Fall brings to mind cozy sweaters, colorful leaves, and cooler weather. And for many homeowners, it may be a reminder that winter is coming and homes need to be winterized in preparation.
As a landlord, you may not have winterizing as a top-of-mind activity, especially if your rental property is in a state not known for cold weather. However, with the weather being increasingly unpredictable due to climate change, it’s a good idea for anyone to prepare their home for cold snaps.
Here, we’ve rounded up our top list of fall chores to help you prepare for winter. Get started early so your tenants aren’t left in the cold come winter.
If your home has gutters, there’s a good chance leaves and debris are collecting inside and blocking water from flowing down. Gutters should be cleaned twice a year, once in the fall and again in the spring.
There’s a reason gutter cleaning is a regularly outsourced job; chances are high that you have a local gutter cleaning company in your area. If you’re looking to save money, gutters can be cleaned out in a few hours with the help of a sturdy ladder, a small shovel, and a hose.
Left uncleaned, gutters can cause a whole host of problems. Overflowing gutters can lead to flooding in basements, water damage to the roof, and damage to landscaping. If you’re going to start with a chore, this one should be high-priority.
While you’re outside checking out your gutters, take a look at the exterior of your building. See any cracks between the siding, trim, windows, and doors? Caulk is an inexpensive way to close off these gaps and protect your house from cold air seeping in. You’ll stop moisture from coming in too, which can save you the worry of mold later down the road.
Sealing up holes will also prevent unwanted wildlife from sheltering in your home. Mice can fit through holes that are only millimeters wide, so be sure to not overlook even the smallest of gaps. We love our furry friends, but we’d prefer them not to be chewing through bags of food in the pantry.
Servicing your HVAC system should be a must-do on any landlord’s maintenance list. Furnace filters should be changed about every three months, depending on usage and size of the filters. Letting your filters get too dirty can lead to a faster breakdown of your furnace and inefficiencies.
An HVAC technician will also check to make sure your furnace is running properly, that there are no leaks or problems with wiring, and that your thermostat is working efficiently.
Tip: Companies are busier with emergency calls for broken furnaces later in the season. If you don’t want to be the emergency call, schedule your service before a cold snap hits.
There’s nothing worse than getting a call in the middle of the night from your tenants after a pipe has burst. Flooding, water damage, mold...the list of problems this can cause goes on.
Be prepared early. If applicable, turn off your outdoor water supply or insulate it using pipe foam insulation. Disconnect any hoses and let the water fully drain out. Check the outside of your building for any cracks — cold air can seep in here and lower the indoor temperature, causing pipes to freeze and burst.
Tip: Tell your tenants to keep the thermostat at 55 degrees or higher, even if they are going out of town. This can prevent your indoor pipes from freezing while the unit is unoccupied.
Chimney sweepers have evolved since Mary Poppins’ time. If you have a chimney in your property, it’s recommended you have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional once a year. Without this, flammable creosote may build up and cause an unwanted fire.
Think your tenant doesn’t use the fireplace? You may have some unpaying tenants you don’t know about — squirrels, birds, and other critters often seek refuge inside chimneys. Regularly attending to your chimney can clear these friends out and keep your flue clear.
Don’t leave your tenants to brave icy sidewalks on their own. Whether or not you have snow removal in your rental agreements, be a good landlord and keep a bag of a deicing agent such as salt or sand in any common outdoor spaces.
Tip: Only use as much deicer as needed. Salt can damage wood, rust metal, and harm plants.
No one wants a tenant to slip and fall on their property. If you don’t provide snow removal services, consider keeping a shovel on-hand in a common area such as a basement or garage.
If you own a larger property, such as an apartment building, you may be legally required to clear snow from sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, and other common areas.
Hiring out snow removal reduces liability for people falling or hurting themselves on your property. For buildings with parking lots, it’s worth hiring a plowing service to clear the way for your tenants’ vehicles.
Tip: Snow removal companies book up — don’t wait until the first major snowfall to call. Start researching companies in the fall to sign a contract before winter.
In addition to hiring a snow removal company, consider a landscaping company to help clean up leaves, trim dead branches, and aerate your lawn. If you have a smaller yard, these are likely easier chores. Make sure to rake well — leaves left on the ground all winter will smother grass, leaving you with dead spots come spring.
Also keep an eye on any overhanging branches on your roof or garage. Heavy snow can snap these branches, causing damage to the exterior of your house.
While winter weather has certainly been unpredictable these past few years, there’s one thing we know for sure: you can never be too over prepared when it comes to your investment property. Being proactive now saves time, money, and headaches later down the road. Follow this fall checklist for homeowners to reduce your chance of damage to your home or your tenants.
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