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Winter Is Coming! Is Your Howard County Rental Property Ready?

Preparing Your Occupied Rental Properties for Winter

The change of seasons can potentially cause quite a bit of wear and tear on your rental property in Howard County. Property owners typically manage several aspects of their rental properties and leave a few minor tasks to tenants. However, it’s important for property owners to take the time to ensure all their occupied and vacant properties are ready for the winter months.

Consider a few of the following winter property management tips to prepare for the harsh winters that Howard County typically experiences.

Preparing Your Occupied Rental Properties for Winter

Every Howard County rental property owner with an occupied property should create a seasonal maintenance checklist. It’s a good idea to schedule a maintenance inspection with tenants and go over your winterization checklist before the cold weather really hits. If you have a property manager, you can ask him or her to handle these issues for you or take care of them yourself. You could even delegate a few of the minor tasks to your tenants.

Most rental tenants typically handle a few minor maintenance tasks throughout the year. For example, a property owner may require tenants to replace their furnace filters and smoke detector batteries, close exterior faucets, and clean gutters. Owners will likely handle larger issues like appliance repairs and replacements, structural damage, leaks, and door and window replacements.

A few of the items you should address in your winterization checklist include:

Gutters

Make sure your property’s gutter system is free of debris and ready to handle winter snow and ice. Gutters that are dirty and full of twigs and leaves can become clogged or eventually freeze and burst from blockages. Although it may be cold, one of the best times to clean your property’s gutters is the end of fall after all the deciduous trees near your property have shed their leaves.

Roof

Make sure there are no soft spots or any unaddressed damage that could lead to a leak or worse, a collapse. Even a small leak can be disastrous in the winter and allow rain and melted snow and ice to enter the property and exacerbate the problem. A roof replacement is one of the most expensive maintenance issues a property owner can face, and a well-maintained roof will last 20 years or more before needing replacement.

Water System

Close off all exterior faucets to minimize the chances of freezing and/or flooding over the winter season. Frozen pipes can burst, eventually leading to flooding and severe water damage throughout the lowest areas of a property.

Pests

Address pest concerns as soon as possible. If a tenant submits a maintenance request or complaint about pests, hire an appropriate licensed professional to deal with the situation immediately. Pests not only upset your tenants but can also cause significant property damage to various areas and spread diseases.

Furnace

Have a technician inspect and tune up your property’s heat system so tenants can stay warm and comfortable through the winter. At the very least, make sure to replace the furnace filter. The filter greatly enhances the efficacy and lifespan of any furnace system. Make sure tenants know to keep the heat set at a minimum of 60 degrees Fahrenheit through the winter to prevent damage to the heating or air conditioning system in your property.

Chimney

If your property has a fireplace and chimney, be sure to have the chimney professionally cleaned before anyone lights the fireplace this winter. You should also check the flue and structural integrity of the chimney every year.

Windows and Doors

Prevent drafts by re-caulking windows and doors on your property. Typically, you should only need to do this once every two to three years but be sure to address drafts and damaged windows and door frames as quickly as possible whenever they appear.

Energy

Have a professional perform an energy consumption audit of your rental property in Howard County. A licensed contractor can help identify parts of your house that may be causing higher utility bills than you should be paying. If your property needs extensive repairs, addressing them before winter strikes can pay off in a big way in the long run.

Snow and Ice Removal

Typically, tenants are responsible for clearing away snow and ice from their driveway and sidewalk. However, some rental properties may have unique concerns when it comes to snow and ice removal and require professional assistance.

Make sure your tenants know their obligations for property maintenance and preventative maintenance for the winter. Winter weather in Howard County can entail very low temperatures, lots of snow and ice, and very high winds, so it’s best to address your winter maintenance issues as early as possible. This can limit the chances of property damage, insurance claims, disgruntled tenants, and astronomical repair costs. Most property rental agreements should cover these requirements extensively, so address any known issues before winter starts and make sure your tenants know what to do this winter.

Managing Your Vacant Property for the Winter

It’s ideal to have tenants in your rental property over the winter to help prevent pipe freezing, furnace issues, and other problems that often arise in vacant properties. If the property does end up vacant for the winter, the two most important issues for a property owner to address are the heating system and the water system.

First, set the heat at your vacant property to 60 degrees. This will help ensure the furnace system keeps running with minimal energy consumption, saving both wear and tear on the furnace and money on your utility bills for the winter. Replace the furnace filter at least once every few months to further protect the lifespan and efficacy of your furnace system.

Next, you’ll need to address the water system. Turn off all exterior faucets and then shut off the main water to the house. Locate the lowest sink in the house, such as a laundry room sink, or basement bathroom sink, and flush all of the remaining water out of the pipes. Keep every faucet very slightly open (a minor drip at most) to ensure air flow through the pipes in your property over the winter. You can further protect your property’s water system by pouring about two cups of antifreeze into every sink trap and toilet in the property and leaving the cabinet doors open under the sinks.

Just like an occupied rental property, make sure all of the windows and doors have secure, undamaged caulk, and re-caulk any windows or doors with leaky seals. Finally, you want to make sure that if anyone visits the property over the winter, such as a contractor, property manager, or any type of inspector, that they will not unintentionally damage the property’s water system.

Attach “Do Not Use Water” or “Winterization” signs on the doors and windows of the property to prevent any interference with the water system and potential damage. These signs should notify any visitors to the property that the heat has been set to 60 degrees and the water main and exterior hose faucets have been turned off. These signs should also indicate that you put antifreeze in the drains, sinks, and toilets and clearly state to refrain from using any of the property’s water system fixtures.

If contractors and utility inspectors visit the property over the winter, be sure to provide them with clear instructions on how to un-winterize the property. These signs should tell visitors like contractors and repair workers who to contact about any issues they encounter on the property, such as the property owner or property manager, with contact information listed for the appropriate party. These signs should also state to refrain from using any water system fixtures until the house has been de-winterized. The checklist for de-winterization should include:

  • Turning the property’s water main back on.
  • Running water in all sinks and flushing every toilet.
  • Checking for leaks near any sinks, toilets, or other water system fixtures. If anyone performing the de-winterization steps notices leaks, he or she should shut off the water main again and contact the property manager or owner right away.
  • Finally, once the house has been fully de-winterized, the person performing the de-winterization checklist should remove all of the winterization signs from the home to prevent confusion.

Protect Your Property This Winter

Property owners face numerous challenges, especially during the winter, and a thorough winter weather checklist is a great way to address these issues and prevent costly damage during cold weather.

If you have tenants in your rental property in Howard County, make sure they understand their obligations. Have a list of numbers so the tenant can contact you or the property manager if any issues arise over the winter. If you have a vacant property this winter, taking the appropriate steps to protect the property will help ensure that when a tenant does in fact move in, you can limit the chances of future maintenance requests.

How Bay Property Management Group Can Help

Every property is different therefore every property owner will have different concerns. But the winter weather will affect every property in Howard County the same. With the help of a property management company like Bay Property Management Group Laurel, they can take the time to perform seasonal maintenance in your Howard County rental property and prevent repeated maintenance requests and potential insurance claims this winter! They can make sure all concerns are addressed and no detail goes missed, saving property owners a lot of time and worry when it comes to winter weather and property problems. If you’re ready to get started, contact BMG today!