Guide to Fall Maintenance: Preparing Rental Properties for Winter
Residential Property Management

Guide to Fall Maintenance: Preparing Rental Properties for Winter

As the foliage turns to shades of auburn and crimson, it signals not only the arrival of fall but the impending winter season.

If you're a landlord, this transition period calls for essential preparations to protect your rental properties from the harsh winter weather. Cold temperatures exert immense strain on HVAC systems while heavy snow, wind, and ice can damage roofs and building exteriors. However, some well-thought-out preventive actions and routine maintenance tasks can mitigate issues and help your property weather winter's onslaught.

Before local vendors are swamped and your schedule filled with holiday festivities, ensure to prioritize and execute fall maintenance tasks to winter-proof your properties. You may want to collaborate with your property management company or hire trusted, professional contractors to accomplish the following seasonal maintenance tasks.

1. Inspect and Service HVAC Systems

Engage an HVAC contractor to service heating and cooling units. This should involve scrutinizing thermostats, blowers, wiring, fans, and ignition systems. Additionally, filters should be washed or replaced to ensure optimal performance.

2. Clean Gutters and Drains

Clogged gutters are the primary culprit for window leaks in single-family homes. After the leaves have fallen, it's crucial to clear the gutters, downspouts, and exterior drains of leaf debris and other obstructions. Regular gutter cleaning prevents water backup, which can lead to significant damage.

3. Ensure Dryer Vent Cleanliness

Dryers are often implicated in thousands of residential fires each year, with unclean vents as the leading cause. A professional should annually clean the machine, ducts, and exterior vents to minimize this risk.

4. Inspect and Clean Chimneys & Fireplaces

A professional should sweep the chimney and perform a thorough inspection of its interior and exterior for safety purposes. Regular chimney inspections and cleaning prevent hazardous chimney fires and the carbon monoxide poisoning that can result from blocked venting.

5. Winterize the Outdoor Water Supply

Frozen pipes can cause massive damage to a property. Remove hoses, inspect spigots for cracks or leaks, and drain the waterline to prevent this disastrous scenario. A few simple steps now can save a lot of trouble later.

6. Plan Ahead for Snow and Ice Removal

Beyond these tasks, it's crucial to devise a robust plan for snow and ice removal. Laws governing the responsibility and promptness of snow removal from sidewalks vary by state and city. In Washington, D.C., for instance, laws stipulate that property owners or residents must clear sidewalks and curb ramps within eight daylight hours after snowfall cessation.

It's also crucial to ensure all walkways and stairs on the property are clear, both to prevent tenants from slipping and falling and to avoid potential lawsuits should tenants or their guests get hurt due to icy conditions. If you can't do the shoveling yourself, you'll need to hire a local vendor to plow or shovel your property. If you plan to do the job yourself, make sure to inventory your equipment and buy any necessities, such as shovels, salt, or gasoline for the snowblower, before pre-storm shortages occur.

If your tenant is responsible for snow removal, it's prudent to send an annual reminder about local removal ordinances and your own policies. Highlighting the lease section that assigns them snow removal responsibilities and the potential consequences of neglecting it can be an effective approach. Also, providing salt and a shovel can eliminate any excuse for inaction. Encourage tenants to promptly report any areas where ice accumulates and regularly apply salt to keep all stairs and walkways clear.

Adopting a proactive attitude towards snow removal and maintenance can ensure that your tenants stay safe and warm throughout the winter. As an added bonus, it will likely help prevent expensive repairs and reduce the number of emergency calls you receive for broken furnaces, leaky pipes, and other issues.

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Rental Property

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