The temperature is falling, and the ice and snow of winter are right around the corner. But, is your rental property ready? Cold weather can wreak havoc on a home causing frozen pipes, HVAC breakdowns, and other unexpected repairs. Thankfully, when landlords and tenants work together to prepare the rental for cold weather, many of these expensive repairs become avoidable. So, continue reading below for tips to winterize your rental property through a few simple steps.
How to Winterize Your Rental Property?
Winterizing simply means preparing a property’s major systems to handle colder weather conditions. Winter already brings its own challenges for making repairs as access to exterior points may be hindered by snowfall. So, proactive measures can help landlords save time, money, and frustration down the road. Check out some of the steps to winterize your rental property below.
- Inspect the Foundation, Doorways, and Windows
- Check-In on Your Roof and Gutters
- Test Emergency Alert Systems
- Maximize Energy Efficiency
- Prep the Yard and Landscaping
- Get Ready for Snow Removal
- Prevent Frozen Pipes
Inspect the Foundation, Doorways, and Windows
The foundation is critical to the structure of your rental property. Therefore, to winterize your rental, inspect the foundation for any signs of cracking or moisture build-up. If water can seek in and freeze, it can cause cracks or further damage. In addition, any gaps around windows or doorways can let in moisture or cold winter air. Thus, causing damage or diminished energy efficiency. So, take the time to caulk or repair damage to the foundation, sidewalks, or around windows and doors. Also, if the home has window AC units, be sure to remove, drain, and properly store these away for the season.
Check-In on Your Roof and Gutters
A home’s roof protects the interior from costly damage. However, Summer storms can lead to damage that Fall leaves can easily hide. Moreover, Fall leaves can build up and clog gutters, causing water to redirect towards and even into the home. Undiscovered leaks can lead to the deterioration of insulation, drywall, or structural beams. So, inspecting the roof and clearing out gutters is a vital step to winterize your rental property. Look for any loose or missing shingles and replace them as needed. If soft spots or any more extensive damage is discovered, consult a licensed roofing professional.
Test Emergency Alert Systems
In the colder weather months, switching from AC to heat makes a rental property more susceptible to carbon monoxide and potential fires. Therefore, now is the ideal time to test emergency detectors. Typically, tenants can do this on their own, but if any units are defective, landlords must be immediately alerted.
Maximize Energy Efficiency
Heating and energy bills can skyrocket as the temperature outside takes a plunge. While sealing up cracks around windows and doors, as discussed above, can help, it is not the only tip for increased efficiency. Therefore, to winterize your rental property, consider the following –
- Reverse the Ceiling Fans – Switching fans to a reverse position helps force warm air back down into the room. Especially in homes with vaulted or high ceilings, this can significantly lower utility bills and maintain overall comfort.
- Set the Temperature – A minimum of 60 degrees is essential to preventing frozen pipes. So, set the thermostat and consider saving even more by utilizing a programmable thermostat. Thus, allowing for different settings throughout the day to maximize comfort and efficiency.
- Clean Chimneys – If the rental has a fireplace, cleaning the chimney once per year is essential to safety. However, ensure tenants know to keep the flue closed when not in use to avoid warm air from the home escaping through the chimneys.
- Add Insulation – Insulation is vital to staying warm and energy-efficient throughout the winter months. That said, ensure the attic has the minimum recommended 10 to 14 inches of insulation for optimal heat retention.
- Service the HVAC – Before switching from AC to heat, owners must have a licensed HVAC technician service the heating unit. Properly servicing the home’s heating system will improve efficiency but also help avoid costly breakdowns mid-season. Also, ensure the tenant knows how and when to change necessary air filters to keep the unit running in tip-top shape.
Prep the Yard and Landscaping
While a lush green lawn is not the first thing that comes to mind in winter before the first frost is the ideal time to prepare for next year. Therefore, consider fertilizing with a high phosphorus mix in early fall, and be sure to give the lawn one last cut before the ground freezes. This helps the grass direct its nutrients to the root system and, in turn, leads to a lush and healthier lawn next spring.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget the lawn furniture! If your rental property has outdoor patio furniture, décor, or a barbecue grill, this is not something you want to be exposed to the harsh winter weather. So, if there is somewhere to store them away, do so; if not, ensure a weatherproof cover protects them.
Get Ready for Snow Removal
While it is necessary to winterize your rental inside and out, anticipating the need for snow removal is also critical. In some cases, the tenant is responsible for their own snow and ice removal. However, in multifamily buildings, this is something for the landlord to coordinate. Therefore, sign up with a reputable snow removal company early as these contracts can be harder to get after the first flakes begin to fall. Additionally, have some plans in place to tackle deicing sidewalks to prevent potentially devastating slips and falls.
Prevent Frozen Pipes
To prevent frozen pipes, turn off all exterior faucets or hose bibs. Also, remember that frost-proof faucets can still freeze and possibly burst if a hose is left connected. In addition to cutting off supply and draining lines to the exterior, follow these other tips below –
- Insulate Exposed Pipes – Exposed pipes along outside-facing walls are more prone to become frozen in colder temperatures. So, wrap these in extra pipe insulation for an added layer of protection.
- Dripping in Extreme Conditions – If the temperature plummets significantly or the home is vacant, allow a small drip of water to flow. This will help keep water moving through the pipe and possibly prevent freezing. In addition, keep under sink cabinet doors open to allow heat to circulate fully.
How to Handle Frozen Pipes in Your Rental
Despite the best of intentions, sometimes emergency pipe breaks occur, and landlords need to be ready when they do. That said, make sure tenants know, and look out for, the tell-tale signs of a frozen pipe. If the tenant discovers an area of concern, ensure as a landlord that you have the proper process in place to respond to a maintenance emergency.
- Watch for the Warning Signs
- Mitigate Immediate Damages
- Address Repairs
- Contact Your Insurance Provider
Watch for the Warning Signs
- No Water Coming Out of the Faucet– Lack of running water is a significant sign of trouble. Therefore, the pipes may be frozen if the kitchen or bathroom faucets have little to no water pressure.
- Frost on the Pipe– For visible pipes under sinks or along walls, look for signs of frost that may have accumulated. This signals that pipes may have succumbed to the dropping temperatures.
- Odd or New Smells– A different or strong smell emanating from a drain or faucet could spell trouble. This could mean that a pipe is blocked and requires immediate attention when combined with other warning signs.
Mitigate Immediate Damages
When a pipe bursts, water could begin to pour into the home. Therefore, ensure tenants know where to turn off the water supply in an emergency. In addition, immediate steps can mitigate damages to the surrounding property and the home itself. For example –
- Shut Off Water – When a burst pipe is suspected or confirmed, shut off the main water supply as quickly as possible until a professional can be contacted.
- Mop and Collect Water – If water is actively leaking, take steps to mop up or dry the area to prevent further damage. If the pipe break is visible, anticipate some leaking and place a collection bucket underneath to prevent water from escaping into the surrounding area.
- Move Personal Items – If the location of the break is known, clear the area of any personal items, furniture, or fixtures. Thus, preventing damage and allowing easier access for emergency repairs.
If landlords have the experience, attempting to thaw frozen pipes as a DIY fix is possible. However, this is only advised if the pipes have not already cracked or broken. When deciding whether to DIY or call a professional, remember the problem could quickly get out of hand. When in doubt, seeking the expertise of a licensed plumber is always the best choice. They have the knowledge and equipment to correctly address thawing pipes and prevent more severe issues from occurring.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
Repairing frozen pipes or water damage, in general, is a costly matter. However, these types of repairs may be covered by a landlord’s insurance policy in some cases. That said, each policy’s language may vary. For example, some may cover the cost of the repairs but not the damage to the surrounding property, while others may be just the opposite. So, contact your agent as soon as possible to determine if they might cover the specific circumstances of your repair.
Proactive Property Protection with Professional Property Management
Failing to take the necessary steps to winterize your rental could result in costly repairs and inconvenience for both tenants and owners. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, as the leaves begin to fall, now is the time to think ahead to the cold winter temperatures right around the corner.
Maintenance for landlords is inevitable, and it can be an overwhelming task, especially for owners that do not live close to their rental. Hiring a qualified property management team is one of the best ways to maximize profit potential, manage preventative maintenance or repairs, and streamline daily operations. The team at Bay Property Management Group knows the importance of regular inspections and seasonal preventative maintenance. Our team is equipped with both in-house technicians and a trusted list of third-party vendors to tackle any property need. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of professional rental management in your area, give us a call today.