Fall Maintenance Tips for Your Rental Property
Renters Warehouse Blog
For landlords, fall, along with spring, is a great time of year to do maintenance at your rental property.
Pre-winter rental maintenance primarily involves winterizing your property, and ensuring that it’s tight and secure for the cold winter months ahead. It’s also the time to do some biannual maintenance tasks, like cleaning the roofs and gutters, having your HVAC system serviced, and doing some landscaping.
Doing preventative maintenance can help to stave off many potential problems this winter, and it’s worth investing some time into getting your rental ready for the colder months ahead. After all, no one wants to get a call-out mid-winter, because the pipes have frozen at the property.
Keep winter emergencies to a minimum by staying on top of regular maintenance. Here’s a look at some fall rental maintenance tasks that you’ll want to add to your to-do list.
Essential Fall Maintenance Tasks for Your Rental Unit
- Clean Gutters and Downspouts
While it might not be the most glamorous job in the world, cleaning the leaves from your gutters can be a lifesaver come winter. Gutters can easily become clogged with leaves and twigs, which can lead to blockages. And pooling water, once frozen, can cause damage to your gutters and even your roof.
It’s a good idea to clean the gutter and downspouts in the fall, while at the same time checking to ensure that they’re free of cracks and damage. You’ll also want to check to ensure the downspouts are draining away from the building.
- Inspect the Roof
The roof is one of those items that should be inspected by a professional, although you may be able to do a quick visual inspection safely from the ground. Even small leaks can cause extensive water damage; including deterioration of insulation, crumbling and damaged drywall, and mildew. If your roof is starting to show signs of age, consider having it professionally inspected each fall, and be sure to make any necessary repairs before winter.
- Perform HVAC Maintenance
Now is the time to get your rental’s heating system inspected, serviced, and cleaned. Regular maintenance can help to extend your furnace’s life, and will also help to prevent mid-winter heating emergencies. Be sure to change the filter during fall maintenance; keeping in mind that this is something that typically should be done every 1-3 months. If your rental has an A/C unit, now is the time to wrap it for the winter months as well.
- Check Weather Stripping and Insulation
It’s no secret that a well-insulated house can help to lower heating expenses, something your tenants could benefit from. Start by checking the weather stripping around the doors and windows to make sure it hasn’t become cracked and brittle over time. You can also help prevent drafts from coming in between the window or door casings by removing the trim and spraying foam insulation between the gaps.
While it can be a time-consuming process, sealing gaps around doors and windows can prevent a loss of 30% of heat during the winter. If you’re feeling especially brave, you may want to go into the attic and check the insulation in the rafters as well.
- Sweep the Chimney
If your property has a chimney, now is the time to get it cleaned. Removing the creosote and soot buildup can help the smoke to continue to draw properly, and may help to reduce the chance of accidental chimney fires as well. You should also make sure the cap and flue are removed to ensure that there aren’t any nests or other obstructions in the way. Be sure to caulk and clean around the chimney as well to help prevent any leaks during the cold season ahead.
Not sure if you should hire professionals or do the maintenance yourself? Read Should You DIY Your Property Maintenance and Repairs?
- Check and Replace Batteries
This is also a good time to replace the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and test them to make sure they’re working. Ideally, the batteries should be replaced every six months, so consider making this a part of your biannual maintenance routine.
- Check the Dryer
If you provide a dryer and washer at your rentals, it’s important to check in on them. Lint in the ductwork can present a fire hazard, so be sure to check the dryer’s lint trap and vacuum out the ductwork, to clean out any built-up lint or debris.
- Remove Unstable Branches
Precarious branches can be hazardous during the winter. Ice storms and strong winds can cause unstable branches to fall, and branches that are too near the house, or dangerously close to power lines should be trimmed back before winter hits.
- Do Some Landscaping
In addition to pruning dangerous branches, fall is a good time to do some basic landscaping as well. Trim back shrubs and bushes, remove plants that are growing where they shouldn’t, or roots that are threatening the foundation or any walkways and pavement. In addition, fallen leaves on wet grass can present a slipping hazard for your tenants.
You’ll also want to clear away weeds or bushes that are growing too close to the property. You might also consider mulching or fertilizing trees and shrubbery, to help them survive the cold winter months.
- Clear the Leaves
If you live in an area with plenty of deciduous trees, then you know what a mess the leaves can make once they start to fall. Leaf litter and mulch are also breeding grounds for outdoor bugs and pests, helping them to survive the cold outdoors. If you’d rather not spend weekends at your rental clearing leaves, then you’ll want to ensure that your tenants are on board with raking them up.
If you haven’t included lawn maintenance as your tenant’s responsibility in the rental lease, then you may want to talk with them to make sure they’re fine keeping up with the leaves. Or, you may want to consider offering them a discount on the rent during the autumn months, in exchange for keeping the lawn clear.
Note: Be sure to check your state’s laws to see if your tenants will need to be compensated for work that they perform at the rental.
- Treat Exterior Pipes
Be sure to winterize all of your exterior faucets, wrapping heat tape on all pipes that are exposed, and the ones that are in an unheated basement, attic, or crawlspace. Frozen pipes are a risk every winter. Not only does a frozen pipe cause a water mess once it unthaws, but the damage can also be costly to repair. The good news, though, is that it’s something that can easily be prevented. Heat tape doesn’t use much electricity but it can save you a bundle when things get cold.
- Winterize Irrigation Systems
All garden hoses should be stowed for the winter as well. If you have irrigation systems and sprinklers at your rental, now is the time to switch them off. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for winterizing, to ensure that they’ll be in good shape next year.
- Winterize the Pool
If your property has a pool, it’ll need to be covered before the winter months arrive as well. Covering it up before the leaves start to fall will prevent them from clogging up the filtration system.
- Pest Control
As temperatures drop, pests may try to survive winter by finding cracks and crevices in your property to seek shelter. They often look for isolated places with little foot traffic, such as the attic, basement, eaves, or crawlspace, where they can live for months unnoticed.
Many bugs go into a dormant state during this period, and come back to life when it starts to get warm outside. To prevent pests from sheltering in your home during winter, caulk and seal cracks or spaces where they might enter. Ask tenants to keep the home tidy and clean. Vacuuming regularly, especially around doors and windows, will help get rid of bugs and keep them away.
- Do a General Inspection
Fall is a great time to give your rental a quick inspection to see if there are any important repairs or maintenance issues that need to be dealt with. Some things, such as rotting stair boards, should be handled right away, while other issues, such as peeling paint, can always be added to a list to be dealt with when spring arrives. Always address dangerous issues or problems that could result in further damage as soon as you can.
Here’s an article on The Importance of Regular Property Inspections: Identifying and Preventing Issues.
Landlord and Tenant Responsibilities for Fall Maintenance Tasks
Property maintenance should be a joint effort between you and your tenants. Don’t wait for your next property inspection (which might be months away) to spot problems. Encouraging your tenant to contact you whenever they notice anything amiss, such as water damage, means that you’ll be able to know at the first sign of trouble, allowing you to take action quickly to resolve the issue before it causes further damage, or becomes worse, helping you to keep your rental property in good shape.
To prevent misunderstandings and conflicts about who’s in charge of what, refer back to your rental agreement. Often, tenant and landlord responsibilities are already agreed upon. If that’s not the case, here’s a quick guide on the tasks that landlords and tenants are typically responsible for when it comes to fall maintenance.
HVAC system inspection and repairs
Window and door sealing
Major outdoor maintenance tasks
Professional pest control
External lighting maintenance and replacement
Smoke and carbon monoxide detector maintenance
Reporting Issues: Tenants should promptly report any issues with gutter clogs, heating system problems, drainage, leaks, or draft issues related to doors and windows.
Maintaining Small Outdoor Areas: Tenants are generally responsible for maintaining potted plants, garden beds, and small outdoor areas like patios, decks, or porches.
Keeping the Property Clean: Tenants should clean the home regularly and dispose of trash properly. Keeping the home clean is the first step in ensuring that your property stays mold-free, pest-free, and in good shape. Ask tenants to promptly report any signs of pests or mold.
Taking Fire Precautions: Fireplaces are cozy and charming, but if they’re not maintained properly, they can be a fire hazard. Even if your property doesn’t have a fireplace, regularly testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is still critical for safety. Heating equipment, especially space heaters, is the leading cause of home fires and resulting injuries in the U.S., so consider instructing tenants not to use them in your property, or provide guidance on the safe way to do so. Ask your tenants to take fire precautions and to test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms regularly as well.
In addition to spring maintenance, fall maintenance is an important part of keeping your rental property in good shape, whether you choose to outsource the work of maintenance to contractors, do it yourself, or use a property manager to oversee your rental.
Finally, don’t forget to budget for maintenance. Being able to plan for it and saving up for it throughout the year will make it much easier to pay for maintenance and necessary repairs as soon as any issues arise. Typically, you’ll want to set aside 1-2% of the property’s value aside for maintenance and repairs each year.
At Renters Warehouse, our team of professional property managers works hard to make life easier for landlords, while at the same time, striving to help them get the best returns possible. If you’d like help overseeing your rental property including tenant sourcing and screening, repairs, and maintenance, don’t hesitate to reach out to Renters Warehouse today.
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