As October comes to a close, most of us realize just how close we are to winter and the challenges that come with owning rental property during the cold months. Avoiding the broken pipes, leaking roofs and tenant injuries that snow and ice can cause is not rocket science. A little preventive maintenance can go far to keep your bank account a little healthier—and you a lot less stressed out!
Tips to Prepare Rental Property for Winter
- Have the heating system in your rental property checked out for safety, as well as efficiency. Of course, this is the busiest time for professional heating and air services. Landlords should consider signing up with your preferred provider for automatic annual or semi-annual maintenance checkups. It’s a great way to keep the manufacturer’s warranty in place—and you might even receive priority status if an emergency occurs. You don’t want to find out your rental property heating system is inoperable during the first cold snap of the season.
- Change the air filters. You don’t need a professional for this one. Changing the filters in your rental property’s heating and cooling system should be done regularly to reduce indoor pollutants and keep the system functioning properly. Depending on the system, you may need to change the filters every month. If the filters are very dirty, you’ll know you waited too long. Dirty filters cut air flow and increase utility bills—and can even cause the heat exchanger to overheat.
- Test smoke detectors. Press the button to see if the alarm goes off, but also use a match or other smoke-generating device to test each smoke detector. Older units may not detect smoke, even if they test well. Don’t risk causing harm to your rental property—and especially to your tenants—with malfunctioning smoke detectors.
- Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. You may see reminders to change these batteries when daylight savings time ends. That date is coming up soon—so next time you’re making routine visits to your rental properties, stock up on batteries and change them in every smoke and carbon monoxide detector in every unit.
- Inspect for leaks, drafts, and rot. Check around windows and doors, under sinks and throughout each rental unit for spaces where cold air can get in. Seal and caulk any leaks or cracks. Stuff insulation in holes around pipes and around vents. Add foam sealers to switchplates. Look for rotting floorboards. Check the roof for loose or missing shingles and replace them if necessary.
- Prevent broken water pipes. When pipes freeze, water flow can be blocked. When the water in the pipes freezes, the expansion can cause burst pipes—not something you want to deal with on a cold winter day. Outdoor pipes, pipes that run along exterior walls or through crawl spaces are at risk. Consider insulating pipes with foam rubber sleeves or wrapping pipes with fiberglass insulation.
- Turn off outside faucets. Insulate them for extra protection.
- Clean gutters on your rental property to prevent water spilling over and gathering around the foundation. This can be done after all the leaves have fallen. It’ a dangerous job, so take precautions to prevent falls.
- Trim any broken or dead tree limbs to prevent them from falling during storms.
- Instruct tenants on what to do in case of emergency. Provide them with at least two phone numbers: yours, a handyman’s and the heating/cooling contractor who takes care of your system.
- Arrange for snow clearing services. For the safety of tenants and pedestrians, be sure to arrange for snow and ice removal before the first storm hits.