This morning when I opened my email, I had received an update from the Washington Multi Family Housing Association's Government Affairs Committee. (Boy, that's a lot to capitalize...) It talked about a lot of the new bills that they had been either lobbying against or for and gave the information about all of them. There were some pretty interesting ones in there, but the one that caught my eye was this:
"SB 5561: CARBON MONOXIDE. This new lawdirects the state building code council to adopt regulations regarding carbon monoxide detectors and require them in new construction beginning no later than January 1, 2011 and in all existing residential buildings no later than January 1, 2013. WMFHA plans to work with the state building code council as they adopt regulations to allow for some reasonable exemptions for multi-family housing."
So carbon monoxide detectors go standard. My initial reaction to this is, "Awesome!" because I'm a renter and I've thought for a long time they should be standard. But, then the property management brain kicks on and I think about how much it's going to freaking cost to get every unit in a portfolio up to this new code. And I cringe. I cringe a lot. In this bi-polar economy, where our budgets are already cooko-bananas, this could end up having a greater impact than intended, and I don't know about you, but I have NO IDEA when this economy is going to sort itself out.
But, I've always said that the real skill of a true property management professional is like putting batteries in to electronics- The ability to remember that the negative always needs to meet the positive! While I see a costly chunk from our bottom line, I also see some great things to be gained here. What if, instead of just offering that usual carpet cleaning for your renewals, you added an offer to install a new CM detector with their renewal? The cost could come out of your renewals/unit turn budget bit by bit, instead of taking one big monster hit below the belt. In price searching, I've seen them as low as $12.99 and as high as $60.00 each. If you're buying in bulk for 150 apartments, I'd think that price could get reduced per unit. It's also a move that says "WE CARE" about our residents, and even in combo with the carpet cleaning, you're still spending less than the cost of a turn, which puts you ahead.
If you figure that 8 to 15 percent of your property is going to come up for renewal in any given month (some more, some less) it will take you about a year to get the thing up to the new code. Even if you don't look at implementing the plan until mid 2011, that still gives you enough time to catch everyone and a few here and there that you might have some how missed. Plus, the earlier you start the implementation of the project, the less it will look like you're doing it just because of the law, making it a resident retention selling point.
For those of you not in the state of WA, you also might want to consider adding a CM detector to your renewal gift. It says you care about your residents, and it's one of those little things that can go a long way. It would be an especially appreciated gesture coming in to next Fall, when people start breaking out those space heaters!