Managing a multi-unit water loss event is no easy task often paralleled in difficulty by trade negotiations between countries, finding a parking spot downtown when there’s an event at the Blaisdell, or trying to get your two year old to accept the fact that it is bedtime. Even for those of us who operate in this world every day these events are always dynamic. Ask any resident or building manager about their last event and they’ll rattle off a long list of administrative tasks that kept them up at night. 

The complexity usually is compounded by the sheer volume of interested parties. Below is a quick outline of how you can have up to 15 interested parties on a simple water loss affecting three units. 

1) Building Management - 2 parties - usually a combination of someone who manages things from site level and someone who manages things from an administrative level. 

2) Building Insurance - 2 parties - usually the agent who sold the policy and the adjuster who is servicing the policy once a claim has been made 

3) Unit 3xx - 2 parties - this unit is owner occupied. The unit owner and their insurance adjuster. 

4) Unit 2xx - 5 parties - this unit is a long term rental. You’ll have the unit owner, their insurance adjuster plus the tenant and possibly their adjuster if they have a renter’s insurance policy. If the unit is not self-managed, you’ll likely have a property manager who oversees the unit on behalf of the owner. 

5) Unit 1xx - 4 parties - this unit is a short term rental.  You’ll have the unit owner, their insurance adjuster plus whomever is occupying the unit at the time and the company who is managing the short-term rental. 

Over the past two years, we’ve challenged ourselves to determine if there’s anything we can do to assist our building managers and their occupants in working through the process. Frankly, getting the building dry is the easy part when compared to managing the expectations of all of the parties involved. This lead to the development of an internal program that we activate whenever we run into this level of complexity. This program provides an organizational structure that can be a lifesaver during a complicated time and can be broken down to the following basic steps: 

A) On-Site staffing in the lobby - usually just for the first 3-14 days of the event, depending on the level of severity and the number of units affected. I always recommend that this person be a fresh face, someone who is new to the building. This person can be associated with this event and become the point of contact for unit owners and occupants. This individual’s sole responsibility is to answer questions about the process, coordinate contractor access and secure information from the unit occupants about the parties involved on their side. 

B) A Shared Folder - Usually digital but not always, and accessible to the building and their adjuster. Something as simple as a file hosting service like with a folder labeled with each unit number that was affected is a good place to start. As the on-site staff begin to collect information, it’s important that it all has a place to go. 

C) A Master Document for Contacts – Again, broken out by unit number with the following fields to be filled in. It’s important this document has as many blanks as possible, prompting whomever is managing it to ask the right questions.  For each contact you should attempt to grab Name, Company (if applicable), phone and email address. 

    • Unit owner
    • Unit insurance adjuster
    • Status (owner occupied, rental, etc.)
    • Access Information (how do we get in?)
    • Site Info (there’s an angry dog, Unit owner is hard of hearing so knock really loud, etc)
    • Tenant 
    • Tenant’s insurance
    • Property manager (If short or long term rental)

D) A Town Hall Meeting - for larger events we always recommend having a meeting once mitigation services are complete. This will allow building management to have the “what’s next?” conversation only once with all the affected unit owners. It also allows a venue for questions to be asked and answered. A lack of follow up communication is one of the greatest challenges. This is a great way to avoid that. 

With these types of multi-unit events, it’s never a question of if they will occur, it’s more a question of when the next one will occur.  Taking these steps will go a long way to finding success during a water damage event.

This article is written by our Senior VP of Operations, Anthony Nelson and ran in the October 2019 Issue of Building Management Hawaiii Magazine.