Reducing Failed Permit Inspections for Property Management Companies
How one company in Texas turned to a cloud-based solution to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
- A software solution to a paper problem.
- We never get fined now.
When Kim Grogan started working as Director of Operations at Univesco, Inc., she discovered the residential property management company struggled to keep their documents updated and consistent.
Based in Plano, TX, Univesco manages 21 apartment communities in Texas and Florida and needs to regularly track high-liability policies, procedures, and property management permits and inspections.
Unlike other apartment complex management companies, Univesco handles the management of their scattered properties rather than hiring a third-party company.
While duties vary depending on the location, the apartment managers typically oversee the landscaping upkeep, arrange building maintenance and repairs, issue permits, and ensure the building complies with all legal regulations and laws. Grogan describes each of Univesco’s communities as, “little cities with property managers serving in a mayor-like role.”
With 250 employees spread out over multiple, dispersed locations, Univesco grappled with operational consistency regarding their inspections and permits.
One problem? They kept their policies and other vital documents in physical binders, printed on paper, with some documents not updated in the last five years. Plus, they relied on manual processes for updating crucial content, which means things often fell through the cracks.
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To make matters worse, Grogan and the management team were unsure if employees were reviewing or even receiving these key documents. They needed a way to update policies and procedures, communicate them to employees, and track accountability – all difficult to do using a paper-based system across a dispersed workforce.
Another problem? Univesco faced a high-turnover rate among apartment managers. Grogan estimates they were onboarding a new property manager every six months, making it difficult to track specific permit documents from one manager to the next.
“The managers each had their own system and method for tracking permits, and when they left, so too did their knowledge of where the permits were and which ones were expired,” explains Grogan. “We started getting fined for not having the right documentation.”
For example, during a boiler inspection, if the property management permits couldn’t be produced upon inspector request or if the documents were out-of-date, Univesco would be fined $100. Across 21 complexes and multiple different inspections each year, these inspection fines began to add up fast.
A Software Solution to a Paper Problem
The antiquated paper system seemed highly inefficient, especially when managing multiple locations. Grogan knew there had to be a better way.
She began her quest for an answer, researching a variety of options that would meet Univesco’s unique needs. Her goal? To provide consistency across all properties and from one manager to the next, with the ability to track when employees have read and acknowledged a policy.
Plus, she wanted to house the high-value content – especially inspection documents and property management permits – and give them a central, searchable location. This would give property managers instant access to the paperwork they needed.
Enter PowerDMS – a cloud-based document-management solution that condenses cabinets full of paper into a single, searchable online source. This powerful software automatically disseminates, collects signatures on, and tracks a company’s important policies and procedures.
While PowerDMS offers the ideal solution for many industries (including healthcare, fire/EMS, municipalities, and corrections), Grogan noticed that 2000 law enforcement agencies across the country rely on PowerDMS to reduce their risk and limit their liability.
“At first I thought PowerDMS was only for law enforcement. But after I looked around the website I thought, ‘this has what we need and if it is good enough for police, then it should work for anyone else.'”
Grogan recommended PowerDMS to her bosses, putting her reputation on the line with them. Why? They, too, thought the product was geared only toward law enforcement. They needed convincing. She pushed on, showing them it’s not only a good solution for other industries, but it’s the perfect solution for Univesco. After winning her bosses’ approval, Grogan and her team implemented PowerDMS.
Univesco now relies on a paperless system to provide the most up-to-date policies, procedures, permits, and certifications to each of their properties and employees.
PowerDMS solved two crucial issues for the company. It eliminated the high cost of fines as a result of failed inspections or missing permit documents. And it streamlined efforts in the face of managing multiple, dispersed locations with high employee turnover.
How does this look from an operational standpoint?
By incorporating PowerDMS, Grogan and her team were able to transfer all their policies and procedures to an electronic format, make changes in real time, and track and archive past versions of signed content.
With PowerDMS, they can also see when an employee reviews content and how much time they spend on any given document. The ability to track employee acknowledgment of policies offers Univesco protection and assurances the employees are receiving content and being held accountable.
Employees at each community now have clear policy direction and can review processes anytime, even on their mobile phones, as crucial content is streamlined electronically and available 24/7.
Before, employees had no mobile capabilities for reviewing protocols outside the office. Now, if employees need a quick reference for how to handle a law enforcement matter, for example, they can just grab their smartphone. Employees simply look up the protocol on their phones and follow the step-by-step procedures, reducing possible litigation from evidence tampering.
This plays out with critical incidents, such as approaching a crime scene on a property or even encountering landscape challenges. The HQ team can communicate to employees immediately – even the groundskeepers whom they couldn’t reach before using PowerDMS.
Apartment managers now store all of their permits and certifications consistently from one complex to the next, regardless of location, keeping them for future reference. They are able to set expirations to alert when something (like a quarterly inspection or a policy expiration) needs attention. And they never have to wonder where the last employee left a document or waste time looking for paperwork – it’s all in PowerDMS.
We Never Get Fined Now
Since putting PowerDMS in place for managing permits, Grogan says, “we never get fined now.” In fact, she says PowerDMS has been “a game changer” for Univesco.
They now use the document-management solution to track and manage certifications and permits that have expiration dates. Each property is still responsible for their own documents. But thanks to each location being streamlined into the PowerDMS platform, anyone (including headquarters) can see and pull reports and documents immediately.
Not only did Univesco eliminate the increasing costs of permit fines from lost documents, they also decreased the overhead costs associated with time spent looking for critical documents thanks to the streamlined efficiency of PowerDMS.
Grogan deserves kudos for recognizing the problem, searching for an, and pushing for what she felt would be the ideal solution. She has watched Univesco see great success with PowerDMS, and has also boosted her credibility with her bosses by being a problem-solver with the right vision for what would work.
But beyond that, Grogan and her bosses now have the peace of mind that, no matter the situation, employees know what to do and what not to do. They have the most up-to-date information with them on their mobile devices available day or night, giving them step-by-step procedures to follow whenever and wherever they need it.
A few added bonuses? Univesco has been able to make their policies bilingual, which makes it easier for their diverse employee base to read and understand the proper procedures.
By doing so, Univesco can better protect the company from possible litigation, damages, or property loss. Plus, Univesco has enjoyed additional savings beyond reduced fines and employee efficiency. How? Thanks to this paperless solution, Univesco saves on printing and paper costs and reduces material waste at all 21 locations. The fact that it is also an eco-friendly practice is simply icing on the cake.