Maintenance Tips to Prepare Your Rental Property for Winter

Maintenance Tips to Prepare Your Rental Property for Winter

When summer creeps away, it is your duty as a California landlord to prepare your rental property for the cooler months. The last thing you want is a renter calling you on a chilly night to report a burst pipe or HVAC breakdown.

Even if you have delegated some tasks to a property management team, your ultimate goal is to keep your tenants comfortable and happy. Only then can you maintain a positive cash flow throughout the year.

In this post, experts at RTI Properties- your preferred property management company in LA– will discuss practical steps to keep a rental property livable during winter. Let us start with important pre-winterization measures.

Things to do Before Winterizing Your Rental Property

Before the season’s onset, prepare a comprehensive list of steps to protect your rental units and tenants from the effects of winter. We recommend organizing your rental property maintenance checklist into three columns.

The first column should be quick-fix items you or your property management company can address early. The list could include smoke alarms., gutters, heaters, and gutters. Have the second column highlight the fixes that may take longer, for example, roof, window, and railing repair/replacements. In the third column, pen down possible worst-case scenarios that may occur during winter. That also calls for setting an approximated budget for emergencies.

As a property management pro would advise you, have the maintenance tasks completed before winter arrives. The price of some items rises during the season, and buying them early can help avoid the extra cost.

Maintaining effective communication with your tenants can help keep them on top of winter safety. Provide educational materials that touch on fire hazards, proper use of heating systems, and emergency planning, and other critical issues.

It would help if you also decided between your responsibilities and the tenant’s duties. Generally, the tenants should handle tasks not required for comfort or quality of life. It is your responsibility to fix structural issues that are not due to the fault of the renter. In some cases, you can provide materials and leave the tenant to perform the tasks, for instance, replacing the furnace filter.

Things to do Before Winterizing Your Rental Property

Winter Maintenance Checklist for Rental Properties

1. Winterize the Pipes

Freezing water expands, putting too much pressure on the pipes. This may cause unpleasant surprises, such as the pipes bursting and flooring the rental units. That is why pipe inspection and winterization are such an integral part of winter maintenance for rental properties.

During inspections, check for blockages and cracks. Blocked pipes are more prone to pressure-buildup and cracking under freezing temperatures.

Once you fix the blockages and cracks, proceed to winterize exterior plumbing and pipes in unheated sections of your rental property. This involves covering the lines with foam insulation to reduce heat loss from the water. The task is as simple as buying suitable pipe sleeves from a local store and slipping them around the plumbing lines. A great alternative is wrapping vulnerable lines with an electrical heating cable to keep the pipes just warm enough to keep water from freezing.

Consider sealing pipe openings in walls with caulk to insulate the units against the elements and keep rodents away. Additionally, disconnect exterior fixtures such as the sprinklers and garden hoses from their respective spigots or faucets.

As an added measure, have vacant units stay warm throughout the cold season. Available are heat pumps with a Freeze Protection setting to distribute hot air without consuming excess power. Your renters will also appreciate the convenience of a smart thermostat that allows them to set desired temperatures remotely.

2. Weatherproof the Rentals Units

Weatherproofing combines several straightforward and cheap tasks to keep your rentals warm and comfortable during the cold season. That includes caulking gaps around the doors and windows to keep the cold out. You only need to apply a bit of caulk in the crevices, allow it to dry, and sandpaper it down for a smooth touch.

For doors that do not snugly fit in their frames and loose windows, use weatherstripping. Weatherstrip tapes are available in varying widths, so ensure you pick the right size for the gaps. Cut the strips to fit and apply the adhesive backing to the frame for extra insulation. Instead, you can draft guards, flexible pieces of foam that slide under the windows and doors to prevent air inflow.

Windows and doors are not the sole sources of drafts. Openings around wires and power outlets can let in cold air, too. We highly recommend sealing such gaps with expanding insulating foam- a little more goes a long way to keep cold air and rodents out.

Your tenants do not need window and door screens during winter. Have them removed, cleaned, repaired, and put away in dry storage space. Storm windows and doors should take the place of screens during winter.

For rental units with an attic or crawl space, have the gaps around attic doors and hatches and between walls sealed up.

The basement is another less obvious but significant source of drafts. Repair foundation cracks and seal the bottom of the sill plates.

3. Keep the HVAC Systems in Top Shape

Another important tip for winter maintenance is inspecting and servicing the HVAC units. Instruct your tenants to check their heating system’s air filters before winter sets in. Advise them to clean or filter dirty filters.

Hire a qualified professional to perform detailed HVAC check-ups and necessary repairs/replacements. The advantage of working with an established property management company is that they maintain a solid network of highly qualified contractors that can do the job at a more affordable cost without compromising quality.

Whether your rental units are vacant or occupied during winter, it makes sense to run the heating, cooling, and ventilation systems for a while to maintain their working order. If your area experiences a cold climate, keep the thermostat setting in vacant units between 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent indoor pipes from freezing. If winters are balmy in your region, advise tenants to run their ACs to reduce humidity; else, their units might suffer mold damage.

If you have equipped your rentals with fireplaces, well and good. After all, we all enjoy the company of a blazing fire in the biting winter cold. However, overlooking chimney maintenance can have deadly consequences, mainly due to the build-up of the highly flammable creosote. Prevent fire hazards and potential carbon monoxide poisoning by having a professional inspect and clean the chimneys in your rental property.

Running fans clockwise during winter creates an updraft that helps distribute warm air near the ceiling downwards. Suggest that the renters make the adjustment themselves or have a maintenance team flip them all. Whichever the case, remind them to readjust the direction on the onset of the warm spring.

4. Ensure Proper Insulation

Home insulation is key to rental property winterization. It prevents heat from escaping from inside a house. This way, insulation helps keep the interior warm and comfortable, prevents HVAC systems from running overtime, and saves energy. So, if your tenants complain about cold interiors and cannot pinpoint the escape route of the heat, it is probably time to consider proper home insulation.

35% of heat escapes through the walls, meaning wall insulation typically offers the most savings. Some walls are solid, while others consist of double layers of bricks with a cavity between them. Cavity wall insulation involves installing a secure layer of insulation in the gap, while solid wall installation involves insulating either side of the wall.

Attic insulation keeps warm air inside and prevents the conduction of cold air to the floors below, effectively cutting 25% of heat losses in homes.

Deteriorated or poorly installed insulation has the same consequences as zero insulation. So, have a qualified home insulation expert check if existing insulation in your rental units is up to standards.

Do not forget the water heaters, particularly the standard tank systems. Energy Saver estimates that insulating a water heater can cut standby heat loss by as much as 45%, saving an average of 11% in water heating costs.

5. Winterize the Swimming Pool

The onset of winter is an excellent time to remind renters of rules regarding the swimming pool. Do not start the pool preparation procedures too early; otherwise, you will have to deal with algae that flourish in warmer temperatures. That in mind, follow the steps below to winterize your rental’s swimming pool:

  • Remove accessories: Remove cleaners, skimmers, steps, solar blankets, and other accessories from your pool.
  • Deep clean: Remove all debris, including silt and leaves. A pool vacuum comes in handy when removing debris from the pool’s bottom.
  • Adjust water chemistry: Ensure chlorine level lies between 1-3 ppm (parts per million). The alkalinity should be 80-50 ppm, while the pH should be somewhere between 7.2 and 7.6.
  • Lower the water level: If the water in your area freezes during winter, have your pool’s water level lowered about a foot below the skimmer for mesh cover and half a foot below the skimmer if you use a solid cover.
  • Drain all equipment: Use a blower to drain water from the pool pipes, then plug them with freeze plugs. Drain the pump, heater, and every filter.
  • Add algaecide and shock: Algaecide kills algae while shock kills bacteria.
  • Cover the pool: You can choose between safety covers and winter covers. Winter covers offer less protection and do not require much securing. Safety covers require more anchorage and offer the best protection against debris and accidental falls.

Bottom Line

Winterizing your rental property before winter hits gives you the peace of mind to focus on things that you enjoy rather than addressing issues related to the chilly weather. Use the above winter maintenance guidelines to keep your tenants comfortable, minimize emergencies, and cut unnecessary repairs, replacements, and costs.

Does rental property maintenance feel overwhelming? Our property management companyRTI Properties– can lift the burden off your shoulders. We offer comprehensive property management solutions for residential and commercial rental properties, freeing up the time and energy you need to focus on other vital matters in your life and business. We boast over 31 years of experience taking care of all aspects of rental property management, from marketing, tenant acquisition, rent collection, maintenance to record keeping.

Call us today at (310) 532-9122 and learn how our services can help you get the most out of your property investment.