Problems await the landlord who delays maintenance or employs cheap contractors, say Indawo spokesman
The tight conditions now being experienced by property owners - including many who own multi-million rand buildings - have resulted in “a fairly large percentage” delaying or even totally neglecting the maintenance of their properties. So says Graham Hartle, Sales and Marketing Manager of Indawo, one of Cape Town’s largest painting, refurbishment, waterproofing and asbestos removal companies.

The tough conditions, adds Hartle, have also seen a proliferation of unreliable, untrained, fly-by-night contractors handling maintenance work. Some of these, he says, have had absolutely no previous experience in this field.

Confirming these statements, Peter Jack, MD of Indawo, said that it is very unwise to defer maintenance work on any building.

“In general,” he said, “the costs of this sort of work almost double every five years - but if a building is left unrepaired, even for a year or two beyond the accepted maintenance period, the costs will often rise exponentially and be far higher than if it had been maintained regularly. Delays on this type of work can be absolutely disastrous.”

This, he adds, applies particularly to waterproofing systems. When these fail the entire structure can be damaged, lose its value and become unsafe.

Fly-by-night operators in the maintenance sector, said Hartle, tend in these difficult times to quote exceptionally low so as to get the job and then to ask for anything up to a 50% deposit upfront in order to get started. All too often they “disappear” at some stage in the contract, sometimes after extracting further payments.

Often, he adds, the client is at least partially to blame for these situations because at the outset he looks only at the bottom line of the quote and not at the specifications, which can be ambiguous or inadequate. When later the client finds that the contractor does not feel obliged to do certain work, he often finds that this was not in fact on the spec.

A good contractor, says Jack, will present his clients with detailed specifications of all the work to be done and materials used and will sometimes offer options between expensive and less expensive materials. In most cases he will not ask for an upfront payment and will only bill clients when a specified amount of work has been completed. He will also often be able to stagger the payments over a six month or longer period, sometimes helping the client to arrange finance for big jobs.

In addition to all this, says Hartle, good contractors will always train his workforce on an ongoing basis.

“Training is what separates the professionals from the amateurs. All too often the bakkie brigade will employ men who have very little experience.”

An exceptionally important part of a good contractor’s modus operandum, says Hartle, is an efficient after sales service. In Indawo’s case the provision of this service, the regular returns to contracts to sort out snags and difficulties, has done more than anything else to consolidate their reputation with clients.

Should a landlord find himself so cash strapped that he cannot pay in full for his maintenance, it is almost always cheaper to borrow the money rather than to delay repairs, says Jack.

Indawo is currently involved with some 30 contracts, mostly in the Greater Cape Town area, but some as far afield as Southern Cape and the Free State. These are all priced from R40,000 to R10 million.

“The good news,” said Hartle, “is that the corporates are continuing to maintain their buildings well, thereby adding value to them. The bad news, as we have indicated, is that some clients are now neglecting this essential work.”

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