed prematurely resulting in a series of class action lawsuits and settlements. Before that, in 1995, a one-billion-dollar class action settlement resulted in tens of thousands of homes being repiped but left tens of thousands more unprotected after they failed to replace their pipes during the qualifying settlement period.

For more information on the latest NIBCO settlement, please visit: http://www.pexsystemsettlement.com

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California Multifamily Professionals – Please Read This!

The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a sizeable recall notice on 11/8/18 for ~616,000 gas water heaters that were made between April 8, 2011, through August 1, 2016, which were primarily sold in California.  While anyone and everyone should check their water heater to see if they have an affected unit, multifamily owners and managers should also be proactive in determining if these recalled units are serving any of their communities – especially considering that approximately 1,200 apartment communities were built in California from 2011 through 2016 which represents an estimated total of just over 150,000 units.

Additional Resources & Information 

  • The official recall notice can be viewed on the CPSC website at https://goo.gl/zHy3LE
  • Consumers should go to https://www.waterheaterrecall.com, input their model and serial number and complete the form to determine if their water heater is subject to this recall
  • Consumers with Whirlpool, U.S. Craftmaster, or American Water Heater brand water heaters can call toll-free (866) 854-2793
  • Consumers with Reliance, State, A.O. Smith, and Kenmore brand water heaters can call toll-free (866) 880-4661

Hope this is helpful in some way and please don't hesitate to post questions and comments if there is anything else that I can do to help!

John Griffith


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What Causes HVAC Systems to Fail and How to Prevent It

What Causes HVAC Systems to Fail and How to Prevent It
Preventative maintenance goes a long way in keeping HVAC systems operating as they should be, but breakdowns can still occur. These complex systems are made of many components. Without being familiar with how HVAC units and their many parts work, diagnosing issues can be difficult. Especially when you’re managing large multifamily properties, it’s helpful to know about some of the most common causes of HVAC problems, as it can save you, your team, and your residents from a lot of frustration.   Swollen Capacitors  Air conditioners cannot run on their own when their capacitors stop working. The job of a capacitor is to start the motor and to help keep it running. It does this by sending jolts of the energy it stores to the fan. Without the jolts, the fan simply can’t get going. There are a few ways to tell if a capacitor has gone bad. A visual inspection is often the easiest, as a swollen capacitor is a problematic capacitor.   What causes capacitors to swell? Gas is created when the conductive electrolyte within the capacitor decomposes, which happens with time or damage. Capacitors have a lifespan that can vary but is definite. The HVAC systems that house them can outlive them, meaning there naturally comes a time when a capacitor must be replaced. Swelling is a sign that the time has come, as any swollen capacitor has reached its end. You can tell that a capacitor is swollen when its shape has become altered, usually resembling a can of soda ......
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Guest — David Glenn
Donovan -- Great column and you have hit the nail on the head as it relates to some of the more common issues an HVAC tech might f... Read More
Friday, 26 October 2018 23:25
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"I Quit!" Sorta...

Over the years in this industry, many of us have experienced our share of letting people go, as well as having our employees, co-workers, and colleagues let us go in turn. I’d say the most evocative way of being let go is when a Manager/Supervisor is absent from the office and comes back to find a set of keys on his desk. Sometimes this is not unexpected, although sometimes, it completely blind sides you. First off, I’d say this person has quit with no written notice. But I’ve been told this is not necessarily true. I don’t know, but if I find keys left on the desk and the employee has clocked out and left the property, it would certainly give me pause for interpretation, wouldn’t it you? I find this most often happens in the maintenance department. Truth be told, just as in real estate, this is a Buyer’s Market – and it’s no different in property management for our skilled employees. I feel like the shortage of really capable, loyal, and hardworking skilled professionals is so heavy in the industry right now that a Tech can command his price pretty much anywhere in the United States. Does that mean that Managers and companies should sit back and accept whatever demands our onsite Maintenance Techs present? Don’t want to work weekends? Fine, we’ll delegate it to other Techs and hope they don’t complain. Don’t feel like the Manager has spent enough time during the day shooting the breeze with you? Fine, we’ll make su......
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Mary Gwyn
Mindy, you ask so many great questions! Very relevant! We shouldn't be so desperate for skilled team members that we retain empl... Read More
Monday, 08 October 2018 09:10
Brent Williams
I've never heard of a key mulligan - that's great!
Friday, 12 October 2018 09:38
Mindy Sharp
A key mulligan is a great one, hahaha!
Friday, 12 October 2018 20:21
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4 Ways To Use Maintenance Data During Multifamily Budget Season

  For multifamily managers, budget season typically is not the highlight of their annual calendar. Off-sites, bootcamps, late nights, endless spreadsheets, stacks of reports for filter through...ugh. A thorough, well-crafted budget often requires us to step outside of our comfort zone and deal with personnel issues and other things that personally impact people we work with/for. If this isn't challenging enough, the budget proposal is just the first step. It is most often followed by upper management/C-level/board review and in many cases, the dreaded word - CUTS. Wash, Rinse, Repeat until you get to something that works.  OK, enough of the monotony - so how can maintenance data help? Data collected within your maintenance operations can be a hidden gem when it comes to the overall condition or staffing of your property from a maintenance perspective. Here are four of our favorite areas to dig in:   1. Maintenance Categories/Tags   Most property management software tools do a very good job of enabling categorization of requests. Analyzing and sorting work-orders/service-requests by maintenance category (some systems refer to this as "tagging") can provide a treasure-trove of information during the budget process. Based on multifamily industry data, the average 300-unit property generates average of 150 resident service requests per month. Add another ~50 on top of that if your sites track make-ready activities or preventative maintenance. Over the course of a year, or even just 6-months, there is a lot of harvest-able information when budget-time rolls around. Export them into a spreadsheet ......
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Considering Deploying Smart-Tech In Your Apartments? Read This First...

Using Alexa to request apartment service  Everything is "Smart" these days. Smart....locks, speakers, thermostats, lights, TVs, register-vents, refrigerators, faucets, security systems, cameras....the list goes on! It seems there are plenty of options in the market for multifamily apartment operators to offer "smart" amenities. So should you start adding gadgets to your apartments in hopes of attracting new residents? For a short-term spike, maybe. But what happens next year when when Google, Amazon, Nest, Apple, Iris, etc. push out new models, features and functionality and all of a sudden your tech is more of a deterrent than an attraction? Do you throw out everything you bought last year and get the next new thing? The real question here is how do you get ahead, and stay ahead with tech in apartments. And, how to you get Residents to consider your brand "tech-forward"?  You might consider changing the lense of how you look at the problem. Said another way, how can your multifamily brand leverage consumer technology in a way that enables your Residents to have fast & easy digital access to apartment services from devices they already own. Things like:  leveraging SMS to communicate with residents (95% of all text messages are read by the recipient) enabling Residents to voice-create service requests using their SmartSpeaker mobile-enable your maintenance staff to speed up service-response-times and get better metrics on how your service teams are performing use chat-bots to auto-notify Residents when they have packages waiting for them at the office installing LTE-boosters to low-signal areas on your properties ......
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Brent Williams
Really like this, Jamie. Great post.
Friday, 31 August 2018 09:56
Melanie Colón
Excellent article Jamie! Technology is very powerful if done right. You brought up some great points!
Tuesday, 04 September 2018 17:09
Jamie Wohlschlegel
Thank you Melanie and Brett. This is a fascinating area to be sure!
Wednesday, 05 September 2018 09:55
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"Does your company require technicians to do HVAC work outside once it is dark out?"

Below is a video of some of my thoughts on "Does your company require technicians to do HVAC work outside once it is dark out?"

What is expected where you work?  



Recent Comments
Guest — John Peterson
Thanks Mark – that was excellent!
Saturday, 04 August 2018 11:25
Mark Cukro
Thank you! I appreciate it and hope this talk will help more technicians stay safe!
Sunday, 05 August 2018 18:55
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Anatomy of a Maintenance Training Program – Developing Maintenance Talent From Within

One of my favorite sessions of this year’s Apartmentalize Conference delved into one of the industry’s hottest topics – how to find great maintenance talent.  In that session, David Creek, Director Of Maintenance at Hayes Gibson Property Services, dug into not just finding talent, but also how to build up the talent you have.  Fortunately, David took some time with me to really delve into their approach and plan on tackling that issue! If I’m going to promote you, you are going to have to have the skills to train your replacement – David Creek   Creating “Maintenance Masters”, a Maintenance Training Program In creating their maintenance training program, David and his team first wanted to understand two things:  1) They wanted to understand what type of skill gaps their team members were struggling with, and 2) They wanted to identify those already on their teams who excelled in different areas of apartment maintenance.  Those advanced team members would then be the first to help train future “generations” of maintenance team members.  Therefore, it wasn’t focused completely on a top-down training approach, but rather peer to peer training, leveraging existing knowledge and skills of their team members.  In that same vein, David noted this approach, where maintenance team members were trained by their peers, was actually preferred by maintenance learners, rather than being trained by upper management. To start the program off, they decided that electrical was the first key area to be addressed, as it overlapped with several other key areas of maintenanc......
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Rommel Anacan
Love this program! Thanks for the article Brent!
Wednesday, 25 July 2018 09:39
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Maintenance Tracking Via Mobile Devices Continues to Surge

A continuing trend over the past 12 months is the adoption of mobile devices when tracking service requests, as shown in our most Maintenance Strategies Research Report (download for free here).  24 months ago, 33% of responders within our maintenance strategies research reported using mobile devices to track service requests, but in 2018, that number has increased to 47%, and we do not see that trend subsiding anytime soon. 

On a related note, we also asked professionals how they accepted service requests at their properties.  Phone calls remained the most common method of receiving service requests, but what was interesting was the rise of text message based service requests, which grew to 33% of companies responding. 

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