Siobhan O’ Dwyer of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, offered some very practical advice in last Friday’s Irish Independent as to how Owner Management Companies (OMC) of apartment dwellings can seek to reduce the costs of the annual service charge.
In her article, Siobhan reflects on some of the significant costs that make up the service charge, including insurance, electricity, waste and landscaping and provides suggestions for cost savings. She also acknowledge’s aspects of the service charge, in which frequency and quality of service must not be compromised including, fire safety and reiterates the importance of appropriate service contracts and regular inspections . We could not agree more!.
There is however, no mention as to how such service contract costs could be better managed… so we thought we would offer some tips of our own.
The servicing and maintenance of the Fire Detection & Alarm System can represent a considerable portion of the annual service charge. Here’s some food for thought….
1. Type of Contract
Most fire detection & alarm system providers can and will offer two options when it comes to a service contract – a basic standard contract and an all inclusive package.
The standard contract will normally comprise of the 4 routine service visits as required by IS3218:2009 with all other extra’s invoiceable. If you opt for this option, be sure to agree prices for spare parts and call outs for the duration of the contract as well as charges for out of hours and non routine works.
The all inclusive package as the name suggests will normally allow for the routine service visits, spare parts, call outs etc and generally speaking providers will arrive at this cost based on the history of the site together with a contingency fee. This advantage of this option is that it provides a flat fee for the contracted period. However, you risk that you may not get the full value.
Deciding on which option to choose is very much site specific and will depend on a number of factors including level of false alarms due to accidental or malacious damage and availability of a caretaker or responsible person on site amongst others.
2. Monitor Costs
There’s a saying that goes “You can only manage what you monitor” and how true it is. You should monitor your service provider costs and review/discuss annually to ensure the contract type still suits your needs. Make sure all alarm activations are recorded in the fire alarm logbook and consider also the nature of any call out related charges. Could these be better managed ? for e.g. an upgrade plan for an old system experiencing a high volume of false alarms may reduce costs significantly in the long term.
3. Monitor Procedures
Procedures will of course be site specific in terms of who should be contacted in the event of an alarm activation i.e. the managing agent, caretaker , service provider etc and whom authorises call outs and non routine works. We recommend this is limited to 1 -2 persons so as to avoid any unnecessary charges.
Responsility for gaining access to individual apartments for both routine and non routine works should also be contained in the service contract and a effective procedure put in place so as to reduce the need for return visits and subsequently additional charges by your provider .
Whereby a full time care taker or responsible person is available on site, you should ensure that adequate training is provided on the fire alarm system. The ability of such person to respond and resolve minor issues such as “removed detectors” or broken “break glass” could signigicantly reduce the service contract outlay. In addition, we recommend that such persons hold a small amount of spare parts on site, further reducing the need for your service provider to call out.
We hope you found these tips useful. As always we would love to hear your comments or questions.
If you missed Siobhan’s article and would like to read it, please click here!
Author: Brendan Stamp Tech IEI, IS3218:2009 and 291:2001 Qualified
Managing Director, Guardian Fire & Security