Whether we are talking about office, retail, or multifamily, property management is a complex and hazardous business, particularly for an environment that is rapidly changing in regards to both property offers and tenant demands, but also in terms of maintenance, and staying one step ahead of trouble. The flexibility and speediness with which the market changes have made it difficult for property managers to hold on to tenants, but also to put themselves out of harm’s way when it comes to property damages resulting in fires, explosions, or floods emerging from various issues, among them poorly developed maintenance plans.
If fiction has accustomed us with stories such as shopping malls being invaded by aliens or being the ideal location in which madmen trap and terrorize people in the dead of night, in real life horrifying property management stories are oftentimes related to or emerging from poor communication, tenants not instructing the property manager about a building issue in time, maintenance being put off, or financial distress raging from unpaid rent or issues with bank loans to money tied up in governmental procedures leading to cutting expenses.
From office to multifamily, here are 6 horrifying property management stories that will make you think twice before leaving an aspect of your property management business unattended.
Building Collapsing due to Gas Leak in Harlem, New York
In 2014, a gas leak followed by a massive explosion caused the collapsing of New York apartment building, injuring more than 60 people and causing damages to other buildings in the vicinity. A call was made from someone in a neighboring apartment, alerting the authorities of gas smell in the area 15 minutes prior to the explosion. The tragedy affected residents and people in the area, leaving families without a home, but also serving as a reminder of the 9/11 attacks, as clouds of dust invaded the streets.
In order to avoid such situations, all property managers must make it their priority to provide regular maintenance at the buildings they are in charge of, rather than expect for a claim to be registered, but also utilize smart solutions for mass communications with tenants in times of need.
Trump Tower Fire
On April 2018, an apartment on the 50th floor of the Trump Tower building in New York caught fire, an incident which resulted in the death of one person and the injuring of six firefighters. According to firefighters’ reports, the fire was not easy to put out, as the residential upper floors are not equipped with sprinklers, since they were not a requirement when the tower was built back in 1983. And since new regulatory updates only require commercial buildings to update their structures in order to accommodate new regulations, improvements were not made to the residential floors. Also, residents of the building declared for the press that they did not receive property management notifications for evacuation, with some of them finding out about the fire as it was occurring, from their televisions, having no option to evacuate at that point.
Having a proper tenant communications solution in place is mandatory for all property management businesses, both residential and commercial, but also staying up-to-date with new fire codes, and implementing safety measures, even if the legislation does not make it mandatory.
Miami Beach Office Building Collapsing Unexpectedly During Demolition
When it comes to scheduled demolitions, the collapsing of a building is the expected outcome. Yet there are cases in which a poorly planned demolition may lead to an unanticipated collapse and even result in casualties, which is what happened with a Miami Beach 12-story building during a demolition gone wrong, resulted in one person being injured by a projectile from the building’s collapse. Witnesses believed that the operation was inadequately planned, as workers removed large sections of the structural walls prior to the demolition.
In case of scheduled demolitions, make sure you are following all construction codes and regulations, that the team performing the operation is made of professionals, and also that you have solutions in place in case an incident occurs.
River Edge Shopping Mall Collapse
In the summer of 2018, a façade of a shopping mall in New Jersey collapsed and trapped customers and workers inside, and crushed a few cars in the parking lot. Following the incident at the shopping mall and the damages to the building, businesses had a hard time in recovering and getting back on their feet, with owners declaring that it was difficult for them to get responses from their property manager and were unaware of when they could resume their activity. This New Jersey incident draws to the surface the problems that may arise when a commercial building is under duress and communicating it to their tenants due to a structural damage or any other issues that might lead to a disturbance of activities.
Mold Situation in Rhode Island Residential Building
If in the case of immediate disasters such as fires, floods, explosions, or collapses the situation can be assessed rapidly, in the case of other property damages, such as the presence of mold in residential or commercial buildings which can only be prevented or taken care of with due diligence if maintenance services are conducted recurrently. In the case of an apartment building in Rhode Island, belonging to a New Hampshire developer, a mold situation escalated and ended up in court as tenants accused property management of ignoring their complaints. As time passed and the mold spread, more and more tenants started to experience health problems. Although the property management has denied the allegations, the plaintiffs’ lawyers declared that they have 60 cases against the developer.
Conducting regular checkups and maintenance services of the buildings you are managing and keeping a comprehensive database of all those operations is mandatory for preventing, but also dealing with situations like these, if they were to occur.
2013 Philadelphia Building Collapse
On June 2013, a vacant building undergoing demolition collapsed into a Salvation Army thrift store, resulting in the death of six people and the injuring and trapping under debris of dozen others. The police described the collapse of the building as being an industrial accident. The construction contractor and excavator operator were charged with involuntary manslaughter, and later sent to prison. After the tragedy, the case got more and more complicated in court, with emails exchanged between the property manager and the architect being used as evidence in court. There were also emails between the Salvation Army and the property management of the collapsed building, which were published by The Philadelphia Inquirer in regards to concerns about the demolition continuing despite worries about possible danger.
To avoid becoming a horrifying story of property management gone wrong, whether you are drafting a prevention strategy for your property management business, updating an existing one, or implementing a strategy in case of a crisis situation, always put an emphasis on your communication solutions, keep a thorough database of everything, and make sure to be in compliance with rules and regulations, but also perform regular maintenance on all your buildings.