Tom Soter in Building Operations
Maria Palumbo was getting an earful. The shareholders at Carmil Apartments, a 100-unit, two-building co-op in Kew Gardens, Queens, were unhappy with management, and they wanted Palumbo and her six fellow board members to do something about it.
“I was getting a lot of people mentioning that the manager was not responsive,” Palumbo says. “Then you’d go to the management company and they would say, ‘We never got any request.’”
It’s a classic “he said/she said” scenario – and the flipside of boards that micro-manage their property managers. The scenario was familiar to Adam Franzone, who encountered members of Palumbo’s board at a trade show last year. “I'm a board member of a co-op myself,” says Franzone, “and for many years, I used to listen to residents complain to me that they had called or emailed the manager with a problem and it didn't get resolved. I would bring up these complaints at board meetings and sometimes the property manager would say, ‘I never got the message,’ or, ‘I addressed this but they never got back to me.’ There were a lot of different scenarios for how things fell through the cracks.”
To prevent such problems, more co-op boards are sending out elaborate requests for proposals, or RFPs, when hiring a management company. But maybe it’s simpler than that, Franzone decided. Maybe what the world needed was a shorter leash for property managers.
Franzone responded by creating a software system called Property Management Tracker (PMT). “Whenever residents have a problem or an issue, instead of going to management, their call comes to us,” he says. “We provide them with a ticket/tracking number. The property manager must then respond to the issue through the system so that every step of the way, it is tracked.”
“It creates a certain efficiency,” admits Daniel Benedict, the president of BRG Management, the manager of Carmil Apartments. “Boards can track it, and there’s a certain accountability on everybody’s part – managers, employees, residents. Someone says, ‘I called you 10 times and you didn’t respond.’ And we go into the system and we [can say], ‘No, you did not. You only called us last night at 7 P.M.’”
How does PMT compare with other systems on the market? BuildingLink, for instance, allows users to submit maintenance requests for repairs and to communicate with management, and it offers a range of other options, such as posting visitor or contractor permission-to-enter instructions and checking on the status of dry-cleaning deliveries. “BuildingLink is more of a messaging system,” Benedict says. “This [PMT] is more of a tracking system.”
Franzone adds that PMT, at $1 per unit per month, is less expensive than BuildingLink, and it has more user-friendly options for computer novices. “Some people don't want to use a computer,” he says. “They want to speak to a person on the phone. We have live phone support. People can call in with their problem if they want to. With this system, [property managers] must respond. Everything is under the microscope."
The Carmil Apartments board signed up with PMT in November 2016. Palumbo reports that the shareholders are pleased. “You can see the back-and-forth, and you see every time there's an update – the management company goes in and updates,” she says. “It really seems to be a pretty good system for keeping track. This just makes everyone more accountable.”
Co-op and condo board business broken down into bite-sized bits - 2 stories each week. Read now on all digital devices.