Protecting your investment is good business, and autumn is the perfect time to complete those odd jobs you’ve been meaning to get to… but haven’t. A little preventative maintenance now will help protect your rental property from harsh winters, tenant wrath and potentially even renters relocating.
It’s important (and cost-effective) to uncover any issues before the snow arrives. Since the cold weather is fast approaching, here’s a fall checklist for landlords.
Gutters/Eavestrough: Used to channel water away from your foundation, eavestroughs or gutters help protect your building. Blocked gutters can’t direct water properly, so it’s important to have them cleaned out. If possible, wait until nearby trees have finished dropping their leaves.
Animal-Proofing: Squirrels, raccoons and skunks are looking for warm hiding places for the winter months. Discourage them from nesting in your building’s attic or basement by animal-proofing your rental property. Animal control experts or contractors can install metal screening over possible entry points. Having animals removed from your property after the fact is expensive (and can cause emotional reactions from renters); a little prevention can avoid many problems. Let the raccoons set up shop elsewhere, so your tenants don’t freak out thinking their children have been infected with rabies.
Roof: The roof is your building’s first protection from the elements, and once it’s breached, the cost of damage can exponentially rise. A leaky roof can ruin your attic, insulation, drywall, and your electrical system, and once wet, mold can set into the walls and even the framing. Have a roofing expert check for loose or missing shingles. Any signs of wear or damage should be fixed before snow and ice has the chance to cause further problems. Clean any debris off your roof.
Paint: If you have wood window frames, siding or trim on the exterior of your rental property, check for peeling paint. The paint acts as a weatherproofing layer, preventing rot and moisture. Repainting problem areas now is less expensive than having them replaced later.
Caulking and Mortar: Peeling caulk around vents and windows can lead to water damage. Also look for foundation cracks that could be caulked to keep your basement dry. Check for missing or broken mortar between bricks. If water gets into the bricks then freezes, the ice will expand and cause further damage. A stonemason can remove damaged areas and repoint, keeping water out.
Trees: Are any tree branches touching your roof or siding? Over time, this can damage the exterior of your building. Any branches that are interfering with electrical lines should be trimmed by a professional. If a tree has become a hazard, have it cut down before it falls and damages your property.
Stairs, Railings and Decking: Any loose or rotten pieces should be fixed as soon as possible. Once the snow arrives, you may no longer have access to the area.
Air Conditioning Units: Clean and cover your outside units to protect them from the elements. Double check that your renters have removed window units for the winter.
Water Faucets, Sprinkler Systems: Outside water faucets need to be flushed out and turned off. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for winterizing sprinkler and irrigation systems.
Pools: It’s time to have your pool company come to drain and winterize any swimming pools. Also inspect the cover for rips or damage.
Smoke and CO Alarms: To protect your tenants and your property, test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at least once per year. For units that require batteries, change them every fall and spring.
Furnace: Have your heating system inspected, serviced and cleaned once a year. Proper maintenance can extend the life of your furnace, postponing an expensive replacement. Don’t let renters forget to change the filters, either – this is inexpensive maintenance that can prevent major HVAC problems.
Sump Pump: Test your sump pump to make sure it’s working properly. Some may need to be cleaned and lubricated on a yearly basis.
Attic: If it’s cold outside, it’s supposed to be cold in your attic as well. A properly insulated attic prevents ice damming on your roof, which can lead to damage and expensive repairs.
Insulation: Insulating the basement and outside walls not only keeps the building warmer in winter, it protects your water pipes. Frozen pipes can burst and leak in your walls, causing quite the expensive mess. If necessary, add insulation to get the recommended R-value for your area.
Crawl Space: If you have pipes in an unheated crawlspace, make sure they are well wrapped and insulated. Check that windows and doors to the crawlspace close and lock properly to avoid animals nesting there.
Windows: Broken windows and frames can let in cold air and moisture. To avoid damaged drywall and mold, check all windows once per year.
Ducts: For forced-air heating systems, it’s a good time to have the ducts cleaned. You can also inspect exposed ductwork for heat loss due to leaks.
Although a long checklist, most items can be done quickly, without spending much money. With a yearly inspection and a little preventative maintenance, you can help keep your rental property in good working order. You can also make expensive items like your roof or furnace last much longer, which means more money in your pocket.
Remember to stay safe when working on your properties. Some jobs are best left to a professional. Others are great for DIYers, but first check that your equipment is in good condition, and ideally work with a partner. Have a sturdy ladder, wear safety glasses and follow instructions.