A chill is in the air, leaves are changing, and Fall is here, but along with it comes Fall maintenance. Falling leaves can easily clog gutters and lead to water damage in and around the home. That said, seasons changing presents the perfect opportunity for preventative maintenance and a chance to check-in and ensure all major systems function properly. Taking the time to look after your rental property regularly can go a long way in preventing major breakdowns in the future. When it comes to Fall maintenance, both landlords and tenants each play a role in keeping the property operating at its best. Join us below as we discuss common Fall maintenance tasks along with who is responsible for what.
Fall Maintenance Tasks for Rental Properties
With the changing seasons comes new risks of damage or breakdowns in your rental property. Thus, a little preventative Fall maintenance goes a long way. Here in the Northeast, the Fall and Winter months bring unpredictable weather and, therefore, the potential for frozen pipes or storm damage. So, check out some of these common Fall maintenance tasks below.
Interior Rental Maintenance Tasks for Landlords
- Maintain Security – Security is important to landlords and tenants. As winter approaches, now are the time to check and ensure door and window locks operate correctly. As the weather gets colder, these mechanisms can seize or easily jam. Thus, a little WD-40 and inspection for excessive wear can ensure the locks can secure the property all season long.
- Avoid the Drafts – Even small cracks can let cold air stream into the home and raise utility costs. Instead, inspect the property’s doorways, windows, basement, and attic for any opportunity to seal out the elements. Spray foam is a quick and simple solution to keep out cold air but also pests and rodents.
- Check the Chimney and Fireplace – If applicable, Fall maintenance is the ideal time to inspect a unit’s chimney, fireplace, flues, and vents. Have these cleaned annually by a licensed chimney sweep who can also alert you to any potential concerns.
- Update Your Insurance Policy – Unpredictable Fall and Winter weather brings a potential danger of storm damage or extended power outages. As the seasons change to Fall, this is a great time to review your insurance policy and coverage limitations. If you find yourself lacking coverage, consult with a licensed insurance agent.
Outdoor Fall Maintenance Tips for Rental Properties
- Tree and Landscaping – Storms, snow, and ice can weigh down or break branches that may threaten the property or outbuildings. Therefore, consider having a professional tree service evaluate any large trees for potential problems and remove any damaged or diseased branches. Also, Fall maintenance should include trimming back bushes and removing any leaf build-up from exterior drains.
- Clean the Gutters – As leaves and debris fall, gutters can become clogged, allowing water to build up near the roof and walls. Thus, now is the time to clear away clogs and inspect for any damage or cracks in the gutters themselves. If issues arise, repair or replace any damaged sections.
- Inspect the Roof – Clearing debris off of the roof is just as important as cleaning the gutters. For example, dead branches can damage roof tiles or hide missing shingles that could result in leaks. So, carefully inspect the roof for any signs of weakness, damage, or missing tiles and make repairs as needed.
- Prepare for Snow Removal – In some cases, the tenant is responsible for snow removal. However, if not, landlords must plan early for snow removal services. So, research and secure these contracts during the Fall; everything will be ready before the first flakes hit the ground.
Fall Maintenance for Your HVAC System
An HVAC system is one of the hardest working and most expensive components of a rental property. Thus, regular preventative maintenance is vital to avoid costly repairs. While the tenant is responsible for regularly changing the HVAC filter, landlords must ensure the system remains in proper working order. That said, one of the simplest ways to do so is through a service contract with a licensed HVAC vendor. Let’s review some of the common Fall maintenance tasks for your HVAC system below.
- Test the Thermostat – Switch the system from cooling to heat and set the temperature a few degrees higher than the room. The heat should kick on; if not, check the thermostat batteries and connections. If an issue arises, contact a professional HVAC vendor.
- Clean the Heat Exchange – Have a professional clear-off and vacuum the heat exchanger at least once per year.
- Service the Blower Motor – With the power off, clean the caps to the bearings of the blower motor. Some landlords may choose to DIY this step by using the unit’s manual or consult a professional for the best result.
- Test the Igniter – Most newer model HVAC systems have a reliable electronic igniter. However, if this is not working properly, contact a professional.
General Maintenance Responsibilities for Landlords
To legally operate a rental property, landlords must provide a safe and habitable space. Therefore, they must adhere to certain maintenance responsibilities and standards. Doing so helps mitigate the chances of costly litigation, potential fines, or tenant disputes. In addition to Fall maintenance, check out some of the other general maintenance landlords must complete below.
- Adhere to All Building Codes – Part of providing a “safe and habitable” property requires compliance with all local and state building codes. These include guidelines on smoke detectors, structural integrity, safety issues, and environmental hazards.
- Ensure Vital Services are in Working Order – Access to water, working plumbing, and a working water heater are considered vital services for a tenant. Therefore, landlords must ensure these services are in operating condition. In addition, tenants must have access to utilities such as electricity, gas, and heat.
- Trash Receptacles – To maintain a sanitary environment, tenants need to remove and dispose of refuse regularly. That said, landlords should provide adequate trash receptacles with tight-fitting lids.
- Maintain Common Areas – Typically, landlords must maintain all interior and exterior common areas if the property is multi-family. This includes – snow removal, landscaping, lighting, and addressing any safety hazards.
- Perform Property Repairs – Repairs are inevitable, and landlords must be prepared to handle routine, preventative, and emergency maintenance tasks efficiently. That said, keep a list of quality vendors at the ready to handle all basic repairs within 24 to 48 hours.
Fall Maintenance Tasks for Tenants
Landlords have a lot of responsibility when it comes to regular and seasonal maintenance. However, tenants must also do their part, and it is critical to read and understand those responsibilities under the lease. Let’s review some Fall maintenance tasks for tenants below.
- Test Emergency Systems – Huddled around a warm crackling fireplace may be cozy, but it is also dangerous. Even without a fireplace in your rental, periodically testing the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is critical for safety. These devices are required by code and can be lifesaving in an emergency. If any of the detectors are not functioning properly, alert the landlord immediately.
- Prevent Frozen Pipes – Before the first freeze, tenants must take steps to winterize the rental property. This includes draining exterior pipes or hose bobs and closing valves for the season. The landlord can assist with instructions or locating these valves as needed.
- Outdoor Upkeep – Fall maintenance includes keeping the grass cut, removing leaves/debris, shoveling snow, and spreading salt when sidewalks or driveway become icy.
Additional Maintenance Tasks for Tenants
- Follow All Housing and Occupancy Codes – Tenants must comply with all local codes and occupancy standards, including the provisions of their lease. Failure to do so could result in higher utilities, safety or fire hazards, or lease violations.
- Maintain a Sanitary Environment – Discarded trash or food waste can draw pests and cause damage. A tenant’s responsibility is to bag and dispose of trash regularly to maintain a sanitary and safe environment.
- Minimize Safety Hazards – Protect access to fire exits and essential equipment by avoiding clutter and maintaining cleanliness.
- Promptly Report Maintenance Issues – Tenants must make every effort to protect the home from damage, including reporting any maintenance concerns immediately to the landlord. Keep in mind; landlords can hold tenants liable for any damage caused due to failing to report issues.
- Use Appliances and Fixtures Properly – Keep appliances clean use them for their intended purpose only. Additionally, avoid grease or food to build up on surfaces or in drains to prevent damage.
- Prevent Mold Growth– Leaks or excess moisture can build up and allow dangerous mold growth to form. If a leak occurs, tenants must notify the landlord immediately.
- Do Not Disturb Potential Lead Paint– Any tenant living in an older home built before 1978 must be aware of lead paint hazards. While the landlord must disclose any potential risks, tenants still have a responsibility not to disturb any surfaces that may have lead paint.
Seasonal Rental Maintenance Done Right
Maintenance is an inevitable part of owning and managing rental properties. While it does take some coordination and planning, the preventative efforts you take can go a long way in preventing larger issues. At Bay Property Management Group, we understand that managing rentals is a lot of work. However, through our industry expertise and unmatched commitment to customer service, we have developed efficient processes to make rental ownership the profitable and enjoyable experience it should be.
Investing in a professional management firm can help maximize your investment while protecting the property through consistent and preventative maintenance. So, if you are interested in learning more about the benefits of full-service property management, give us a call today.