In Virginia, we’re fortunate to experience all four seasons without any of them being too intense. We might get some snow and ice in the winter, but it’s rare that we’re buried beneath a blizzard.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t preparations that need to be made, especially when we’re talking about your rental property. Seasonal maintenance is an important part of keeping your property safe, habitable, and in good condition.
We recommend a winter property maintenance checklist for your rentals, and here are some of the things that should always be on it.
Prepare Properties for Snow Removal
There’s not always a lot of snow during the winter, but we will likely see at least a few inches from time to time. You’ll want to make sure your property and your tenants are prepared for the fluffy white stuff. Worse than snow is ice. When you have icicles hanging off your property, they can be dangerous. It also makes conditions slippery and dangerous.
Have a plan in place and a service provider ready to plow, shovel, and treat any surfaces that are collecting snow and ice. You’ll need to keep sidewalks and driveways clear of snow and ice. If it’s your tenant’s responsibility to clear any ice and shovel any snow, make sure your lease reflects that requirement. Be specific about how your tenants should manage this. You don’t want them to use any harsh products that may cause damage to the concrete. You also don’t want them to hurt themselves while taking care of the shoveling. This could be a liability for you.
Generally, we recommend you hire someone to remove the snow and ice, and then charge that amount to your tenants or fold it into the rental amount.
Inspect HVAC Systems and Heating Units
Your Norfolk area residents will almost certainly be using their heat throughout the winter. This will follow a summer season of prolonged air conditioning usage. Make sure your furnace and heating units are working effectively and efficiently. We always recommend that owners have their entire HVAC system serviced at least once a year. If you do it before the seasons change, you can be sure the heating unit is ready for winter.
Schedule your local HVAC technician to come out to your rental properties to inspect, clean, and service the furnace, vents, and full heating unit. This will prevent any major problems during the winter. You don’t want to leave tenants without heat. Get ahead of any potential problems that will result in frantic phone calls.
Inspect Your Roof
The roof of your rental property is not something that’s in your line of vision. When you’re at the property to respond to a maintenance issue or complete a turnover, you can easily put eyes on appliances, plumbing, and floors. The roof, however, is generally out of reach unless and until you’re willing to get on it or send someone else onto it.
You want to take good care of the roof, especially as winter approaches and it will be subject to cold, wind, rain, and potentially ice and snow.
Annual and seasonal maintenance on your roof can end up saving you thousands of dollars. It’s so much easier to replace a few shingles than it is to replace an entire roof. So, before the snow begins to arrive and settle on your roof, get a roof inspector or a licensed roofing vendor onto your roof to take a look. You want to make sure there isn’t any damage, and you also want to make sure there’s no chance that water can seep inside.
Ask your roofer to look for loose, damaged or missing shingles that need replacing. It’s also a good idea to inspect the chimney flashing as well as any vents that may invite leaks. Patch up anything that needs work and enjoy the peace of mind that your roof is in good shape for the winter.
Check for Water Intrusion and Reinforce Insulation
Water is terrible for rental properties, and if you have a leak, you’ll need to know about it immediately. When the water is coming in from the outside, you need to stop the source of that entry and address the larger problem.
Before winter sets in, make sure you have checked and cleaned the gutters at your property. You’re looking for any debris that might have gathered over the summer. If your gutters are clogged, you run the risk of attracting pests and pushing water into the property. That’s going to lead to bigger and more expensive problems.
You also want to make sure your rental property or your building is well-insulated. Inspect the windows and doors. Trim back any tree branches or bushes that might break windows during a winter storm.
Make Safety a Seasonal Checklist Item
Before winter arrives, take the time to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in your rental property. Double-check their placement. Are they in the right spots as required by law? When you make this a seasonal preventative maintenance item, you can be sure they’re getting the attention they need every year.
You want to be sure the batteries are changed, if you are using battery operated models, and that these detectors are functional. It’s a good time to check the locks on doors and windows, too. They should open and close easily. Replace any torn window screens.
Are there any other safety issues at your property that need attention? Check in with your tenants.
Winter Landscaping and Lawn Care in Virginia Beach
Landscaping needs some extra attention in the winter months, so make sure you’re prepared.
Even if your rental property only has a patio or a small courtyard, you want to make sure the space is prepared for cold weather. Encourage your tenants to take in any patio furniture or toys, bikes, and other belongings that they won’t be using. Trim back any dead leaves or branches that could become sharp objects during an ice storm.
If you have a yard, the irrigation system is one of the most likely places for a pipe to burst or freeze. Before the temperatures begin to drop, make sure you’ve drained all the water out of your lawn sprinklers. Remove the hoses from any of your outside spigots and then turn the spigots off completely to prevent freezing.
Budget for Heating Costs and Maintenance
How are your utilities organized at your rental properties? If you pay for them, you’ll want to budget for higher energy costs in the colder months. If tenants are paying their own utilities, you can offer them some resources on how to set their thermostats for maximum efficiency without sacrificing comfort.
Heating costs will obviously go up during the winter months. Make sure your property is well-insulated so you don’t lose money. Talk to your tenants about keeping the heat on even if they’re not home. You want the thermostat to stay at 50 to 55 degrees to ensure pipes don’t freeze.
When you’re preparing to winterize, you have to think about your maintenance budget. There will not necessarily be more expenses during the winter, but the things you pay attention to will be a little bit different.
Partner with Tenants, Vendors, and Norfolk Property Managers
When you’re thinking about seasonal maintenance partnerships, you’ll be thinking about the relationships you have with your tenants, your vendors, and your property management team.
Tenants. Your tenants can help you have a successful winter at your rental property. While it’s a property owner’s responsibility to keep their property safe and habitable throughout the winter, you’re going to need a little help from the people who are actually living in the home. Remind your tenants of their responsibilities and make sure they’re educated on how to handle some of the things that may come up during the winter. Review emergency procedures and if appropriate, schedule a maintenance walk-through at the property with your tenants.
Vendors. If you don’t already have a preferred list of vendors and a network of contractors you can call to take care of preventive and emergency winter maintenance, now is the time to begin putting that list together. You don’t want to be left wondering how to respond to a loss of heat, a minor electrical fire from the dryer, or a problem with water.
Property managers. Property management in Norfolk is an easy way to ensure your investment property is seasonally maintained without having to bother to do any of the work yourself. When you’re choosing a property management partner, always ask about what they do to keep your property safe during the changing of the seasons.
You don’t have to do it all alone. Whether you’re renting out one property or an entire portfolio, lean on your vendors, work with your tenants, and consider property management.
If you’d like to talk about this further, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Doud Realty Services, Inc. We provide expert property management in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Hampton Roads, as well as surrounding areas such as Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Chesapeake, and Newport News.