A Landlord’s Guide to End of Season Late Fall and Winter Maintenance
With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for landlords and property managers to get serious about fall and winter maintenance. Cold, wet weather can take its toll on a property. It’s important to be proactive because repair costs can mount quickly!
Here are a few fall maintenance tips that will give landlords peace of mind in the months ahead.
Clear Gutters and Ensure Proper Drainage
With the weather changing, trees are inevitably going to begin shedding their leaves. This has escalated over the past few weeks as the Northeast has been pummeled by a few separate storms. Leaves, twigs and other debris can clog gutters. If water begins to pool on the roof, it can cause costly roof damage.
Our advice: use a scraper or trowel to clean rain gutters of leaves and other debris. Then rinse your gutters to ensure everything flows to the downspouts freely.
This is also a good time to check the drainage around your rental property. Be sure that all drains have been graded properly around the perimeter of the property so water doesn’t collect around the foundation. Otherwise, you could be faced with erosion or leaks in the basement.
Prep the Yard for Winter Weather
Now is a good time to prepare the yard for winter weather. Rake leaves and trim hedges one last time. Take down unwieldy branches that may fall come down under the weight of snow. Fertilize the grass and remove plants or roots that may impact siding, outdoor patios or brick walkways.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to clean and store any outdoor furniture, grills, etc. Remind tenants to do the same if they have their personal belongings outside.
Finally, be sure to disconnect hoses and drain sprinkler systems. Otherwise, the cold weather could cause the pipes to freeze and your hoses and other water lines could burst.
Check Insulation Around Windows and Doors
The seams and weather stripping around doors and windows can leak hot air and drive up heating costs – a big problem for landlords who foot the heating bill.
To check for possible leakage, turn on any exhaust fans in the home (such as bathroom fans or oven hoods), and then carefully move a lit candle around the seams of the doors and windows. If the flame flickers or the smoke shifts, then air is leaking (either in or out).
Depending on how severe the leakage is, you might consider sealing cracks with caulk or you might want to replace windows entirely. Remember that new windows, when necessary, can add value to your rental property.
Now is a good time to install storm doors and windows, too, if you have them.
Get Heating Systems Warm and Ready
Make sure vents are clear, filters are in good condition and your heating systems are in good working order. If your rental property has a gas-fired water heater, cut costs by insulating the tank to keep water warmer for longer. Insulating wraps can be found at most home stores and come with installation instructions.
While you’re at it, consider draining hot water heaters. Flushing the system once a year removes sediment from the tank that can cause it to work harder.
Finally, be sure to cover up or store AC units for the winter.
Make Fire Prevention a Priority
There have been a number of high-profile fires in the Boston area lately. And did you know: more home fires happen during winter months than any other time of year? It’s true! Fires are often caused by residents who light candles, stoke ovens and use space heaters to stay warm.
Avoid fires at your rental property by testing all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries as needed. Consider giving residents new fire extinguishers.
Last but not least, if any of your apartments have a working fireplace or wood stove, now is a good time for a good old-fashioned chimney sweep. Make sure all vents and flues are working properly so that smoke can escape properly. Clear and consider re-caulking chimney caps to prevent obstructions. Birds love to make their nests by chimney caps!
Enlist the Support of a Pro
If all of this fall and winter maintenance seems daunting, consider enlisting the support of a property manager, landscaping company or other professional. DIY landlords often fall behind on these important tasks and over time, put their investment properties at risk of needing costly repairs that could otherwise be avoided.