Follow Six Tips When Painting at Your Site
As a tax credit owner or manager, you must stay on top of your site’s painting needs. The tax credit law requires sites to be suitable for occupancy and free from health, safety, and building code violations. If your state utilizes HUD’s uniform physical condition standards for your site’s inspections, state housing agency or REAC inspectors may look at the condition of paint on almost every surface at your site.
You can get hit with inspection violations for peeling, cracking, deteriorated, or stained paint on the doors, walls, windows, ceilings, floors, and trim of your site. Also, your city or state may have specific painting requirements that you must follow.
But you may have a tough time juggling your need to meet HUD’s standards and local painting requirements with your need to keep painting costs from spiraling out of control. Here are six tips that will save you money.
Tip #1: Paint at Regular Intervals
It’s important not to wait until a painted surface starts to peel or deteriorate to repaint. If you don’t take steps to keep painted surfaces in good condition, small problems can quickly become worse—and more expensive. Instead, determine how often you must paint different surfaces at your site to keep them in good condition and paint them at these regular intervals. Another benefit of painting at regular intervals is that advance planning makes budgeting and allocating staff easier.
How often to paint. UPCS inspection standards don’t say how often you must paint at your site. So to determine the frequency, first check whether your city or state has any specific requirements, says Paul Crosby, a director of maintenance with Gene B. Glick Company, Inc. For instance, New York City requires building owners to repaint all walls and ceilings of units every three years—regardless of paint condition—and to repaint walls and ceilings of common areas whenever necessary to keep those surfaces sanitary.
If your city or state doesn’t require you to paint at certain intervals, check with your state housing agency, recommends Crosby. It may require or recommend that you paint at certain intervals, he says.
If your state housing agency has no painting requirements, paint often enough to avoid inspection problems without taxing your site’s staff or budget. How often to paint depends on a number of factors, including the amount of sun your site gets, and the temperature, humidity, and other weather conditions of the region.
Keep in mind, though, that inspectors look at the condition of the paint at the time of the inspection, not at how often you paint—and it’s no excuse to an inspection violation that you’ve painted a surface recently. So it’s important, between paint jobs, to keep an eye on the condition of painted surfaces during your regular maintenance inspections of units. And if a resident complains about peeling paint, don’t wait until the next scheduled painting to do something about it, even if you just painted the unit.
Tip #2: Limit Color Options
Don’t make it harder on yourself by using or offering a palette of colors. Residents don’t have the right to dictate the type or color of paint you use. Keep your color options for your site to a couple of light colors at most. That way, you can save money by buying paint in bulk and won’t have to keep a lot of colors around for touch-up.
Tip #3: Use Washable Paint
Using washable paint can extend the life of a paint job because washing off common household stains, like fingerprints, grease, and dirt, is easier. Washable paint is especially important in the kitchen and bathroom. And you should use it in common areas if you have high traffic or problems with graffiti.
Tip #4: Control Costs if Using Outside Painting Contractor
You may decide to use an outside contractor instead of your maintenance staff to paint your site, especially if you have a large site with many units and/or frequent turnover. But using an outside contractor can be costly. Here are two suggestions to keep the painting costs down if you use an outside contractor.
Don’t let the contractor supply the paint. Most painting contractors charge you a fixed price for the painting itself, but charge extra for any materials they use, including the paint. So you’re better off buying the paint yourself. As noted above, you can make cost-saving bulk purchases and have the paint available to prevent delays in starting the job. And you’ll have control over how much of the paint is used.
When a contractor supplies the paint, you can never be sure it’s using all the paint it charged you for to paint your tax credit site. Some unscrupulous contractors may charge you for more paint than they need and use the extra at a different paint job—and charge that customer for the same paint. Finally, you’ll know you’re getting the paint quality you want if you buy it yourself.
Don’t agree to a “time and materials” paint job. Don’t ever agree to a “time and materials” paint job, where the contractor charges you at the end of the job for all the time it spent on the job and the materials it bought to do the job. With time and materials jobs, the bill will always be higher than an agreed-upon fixed price. There are too many variables involved, such as last-minute sanding time or hard-to-scrape surfaces. With a fixed price, the contractor must complete the job at the agreed-upon price, despite any glitches that make the job longer or more complicated than expected. And you won’t have to supervise the contractors as closely to make sure they’re not slacking off.
Tip #5: Don’t Paint More than Three Buildings at One Time
If you’re planning to paint several buildings at your tax credit site, work on no more than three buildings at one time. Trying to paint more than three buildings at once could cause problems that may increase your painting costs. First, there may be a long lapse between the time a building is pressure washed and the time it’s actually painted if you pressure-wash the walls of all the other buildings before you paint the first one. And if the walls get dirty again, you’ll have to rewash them or risk an inferior paint job.
Second, a paint job that takes too long may draw complaints from residents. Most residents prefer to have their units or their section of the site painted in a few days. If you tackle the whole site at once, instead of concentrating on a few buildings at one time, the process could take weeks or months. Also, limiting the job to three buildings at a time will make it easier for you to supervise staff or contractors.
Tip #6: Don’t Let Residents Paint Their Own Units
If residents ask to paint their own units, don’t let them. Letting residents paint their units can cost you considerable time and money if the job is done poorly or in bad taste. For instance, if a resident uses objectionable colors, you could end up having to use extra coats of paint to cover his disaster after he moves out. Worse, if a resident uses a textured paint, like stucco or sand, you won’t be able to restore the surface without time-consuming and expensive plastering or drywalling.
Your tax credit lease may already have a clause that says residents can’t paint their units without your permission. If it doesn’t, talk with your attorney about adding such a clause to your lease.
It’s important to note that if your site was built before 1978 and hasn’t been found to be lead-free, you must comply with the various federal lead-based paint requirements. Most simple painting jobs shouldn’t trigger the law’s requirements. But if the painting job involves removing or disturbing existing lead-based paint, you’ll need to take certain steps, including giving notice to residents and following proper paint removal and cleanup procedures. Consult your attorney for more specific details on these requirements.
Paul Crosby: Regional Maintenance Director, Gene B. Glick Co., Inc., PO Box 40177, 8330 Woodfield Crossing Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46240; www.glickco.com.