As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. With the cold and snowy weather approaching, it’s important that landlords take the time to prepare their rental properties for winter. Regardless of the size or type of property, there are tasks that are best done in the fall to prevent the water damage and slippery conditions that winter can bring.
Take the time during the fall months to complete these rental property winter preparation tasks to protect your investment and keep your tenants safe and satisfied.
1. Service the Heating System
With the cold weather on the way, one of your most important tasks as a landlord is getting your rental property’s heating system ready. Fall is a great time to change the furnace filter and have a licensed heating technician perform a preventative maintenance visit.
As a landlord in Ontario, you’re legally obligated to maintain a minimum temperature of 20 degrees celsius from September 1 to June 15. While this is the provincial standard, it’s important to check local laws as many municipalities enforce higher standards.
Beyond your legal obligation to maintain a certain temperature, preventative furnace maintenance in the fall can help prevent costly emergency repairs, frozen pipes and unhappy tenants.
2. Confirm Your Snow Removal Plan
As the seasons change, your outdoor maintenance tasks will shift from cutting the grass to ice and snow removal. Before the first snowfall arrives (which is often earlier than we expect!) you should know exactly how you will keep your rental properties safe and clear from ice and snow.
Many landlords will hire a commercial snow removal company. If this is the case, take the time now to confirm the service for the winter. When choosing a snow removal service, it’s important to choose a company that is fully bonded and insured.
If it’s feasible for you to handle snow removal yourself, make sure you have a backup plan in case of illness or vacation. Similar to legislated heating requirements, it’s important to understand any specific municipal bylaws regarding snow removal.
While landlords are ultimately responsible for ensuring clear and safe driveways and walkways, it never hurts to ensure your tenants have access to a shovel and some sort of de-icer. This can help keep them safe if they’re out and about before the snow is cleared or for addressing any ice patches that pop up.
3. Inspect the Windows and Doors
A quick door and window inspection can identify problem areas before they start causing issues for you and your tenants.
First, you’ll want to check for any air leaks or drafts. If found, take steps to seal these leaks as soon as possible or hire an experienced contractor to handle the task. Taking steps to keep the cold air outside where it belongs will help save money on heating and electricity bills.
You’ll also want to make sure there are no water leaks or condensation. Water damage can generate a costly repair bill, not to mention that water or condensation build up can cause mould to grow, which no tenant wants to see or live with.
4. Check the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
They may not be specific to the winter months, but don’t forget to check the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors while performing your fall maintenance tasks.
Do a test to ensure all units are working and replace the batteries, or units themselves, if necessary.
5. Prep the Exterior
While the exact tasks will vary for each property, the last step you’ll want to take is getting the exterior of your rental unit ready for the winter weather.
First, you’ll want to prep any outside water sources. Make sure that hoses and sprinkler systems are properly drained to prevent damage from lingering water becoming frozen. Ideally, hoses should be stored inside.
Second, take the time to clear leaves from the property. At the very least, you need to clear them from areas such as eavestroughs and outside drains that could cause problems if they become blocked or backed up.
You’ll also want to take a look at any trees on your property. Proactively addressing tree limbs that are hanging, looking unhealthy or growing too close to power lines can prevent them coming down and causing damage during wind, ice or snowstorms.
Finally, safely store your summer yard equipment such as the lawn mower and make sure that your cold weather equipment is easily accessible. This is a great time to give them a test run to make sure they’re working properly after a summer of storage. The last thing you want is to be shovelling the first snow by hand because the snow blower doesn’t work or is out of gas!
Staying ahead of problems is the best way for landlords to prevent costly and disruptive problems and keep your tenants safe and comfortable all winter long. For protection when problems do pop up, experience the Cayuga Mutual difference today with our rental property and landlord insurance plans in the Haldimand, Norfolk and Binbrook areas.