For some large, multi-unit condominium projects…exterior light fixtures at the entries to each unit and in common areas…utilize photocell switches that turn the light fixtures on and off automatically according to daylight and night-time.  This then matches the shifting seasonal changes in light and darkness…eliminating the need for someone to change a clock-timer periodically for seasonal changes for exterior lighting for the project.

But from a homebuilder’s customer service standpoint…photocell-controlled light fixtures can typically have one of five possible things go wrong to cause the light fixture to stop working:

  • dust from adjacent construction on the project collects on the photocell glass
  • the light bulb needs to be replaced
  • the photocell is defective and needs to be replaced
  • the light fixture itself is defective
  • there is an electrical problem

When the condominium project has progressed far enough in occupied units to be able to form and maintain the homeowner’s association…it is in the builder’s best interest at that point to suggest and formalize in the HOA agreement…the reasonable proposal…that the HOA take over the responsibility for exterior light fixture operation…even though the new construction is still under warranty.

The reasoning behind this approach is that on a large condominium project…customer service repair time is a fixed asset that is best spent focused on customer service issues.

If the customer service department accepts photocell light fixture complaints…the service repair person must first check the fixture to determine whether the problem is merely the light bulb…or if dust has accumulated on the photocell glass…causing the photocell to confuse this for exterior darkness.

If a new light bulb does not solve the problem…the builder’s service repair person must get the electrician to come out to the jobsite…or grab an electrician onsite…to see if an electrical problem exists.

If the electrician cannot find anything wrong with the electrical wiring…the service repair person must next call the light fixture supplier…who will send someone to replace the photocell.

If the photocell is okay…the light fixture service person will tell the builder’s customer service repair person that the light fixture is bad and needs to be replaced.

The beauty of having the HOA management company send out their maintenance electrician is that the first three scenarios are combined and fixable in one jobsite visit.  This HOA management company electrician will have light bulbs and photocells with them…and can either clean off the photocell glass, replace the light bulb, or replace the photocell (having in their possession several dozen to be used throughout the upcoming years of occupancy in this project…long after the homebuilder is gone.

If this HOA electrician discovers that there is a simple electrical problem like a loose wire connection within the wire-nut…they can make the repair.  If the electrical problem is more severe and requires warranty work from the electrical contractor “of record”…or that the light fixture itself is defective…at this point the builder’s customer service repair person can be brought into the mix to resolve the problem.

The point here is that the HOA management company has the staff…and has the ongoing policies and procedures in place…and the homeowner’s are at this point paying for the expertise of the HOA management company…so why not incorporate this minor function of exterior light fixture maintenance by the HOA early…so that the homebuilder can concentrate on homeowner’s customer service issues.

This is similar to and not unlike the landscaping agreement for common area landscape planting for large condominium projects…where the landscaping contractor maintains the new landscaping for the first 3 to 6 months to protect their investment by ensuring that new plants, trees, and cover ground are properly cared for…then turning over the landscaping to the HOA at some point in time short of the standard 12-month warranty typical for the construction trades.