Winter is coming. If you’re a landlord, it is time to batten down the hatches at your rental properties.
Frigid temperatures give HVAC systems a workout, while snow, wind and ice can batter roofs and building exteriors. But some simple preventive measures and routine maintenance tasks can minimize problems and help your property stand up to whatever Old Man Winter doles out this year.
So before local vendors are overwhelmed you’re occupied with holiday celebrations, schedule and complete fall maintenance tasks to make sure properties are ready for winter’s cold and storms.
We recommend you consult with your property management company or find reliable, professional contractors to have the following seasonal maintenance services completed.
- Inspect and Service HVAC systems. Have an HVAC contractor service heating and cooling units, including checking out thermostats, blowers, wiring, fans and ignition systems. Wash or replace filters.
- Clean Gutters and Drains. Clogged gutters are the leading cause of window leaks in single-family homes. Once leaves have fallen, it is time to remove the leaf and other debris from gutters, downspouts and exterior drains.
- Clean the Dryer Vent. Dryers lead to thousands of residential fires every year, and not cleaning them is the overwhelming cause. A professional should clean the machine, ducts and exterior vents annually.
- Inspect and Clean Chimney & Fireplaces. Have a professional sweep the chimney and inspect the interior and exterior of the chimney for safety
- Winterize the Outdoor Water Supply. Prevent frozen pipes. Remove hoses, inspect spigots for cracks or leaks, and drain the water line.
In addition, now is the time to make sure you have a solid plan in place for snow and ice removal. Laws on who’s responsible for removing snow from sidewalks and how quickly vary by state and city. In Washington, D.C., laws require property owners or residents to ensure sidewalks and curb ramps are clear within eight daylight hours after snow stops falling.
You also want to make every effort to make sure all walkways and stairs on the property are clear to prevent your tenants from falling and injuring themselves and to avoid potential of lawsuits should tenants or their guests get hurt due to icy conditions.
Unless you plan to shovel yourself, you’ll need to contract with a local vendor to plow or shovel your property. If you do plan to do the job yourself, take an inventory of your equipment and buy any necessities, such as shovels, salt or gasoline for the snow blower, now before any pre-storm shortages.
If your tenant is responsible for removing snow, it is a good idea to send a reminder about local removal ordinances and your own policies each year, or, if need be, with each storm. Bigger Pockets recommends both pointing out the section of the lease that makes them responsible for removal and the potential consequences if someone gets hurt on icy sidewalks.
In addition, the article suggests providing salt and a shovel to eliminate any excuses for not doing the work and driving by to make sure it gets done, if possible. Encourage tenants to promptly report any areas where ice accumulates and to apply salt frequently to keep all stairs and walkways clear.
Being proactive about snow removal and maintenance will help ensure that your tenants stay safe and warm all winter. And, as a bonus, it will likely help prevent costly problems and cut the number of emergency calls you get for broken furnaces, leaky pipes and other problems.
– By Jill S. Gross