In the winter, a number of things can happen that damage properties. Property owners need to be aware of what can occur, and what their responsibilities are to their tenants. Keeping the property safe and livable are important for both owner and renter, and there are a few things that can be done to get through the cold weather with as few problems as possible.
Damage happens, and repairs are needed. In the winter, though, things can get a bit scarier (and pricier) to handle. Prevent problems by doing a thorough inspection before the cold weather sets in. Check the pipes for any blocks, leaks, or drain problems, and make sure tenants know how best to keep pipes from freezing when temperatures drop (such as keeping the heat at a reasonable temperature, and letting a small stream of water run at night if temperatures drop to below 20 degrees Fahrenheit). Clear any rain gutters of leaves and branches, and remove debris from sidewalks. Make sure that the roof is in good condition and can hold up under snow. Inspect the furnaces or radiators, the water heater, and the electrical systems. Any needed repairs be done faster before the winter starts, as most maintenance companies get quite busy later in the season.
You can also make sure that the outside areas are safe and well-cared for. Take care that the outside areas are well-lit so that your renters won’t slip in the dark. Install outdoor lights near walkways, garages, and doors. Perhaps provide a snow shovel and some salt before the cold begins so that on the first snow day renters aren’t unprepared. If you have an apartment complex or a small, multi-dwelling unit, consider providing snow removal. Check and shut off the outside water lines, and get someone to inspect the natural gas line, if you have one.
Winterizing the property is your responsibility. As the owner, it is important that you catch and respond to problems with the property itself, as renters may not know what to look for and how to fix things. Let tenants know that they can, and should, approach you if something goes wrong. Often times, renters are afraid to tell property owners that something broke or could use some attention because of those scary landlord stories people like to relate. Be approachable and make sure that tenants know that you expect to help out if need arises. Put your responsibilities and tenants’ responsibilities into the contract. You will both know what is expected and how best to help if something goes wrong.