Day-to-Day Facility Maintenance for the Self-Storage Manager
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By: Donna May
Posted on: 06/18/2009



 

Self-storage managers have an all-encompassing job. Not many industries require that a single employee be adept in marketing, sales, rental contracts, several aspects of law, business practices, accounting, collections, customer service, computers and maintenance. When juggling what is urgent vs. what is important, it’s easy to let maintenance items slip to the wayside. There are some simple ways to prevent that from happening. 

Deciding on the most productive routine for your facility starts with a list of tasks to be accomplished, and how often each task needs to be executed. Self-storage facilities have an ebb and flow in their workload. Organizing your maintenance tasks to fit your unique work pattern helps ensure you have time do everything.

Collections and move-outs tend to hover around the beginning of the month, so that would not be a good time for lengthy maintenance or repair. But incorporating certain tasks into the move-out process will ensure the ongoing maintenance of units as they turn over in the rental cycle.

Creating a Program

The first step in planning a maintenance program is to determine all the necessary tasks. Some are common to every facility, but each location will have environmental and design factors that influence its maintenance routine. To begin, divide the facility into separate areas of attention. Common areas/items include: 

  • Units and doors
  • Interior hallways
  • Pest control
  • Drives and parking
  • Security equipment
  • Dumpsters
  • Roof and trim
  • Intercoms and amenities
  • Landscaping
  • Fencing
  • Entry gates

Include additional items that are unique to your facility such as detention ponds, refrigeration units for specialty storage, etc. Once your categories are established, list each item in that category that requires consideration. For example, storage units are pretty simple; there are make-ready tasks to ensure a unit is in good condition and ready to rent, and routine maintenance for the exterior. Make-ready and aesthetic items would have two different time frames:

Task

Frequency

Wipe down interior walls and door.

At move out

Sweep out debris.

At move out

Lubricate roll-up door mechanism (if required).

At move out

Make sure door stops are in the proper position.

At move out

Ensure door glides easily.

At move out

Inspect door side channels.

At move out

Lubricate and clean the door sweep.

At move out

Apply protective coating for locking mechanisms.

At move out

Check sturdiness of panel attachments.

At move out

Check insulation for tears, seam splits.

At move out

Apply pest-control measures.

At move out

Clean doors of interior (climate-controlled) units.

Quarterly

Clean doors of exterior units.

Annually

The “at move out” items can then become part of the move-out routine. A checklist of tasks with the date completed can be added to the unit file. This provides a quick reference if you need to check the maintenance history.

Preventing Future Problems

In addition to tenant-based maintenance, consider adding other items to your existing routine. Adding a few minutes to your daily lock check can prevent potential problems from becoming actual ones. For example, when checking interior units, examine items such as exit-sign lighting, locks on mechanical rooms, thermostat controls, fire extinguishers and intercom operation.

When checking exterior units, inspect the gate track and keypad, the dumpster area, fence lines and bollard condition. Pick up any debris. As you drive or walk from unit to unit, look at drives for signs of wear and tear or vegetation coming up through the asphalt. Carry weed killer with you and use it at the first sign of interloping greenery. Keep a check list for your golf cart with the last time tire pressure and battery water levels were checked (weekly), and when fittings were last lubricated. Make it a habit to glance at your list when you get out the golf cart in the morning.

Some things are best tracked on a calendar. For example, adding algaecide to HVAC units, replacing air fresheners, inspecting gate wheels or any items that have longer intervals between inspections. Traditional or erasable calendars are fine, or try computer calendars in programs like Outlook, which let you set up recurring tasks and will automatically generate reminders.

If you’re just not a calendar person, find another way that will work for you. Try to associate the tasks on your list with other things that reoccur at appropriate intervals. Add algaecide every time you get an electrical bill, for example, or check the wheels on the gate the same day each month when locking out late-paying customers. Do a complete roof examination each time the clocks have to be set forward or backward, and check gutter and downspout attachments at the same time.

How you set up your schedule can be as personal as you need it to be; the essential thing is that there is a schedule and every item on the maintenance list is part of the routine. If you wait until you can see dirt on your floors before you mop them, then your tenants have seen it too. Prevention is the key.

It’s human nature to start out with enthusiasm, but as time goes by, interest wanes and diligence along with it. Facility maintenance is a dynamic issue, changing with weather, age and use. The list and schedule should be re-examined at least semi-annually, and definitely any time a new manager joins the team.

Managers guard the value of their facilities by keeping them properly maintained. With all of the other tasks they perform, integrating maintenance into the work flow is the safest bet to ensure there aren’t daisies peaking through the asphalt.

Donna May is president of Cross Metal Buildings, a Parham Group Co., and has been in the self-storage industry for 12 years. She is an instructor of Learn Self Storage, the past president of Joshua Management and a real estate broker. She has also been a partner in several startup self-storage projects. For information, call 210.477.4450; e-mail donna@crossmb.com; visit www.crossmb.com.

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