Autumn on the Horizon - How to Ready Your Rental for Weather Changes
Renters Warehouse Blog
There’s a crispness in the air and the leaves are starting to change color. Autumn has officially arrived.
For most of us, autumn means colder temperatures –a sure sign that the frosty winter days are just ahead. And with winter fast approaching, now is a great time to start prepping your rental property for the colder weather. Winter means icy walkways, snow, and strong winds –all conditions that can wreak havoc on your rental, and cause stress for your tenants, if you’re not prepared.
Prepping your rental property now means that you’ll be ready when the colder weather hits. While maintenance does require time and money, it’s a worthy investment. Even small preventative maintenance can help to keep your property in good condition for longer, helping to stave off excessive repair bills.
With this in mind, here’s a look at some important maintenance tasks that you’ll want to do to help get your rental ready for the seasonal changes ahead.
See also: How to prepare your rental for winter.
Getting Your Rental Ready for the Colder Months Ahead
Here’s a look at some responsibilities that usually fall to the landlord. In some cases, landlords have the tenants arrange for these services, and ask that the bill is sent to them.
Perform a General Inspection
Fall is a great time to perform a general inspection of your property. Look for any areas that need to be addressed right away and make a list of everything else that will need to be done at some point, but can wait. Fall maintenance is important to help keep your property in top shape and prevent little issues from becoming bigger. Now might also be a good time to talk with your tenants and ask them if there are any repairs issues that’ve noticed that should be addressed.
Clear Out the Gutters
Next up, it’s important to inspect your rental’s roof and gutters. You should also clean the gutters and downspouts or have someone clean them for you. Dirt, leaves, and gunk can form blockages in the gutters, stopping them from draining properly. During the winter, clogged gutters lead to standing water, which can freeze and expand, causing damage. See these handy tips from the Family Handyman on cleaning out gutters. While you’re cleaning them, look for signs of damage or leaks that should be repaired before winter.
Inspect the Roof for Leaks
While you, or your contractor, are up on the ladder, it’s a good time to check for signs of damage to the roof. Look for loose or missing shingles so that you can make repairs quickly. Be sure to inspect the attic space for any water stains that could indicate leaks or water damage that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Schedule a Service for the Heating System
There’s nothing quite like a broken furnace, right in the middle of winter. Before the temperatures dip too low, have the system inspected, the filters replaced, and routine maintenance performed to ensure that everything’s working right. Make sure you get a licensed heating contractor out to perform a service and inspection, allowing you to ensure your system is safe, and in good shape. Emergency call-out fees can be expensive in the middle of winter and often the repair companies are overbooked during the cold snaps so it’s best to call early.
Arrange to Have the Chimney Cleaned
Likewise, if your rental property has a fireplace, now is a good time to have the chimney inspected and cleaned. A properly cleaned chimney will help to ensure that the smoke is all going up the chimney and not billowing back into the room –posing a CO2 risk. Regularly cleaning the chimney can also help to prevent chimney fires caused by creosote buildup. See: Tips for minimizing creosote build-up in chimneys.
Winterize Your Irrigation Systems
Now is also a good time to drain and prepare the pipes for the season ahead. Turn off and drain all outside spigots to prevent them from freezing and bursting. Wrap all exposed pipes with heat tape or insulation. Be sure to consider pipes in any crawl spaces that could potentially freeze and burst when it gets cold. See: Top things to do when a pipe bursts.
Winterize Outdoor A/C Units
You should also be sure to winterize and cover any air conditioning units that won’t be used during the colder months. Unplug your unit, and cover it with a sheet of plywood to keep the snow and moisture out. Avoid wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap as this can lead to moisture build-up and accelerate rusting. See: How to winterize an A/C unit.
Cover the Pool
If you have a pool, now is a good time to clean and close it up in preparation for winter. Give the pool a deep clean, and adjust the water chemistry and water level. Then cover it up for winter. (Note: This may be a responsibility that falls to the tenant, depending on what you have in your rental agreement). See: tips for winterizing a pool.
Cut Dangerous Branches Back
Now is a great time to trim those trees back and get rid of any branches that look as if they might present a hazard. Tree branches can get weighed down with heavy snow and snap off in the extreme cold. Arrange for dangerous branches to be removed. This includes branches that are overhanging the house or any walkways. As a bonus, trimming trees back from your house can also help prevent the leaves from falling onto the roof or into the gutters, making clean up the following year much easier.
Do Some Basic Landscaping
Now is also a great time to clean up the landscaping. Clear out any dead plants and put fresh mulch down to help keep trees and flowerbeds from freezing over this winter. It’ll also help to keep everything looking nice and tidy.
Improve Outdoor Safety
While you’re outside, it’s also a good time to look for objects or debris that could become tripping hazards when the snow hits. Look for uneven paths and damaged steps that should be repaired. It’s also a good idea to check to ensure that there’s adequate outdoor lighting and that there are no bulbs that need to be replaced.
Replace Batteries in the Smoke Alarms
It’s recommended that batteries are replaced once every six months. An easy way to remember this is to replace the batteries in the spring and in the fall. You should also test the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are in proper working order as well.
Check and Insulate Drafty Areas
Windows and doors often become drafty once the temperatures drop. It’s a good idea to inspect the doors and windows to see if the weather stripping needs to be replaced. Replacing weather stripping or sealing up window cracks can be an easy and cost-effective fix that can help keep the cold air out this season. Installing a storm door can also be an effective way to help prevent drafts.
Arrange for Snow and Ice Removal
Who’s responsible for snow and ice removal at the property? That depends! On what’s written in your rental agreement. In most cases, for apartments or multi-family units, the landlord is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all common areas. This includes snow removal in the winter. For single-family homes, though, it’s a bit different. Often, the responsibility falls to the tenant to keep their own driveway and walkways clear. In some states, however, landlords are responsible for snow removal or must compensate their tenants for time spent on maintenance tasks and this includes snow removal. For landlords, it’s important to check the rules in your state, and see if there are any citywide ordinances, stipulating that the responsibility falls to the landlord. To avoid hassle and frustration, it may be an idea for landlords to arrange for snow removal ahead of time, and compensate for the cost by working it into the annual rent.
Communicate With Tenants
Finally, while it’s important to prepare your rental house for the weather ahead, and it’s also important to prepare your tenants. Keep in mind that you must give your tenants adequate notice before performing inspections or repairs to the property. You should also consider which areas of maintenance, such as lawn care, are in the contract for them to take care of and ensure that they know what is expected of them. Be sure to talk with your tenants about what to do in case of an emergency and ensure your contact information is current and that they have a good way to get ahold of you even after hours.
It’s also important to ensure that your tenants are aware of their responsibilities during the winter months. There’s a lot that they can do to help keep the property in good shape year-round.
- Keep the heat on –even when tenants are away during the winter months, the heat should be left on low to prevent frozen pipes.
- Tenants should know where the water shut-off valve is located so they can turn it off in case of an emergency. In case of a burst pipe, being able to turn the water off can prevent flooding.
- Tenants should turn the furnace on and try to run it for a few hours to make sure it’s working. Ideally, they should do this before the colder weather sets in.
- During especially cold spells, it’s a good idea to leave faucets running very slowly. The continual flow of water can help to prevent frozen pipes.
- Tenants should keep alert for signs of rodent infestations and inform the landlord at the first sign of an infestation.
Creating a rental lease? It’s a good idea to outline who is responsible for which tasks before you finalize it. Learn more about landlord and tenant responsibilities during the winter months.
Maintenance is an important part of owning a rental property and keeping up with routine tasks can help keep your property in good condition, preventing many of those mid-winter callouts that tend to come through after hours.
At the end of the day, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve taken the time to prepare both your rental –and your tenants, for the chilly days ahead. Having a plan in place and ensuring that everyone is clear on their responsibilities as outlined in the rental agreement can go a long way toward helping to prevent miscommunications and ensuring that everyone is on the same page as far as what needs to get done.
At Renters Warehouse, we provide property management services for time-crunched landlords. If you’d like help getting your property rented, reach out today for your FREE rental assessment. See how much you could be getting each month.
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