Winter property management is tougher than management in other seasons because of the weather. Water, snow, and ice cause direct damage to rental properties. The cold also makes tenants stay at home more, cook more, use heating and more hot water, and lighting since the days are shorter.
All these specifics of the winter season can lead to more frequent accidents. With climate change, winter 2020 is likely to see even more extreme weather. That’s why winter safety should be a top priority for both rental property owners and property management companies.
Here are a few winter property management tips to help you have an easy winter 2020 season. Some of them are within the scope of responsibilities and duties of the property manager while others are safety tips to share with your tenants.
1. Prepare the Rental Property for Cold Weather
Seasonal property management means taking into account the changes in the tenants’ behavior and making sure the rental property is ready for it as well.
As temperatures go down in almost all states, your tenants will need heating. Also, people spend more time indoors during the holidays, using all sorts of electrical appliances, which can lead to malfunctions and overload on the systems especially in multi family homes.
- Check furnaces, AC units, portable heaters, boilers, fireplaces, fuel tanks, and ventilation.
- Ask the tenants to run any additional heating appliances by the property manager for approval.
2. Save on Electricity
Winter property management done right can have a positive effect on a rental’s profitability, especially for short-term rentals. Where the heating is included in the price, you want to keep rental property expenses under control. Investment property management is about balancing the costs and the rental income for the property owner.
- Check all windows and doors for cracks and drafts to prevent any heat loss.
- Ask the tenants to turn off individual heaters or radiators next to a window when it’s open to let fresh air in.
- Change all lightbulbs to the latest energy-saving ones.
3. Take Steps to Eliminate Fire Hazards
Most domestic fires happen during the winter season because families cook more and use candles for ambiance. A fire can cause huge damage to a rental property, bringing on big repair expenses and driving the price of the property down, which are in your property manager’s duties to avoid.
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as well as fire extinguishers. If possible, put some penalty fees in the lease contract in case tenants deactivate alarms on purpose.
- Replace any faulty wires and appliances that can start a fire.
- Provide safety tips for cooking – how to bake, roast, grill, etc. safely using the particular appliances provided in the rental property. This can be done with a simple handout info sheet in the mailbox.
4. Get Ice and Snow Clearing Sorted
Managing rental properties in the Northern States is not much fun. Winter maintenance is mainly about snowfall. Keeping up with the snow forecast is a useful habit for property managers. The snow cleaning can be included as an extra service in what you charge for rent or it can be stated as the tenant’s responsibility in the lease so make sure to enforce it.
- If it’s a property management duty: make sure you have a contract with a sub-contractor before the next snowstorm hits. Or be ready to shovel as the snow falls to prevent it from freezing over.
- If tenants have to do it: provide snow shovels for each unit.
Danger alert: To save yourself a lawsuit, remind tenants of the danger of icicles forming from the roof. The best way to clean them is by using a long tool like a broom or a stick so they don’t fall down and hurt anyone.
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5. Minimize All Other Winter Risks
Winter property management mainly deals with the elements, trying to minimize the safety risks for tenants and the rental property itself.
Rain and winds can cause lots of damage to any property and it’s not just the repair costs. Yards are great to have until they are a threat to tenant safety. Also, having a water leak in the house can be especially unpleasant during the winter season when it’s harder to dry it up.
That’s why you should include in your property manager responsibilities:
- removing dangerous tree branches and any unstable old trees in the yard
- securing and cleaning rainwater pipes and gutters
- cleaning water collectors and yard drains
- checking roof for leakages
Important reminder: If tenants are going away, they should turn the water valves off so the pipes don’t freeze and burst. It’d be helpful to establish good communication channels between the rental property management and tenants so there’s a way of sending such reminders and getting important information back in time.
6. Fight the Formation of Mold
No property management company wants the value of its property to go down due to preventable damages.
Mold forms in hot and humid spaces – that’s usually bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens. In winter, people open windows less often and moisture builds up in the corners.
- Install exhaust fans where needed. Clean the outer end of existing ones.
- Remind tenants to use them regularly.
7. Place Rules on the Use of Holiday Decorations
Winter property management includes some watching over your tenants while they have fun.
The electric Christmas lights can easily start a fire and some property management companies ban them altogether. If you want to be a good residential property manager, don’t ban them but insist on the use of battery-powered ones that are much safer.
8. Get Your Tenants Ready for Emergencies
No list of winter property management tips would be complete without a few emergency situation warnings. Part of property maintenance is making it easy for tenants to keep things under control until you or a contractor can get there. Some of the most common winter risks include:
- Blown fuse – label the fuse box properly so tenants can quickly locate the problem.
- Power outage – provide flashlights.
- If the rental property has a backup power generator, make sure tenants know how to use it.
During winter, problems can pop up anywhere around the rental investment property and you have to fix them fast. You don’t have as much time because any damage causes much more inconvenience when it’s cold and damp. Plus, tenants usually don’t move out during the coldest season so you don’t have the time between leases for repairs. Winter property management means keeping all risky areas in close check to minimize unpleasant surprises.