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Ask an Expert: Advice for choosing a new laundry room vendor

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Q. What are the most important things to look for in a laundry room vendor? What kinds of things should our board watch out for?

A.  Great question--here's what our expert panel suggests:

Eric Goidel, real estate attorney:  

Boards SHOULD NEVER sign or even work off of lease agreements prepared by the laundry room vendor.  They are typically very favorable to the laundry room vendor and often include provisions such as automatic renewal rights and rights of first refusal, when down the road, a board might want to change vendors.

Jeffrey Reich, real estate attorney:

It's important to obtain reliable references from the vendor. A board would be wise to interview management companies and boards who have dealt with the vendor. Is the vendor prompt in making service calls? Does it properly maintain its equipment? Does it replace obsolete equipment or attempt to keep machines running long beyond their useful lives?

Laundry room agreement are notoriously tricky. Don't be seduced by monthly fees or renovation packages. there are other equally important contract terms that deserve the board's attention.  Some companies include renewal provisions in sections seemingly unrelated to the term of the agreement.  It is particularly important that boards negotiate these agreements to include a specific response time for repairs, a workable mechanism to require that unreliable machines be replaced, a realistic termination provision in the event of default and to preclude the inclusion of any automatic renewal clauses or rights of first refusal in favor of the vendor.

Dean M. Roberts, real estate attorney:

There is a small group of companies that dominate this area. Most use similar contracts and have the same issues. One thing I always look for is the "fee sharing" provision, as that is always a source of problems. Who does the accounting of the revenue from the machines and how is it computed? I recommend the simplest formulas possible, i.e. fixed trigger amounts and clear guidelines on the measurements.

The other major issue is the automatic renewal provisions that the companies like to use.  If not reviewed properly, you can end up with a contract that is hard to terminate and can leave you with a company that knows it is not being renewed, which results in periods of poor service.

Joseph Shkreli, resident manager

For me as a resident manager, the most important part is service.  These machines do break down, whether it be user error or mechanical/computer error, and we want these machines online ASAP.  We want as little downtime as possible.

As far as improvements to the laundry room by the vendor, when we had ours redone last fall, I negotiated that all the floor tiles be removed and replaced; walls, ceilings and doors be painted with custom colors (I believe we had 3 custom colors); new laundry carts, tables, and a stainless steel sink.  Most importantly I had them replace all of our light fixtures to T8 flurescent light fixtures, to make lighting more energy efficient. The cost for a load of laundry went up about twenty cents a load, which no one noticed.

Gil Bloom, pest management expert:

 What temperature will washers and dryers be set to in terms of heat for bed bug control?  Any item which can be placed int eh dryer for 30 minutes on high, over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, will come out live bed bug free. Washing is a little trickier as the core temperature of items being washed must reach 140 degrees, and some washers may not reach that temperature.

 


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