The largest residential property management company in NYC uses “Vital Service” SiteCompli to save clients time and money on compliance.
As the largest residential property management company in New York City, FirstService Residential faces a host of challenges: employing a top-notch workforce, maintaining its buildings to the highest standards, and managing the finances of buildings containing over 70,000 residences. On top of all the demands from their clients – co-op boards and owners of some of the finest residential properties in the city – there is a constant and ever-increasing demand from the City agencies to comply with a wide range of codes and regulations. As the complexity and level of enforcement of these regulations has increased tremendously over the past decade, the traditional pen-and-paper approach – or even spreadsheet-and-Outlook approach – left FirstService Residential with countless hours of administrative work and vulnerable to costly fines and penalties as a result of the inherent administrative delays and data reliability issues of dealing with the City.
While FirstService Residential had employed technological solutions to many problems across its operations with great success, compliance remained a stubborn challenge. Small infractions would inevitably occur at a building – one blown light bulb in an elevator, or a plastic bag mixed in with the paper recycling – and the information related to that violation would often not reach the right people. The different City agencies maintain their own compliance records, but their systems are in every case inadequate for sophisticated property managers. Some agencies, like the Department of Buildings, do have websites for accessing information on an individual property, but it can be cumbersome to navigate, and provides no means to aggregate data on the more than 500 properties in FirstService Residential’s purview. At the other end of the spectrum, the Fire Department only makes compliance records available at its headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn, and the Environmental Control Board’s online database is only useful if you already know the details of an upcoming hearing.
In 2011, FirstService Residential invested in a technological solution to bring its compliance operations to a new level of efficiency and effectiveness. The company subscribed to the compliance monitoring service of SiteCompli, a fast-growing technology company that has been disrupting the NYC real estate technology industry business since its inception in 2008. The company’s software automatically and continuously aggregates data from multiple city agencies and proactively notifies everyone from the building super to top executives of relevant, customized compliance information.
Each of FirstService Residential’s 500+ buildings under management is custom configured to reflect staff members’ responsibilities: compliance specialists have oversight over the entire portfolio; executives see high-level information and receive regular reports on their buildings’ performance; property managers and building staff stay informed of every day-to-day issue that arises; and the company’s attorneys are notified of administrative court hearings.
As the most kinetic parts of a building system, elevators are subject to intense scrutiny and large penalties from the Department of Buildings. FirstService Residential is responsible for over 1,200 elevators across its portfolio, each of which is inspected by the DOB and its private contractors throughout the year, and requires thorough tests on one-year and five-year cycles. The penalties for missing one of these tests can be up to $5,000 for each elevator, so the total annual exposure is in the millions of dollars. Scheduling and performing these tests for all of its buildings is no simple task; however, before SiteCompli, the additional task of effectively tracking whether the DOB had actually processed the filings was virtually impossible. With SiteCompli, executives and managers are kept informed every step in the process and can instantly generate reports to highlight noncompliant elevators.
Among all of the “black boxes” of NYC’s regulatory agencies, the Fire Department is often the hardest to unlock. Their lack of an online database makes data related to key building systems just out of reach. Like many managers across the city, FirstService Residential was spending too much energy simply uncovering what compliance issues existed rather than solving problems. SiteCompli has brought this hard-to-find data to FirstService Residential’s fingertips, allowing their managers and engineers to spend more time maintaining their buildings and less time trekking to the FDNY headquarters to determine the details of various violations. In the six months since SiteCompli started bringing FDNY compliance data to FirstService Residential, the company has successfully closed over 60 violations.
The vast majority of violations written by the city agencies – including the Departments of Sanitation, Health, and Environmental Protection – are now adjudicated by the Environmental Control Board. Missed hearings result in defaults, and consequently a maximum penalty is imposed, often over five times the face value of the original ticket. SiteCompli now delivers ongoing updates of upcoming hearings, and in the nine months since this data was first added to SiteCompli, the total number of defaults, as well as the associated fines, have each been reduced by over 45% compared to the previous nine months.
SiteCompli is a vital service to the daily operations of our properties and we utilize it across our entire portfolio with great success. SiteCompli notifies our managers of important matters that the city would otherwise take days or weeks to let us know about. With SiteCompli, we are able to resolve complaints and violations earlier, renew permits in a timely manner, and track the status of annual inspections on a daily basis. Ultimately this allows us to focus on the most critical issues for our clients while saving them time and more importantly, money.