Apartment and condominium owners are coping with rising operational costs by scaling down amenities. But that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped delivering quality service, said Dan Terheggen, president of the Multihousing Laundry Association.

“You want to be careful in keeping costs down and fees reasonable,” he said. “More managers are asking to increase fees to cover utility costs. [A few] years ago, you could keep the price stable for five to six years. Not now.”

Apartment Finance Today spoke with Terheggen about what managers need to keep abreast of in laundry service.

Q What are the trends in managing laundry units in multifamily buildings?

A [Managers can save money] with centralized laundry rooms, as opposed to having washers and dryers in multiple buildings. They can put more equipment in one room, like 20 washers and dryers in a location versus a pair in a small room.

The idea of centralized rooms has been around for a long time. As construction costs get more expensive, more people are paying attention to it.

Clearly, many new developments have in-unit washers and dryers. A lot of condo conversions are putting in individual hook-ups. But these installations use up to 300% more energy than centralized rooms.

Centralized rooms can save at least 50% in development costs. All the plumbing and drains are in one big room. You can realize huge energy savings because all the heating generated is in one place as opposed to 10 individual rooms, for example.

Centralized laundry also encourages people to do full loads, rather than partial loads [on a whim] in their own apartments.

Another feature is the smart card. This is a fast-growing trend. Twenty percent of all installations [use] smart cards. There’s no money in the washer or dryer, which makes it safer for the tenants. You don’t have to bring cash to the laundry. The card-servicing center could be in a safe, high-traffic area like the manager’s office.

Q What are the most common mistakes managers make about laundry rooms?

A They forget that people need to feel safe when they go into a laundry room. Clearly, safety is a big issue. Have a locked door and the pathway well lit … Common areas have [been] designed to be tucked away and are not easy to get into. Make them convenient, high-traffic areas.

Cleanliness is number two. Laundry machines are user-friendly pieces of equipment. Maintenance [workers] should go by periodically and clean up the room. In high-traffic, centralized laundry rooms, do this on a daily basis. [If the laundry rooms are scattered,] do this once a week.

Q How often should laundry equipment be maintained?

A A piece of equipment would break down on average once a year, depending on use. But literally, you could check today and it’ll break down tomorrow.

Inspection won’t do much good. If you have a call [about] the equipment or notice wear-outs on the rubber in the washing machine, replace it. Response time [from service technicians] is usually within the same day.