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Essential Fall Maintenance for Every Rental

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Fall is here. That means cooler days, a return to our routines, and of course, pumpkin spice everything. It’s also the time of year for maintenance...on your rental properties.

Winterizing your rental property may not be the most exciting task on the to-do list this fall, but it’s an important one nonetheless. 

With a little bit of planning, you can keep your rental property in good condition and prevent a number of unexpected catastrophes. Issues such as leaky roofs, burst water pipes, and pest invasions are far more likely during the winter months. But preventative maintenance can help to stave off many of these problems, saving you time and money down the road. 

From two-minute tasks, such as checking the batteries in smoke detectors, to slightly more extensive projects, like ensuring the trees are pruned and trimmed back, to cleaning the gutters and inspecting the HVAC system, here’s a look at your complete guide to fall maintenance. Ensure that your property is in good condition, and ready to weather the colder months ahead.

Routine Fall Maintenance 

It’s easy to take a hands-off approach with rentals, only approaching maintenance and repairs issues as problems arise. But taking routine, proactive steps ahead of time is a far better approach. Maintenance can help to alert you early on when there’s a problem, keeping small issues from developing into more extensive projects and costly repairs. In many cases, it can also help you to stave off potential problems altogether, before they even start.

While the exact maintenance that you’ll want to do on your rental will vary depending on the age and condition of the home, and whether your property is subjected to extreme climate conditions, here’s a look at a list of things that are standard for most rental properties. Feel free to modify this list to suit your property and location. 

Clean the Gutters  

The fall and winter months often bring extra rain or snow, and making sure the gutters and downspouts are clear of debris ensures that water runs off the roof, and away from the house –preventing it from pooling and freezing. You should also inspect the guttering for any cracks or loose connections. If you find any damage, it should be addressed before winter sets in. It’s also important to ensure that all of the downspouts are directed away from the house and the foundation so water can run away, without pooling and causing damage.

Inspect the Roof

Now is also a good time to have the roof inspected by a professional. Even minor leaks can quickly lead to severe water damage, resulting in crumbling drywall, damaged insulation, and mildew. If your roof is older, then it’s important to have it inspected every fall so that repairs can be done before winter. 


Schedule an HVAC Service

Another way to prevent mid-winter emergencies is by having the furnace serviced before winter hits. A good HVAC service should alert you to potential problems that will need to be addressed, so you can get them repaired early on. You should also take the time to service and winterize the A/C unit if there’s one at the property. If you have an exterior unit, you should cover it to prevent snow from seeping in. Your tenant should be able to schedule this service, but as the landlord, it’s your responsibility to pay for it.

Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors 

Check and change the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Ideally, you should replace the batteries every six months, so spring and fall are ideal times. Adding it to your routine maintenance list helps to keep this task from being forgotten.

Consider Flushing the Water Heater

Flushing the water heater is another valuable fall maintenance task, and something that Brandon of Bigger Pockets recommends. While this task is more involved, it can help to extend the life of your water heater. The tank tends to collect sediment at the bottom, and flushing removes it. Check out this helpful article on Family Handyman that explains how to do this.

Check Weather Stripping

Keep drafts out during the winter. Check weather stripping around doors and windows to make sure it’s still in good condition and replace it as necessary.

Check the Chimney

If your rental home has a chimney, fall is a great time to get that inspected and swept. Buildup inside the chimney can cause smoke to back up into the home, and in some cases, can even lead to chimney fires.

Prune Trees Back 

Fall is also a great time to check over your trees and trim back any potential hazards. Snow and ice can add weight to weaker branches, causing them to snap, so it’s a good idea to remove anything that could present a potential problem.

Drain and Winterize External Pipes

If you live in an area that sees sub-zero temperatures, you’ll also want to winterize the external pipes. Wrapping exposed pipes in heat tape will help to prevent them from freezing and expanding during the winter months.

Winterize Irrigation Systems

All hoses and irrigation systems should be drained, switched off, and stored for the winter. Unless you live in a region with a warm year-round climate, you won’t be needing them during the cooler months. 

Winterization Tasks for Tenants

While there are some tasks that are clearly the landlord’s responsibility, there are many gray areas where things are less clear cut. To play it safe, it’s important to ensure that you outline the tasks that your tenant is responsible for in the lease. And make sure they’ve read and signed a copy.  

Double check that the tasks that you’re asking them to perform are compliant with state law. For example, in Minnesota, landlords must compensate tenants for yard work done

  • Stow Seasonal Items

Tenants should ensure that their outdoor items including patio furniture, flower pots, and any summer gear are all stowed away for the winter. This will prevent these things from becoming damaged or blown away during a bad storm. 

  • Look Out for Signs of Pest Infestations 

Winter is a prime time for unwanted pests to find their way inside in search of food and shelter. Tenants should keep alert for signs of unwanted intruders, and be proactive when it comes to keeping them out. All trash should be taken out regularly, and any potential entry points into the house should be sealed up. If they suspect a problem, they should set some traps or put some rodenticide down promptly. It’s vitally important though, that all traps and poison are kept out of reach of children and pets. 

  • Switch the Heat On

At some point during the early fall months, it’s a good idea for tenants to turn on the furnace and run it on high for a few hours. This is a good way to test out the system to make sure everything’s working. It’s  better to discover a potential problem early, instead of mid-winter when it would be harder to find a technician to come out. 

And landlords remember, if you’d like your tenants to perform the above tasks, make sure you write them down in the lease –so tenants know exactly what’s expected of them, and nothing gets forgotten.

Fall is a great time to check in with your tenants to see how things are going. You’ll also want to ensure that you get in touch with them to schedule a time where you can do maintenance and a general walk-through inspection. Just be sure to notify them, find a time that’s convenient for them, and give them adequate notice in advance. It’s also important to inform your tenants that they should notify you if they notice any problems during the winter months, especially when it comes to leaks, damp, or mildew. Taking action right away while a problem is small means the issue can be corrected before it causes more severe damage, and requires extensive repairs.

Finally, don’t forget to budget for maintenance throughout the year. Setting aside some funds for these tasks will help you to take a proactive approach with maintenance, and make it easier to pay for repairs as they arise. As a general guideline, it’s a good idea to set aside 1-2% of the property’s value per year for maintenance and repairs-related tasks.

Be sure to see: Landlord and Tenant Responsibilities During the Winter Months for tips and suggestions on keeping your rentals in great shape year round.

Landlords: is there anything you’d add to this list? 

If you’d like to outsource the work of property management, maintenance, and repairs, then you’ll want to consider enlisting the help of a property manager. A good property manager will be able to take on all of the work that’s involved with coordinating maintenance and repairs, helping you to more efficiently manage your investments. See: Tips for Stress-Free Investing to learn more.

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