Summers here in DFW can be some of the hottest in the nation. But our winters are no joke, either.
With the average temperature in January hitting 37 degrees (and often dipping below the freezing point), investors need to take the proper steps to protect their properties and winter-proof their DFW homes.
We put together a winter rental checklist of things you — and your tenants — can do to prepare your rentals for winter and make sure your properties make it to spring without any cold-inflicted damage:
Steps You Can Take Before Winter Hits
As the old saying goes, “The best offense is a good defense.” And when it comes to protecting your rentals during the winter, the most important work you can do happens before the temperatures start to dip.
Here are 10 preventative steps you can take to make sure your property is ready for the winter:
Take care of landscaping
During the winter months, snow and ice can add extra weight to branches, trees, and shrubs. And while those snow-capped trees may look picturesque, the added weight can cause branches to snap and fall, which could damage your property and present a potential hazard for tenants.
Before winter hits, make sure to do some basic landscaping and lawn maintenance around the property. Prune and trim trees, branches, and shrubs and clear your lawn of any hazards before the first snow falls.
Insulate exposed pipes
If you have any exposed pipes, it’s imperative that you wrap them before it gets too cold. Non-insulated pipes can freeze and burst in cold temperatures, and repairs can be costly.
Walk the perimeter of your property to identify any exposed faucets or pipes and make sure you insulate before winter hits.
Winterize your sprinkler system
Another thing that can freeze and burst in the winter? Sprinkler systems, which is why it’s important to get your sprinkler system winter-ready before it gets too cold.
Drain all the water out of the pipes, turn the system off, and cover any spigots. You’ll also want to make sure any hoses are drained.
Check your roof
As snow and ice accumulate, they add weight to a roof — and if your roof is in poor condition, it could cave in. That is why it’s so important to inspect your roof before winter hits.
Go onto your roof and look for any signs of damage, including holes or any other signs of deterioration. If you identify any problems, be sure to fix them before winter to ensure your roof is strong enough to withstand the extra weight from snow and ice.
Check for any opportunities for heat to escape the property
The key to ensuring the interior of your property stays protected throughout the winter is making sure it’s heated properly. But doors and windows offer the opportunity for air to escape, which puts your property at risk (and can drive up heating costs for your tenants).
Before the cold weather hits, inspect all your doors and windows for things like gaps, split weather stripping, and loose caulking — anything that might allow heat to slip out. Making these repairs before the winter will make sure the heat stays inside where it belongs (which will protect both your property and your tenants).
Clean out the gutters
Snow melting creates excess water that your gutters will need to handle throughout the winter. Before it starts snowing, be sure to clean out your gutters and remove any debris or obstructions that could stop the flow and cause flooding.
Clean and inspect the chimney
If your properties feature a wood-burning fireplace, you need to check the chimney before winter hits and the tenants start building fires. Hire a professional cleaning service to sweep the chimney, check for any blockages or obstructions that could cause problems, and make sure they’re removed before your tenants use the fireplace.
Check your heater
The best time to check your heater is before winter. Once the cold weather hits, service providers will be overwhelmed with repair calls, and it could be days before someone makes it to your property to inspect a unit — which isn’t an ideal situation for your property or the tenants.
In order to avoid any potential issues, schedule a maintenance call with your repair professional to have them inspect your heater during the fall.
That way, if there are any issues or repairs needed, they can manage them before the cold weather hits and their schedule fills up.
Check your A/C
Your air-conditioning system probably isn’t top of mind as you head into winter — but if you want it to be in working order when summer rolls around, now is the time to take care of it.
Change your filters, clear out any debris, and store (if it’s a standalone) or cover (if it’s built into the property) the unit for the winter.
Lock in a snow removal plan long before the first flakes fall
Before winter rolls around and it starts to snow, it’s important to have a snow removal plan in place.
Who’s responsible for removing snow at your properties? Is it something your property manager will handle? Will you hire a snow removal service? If so, which areas are they responsible for in terms of removing snow? Will they remove snow from walkways, or are the tenants responsible for snow removal in their immediate area?
Getting clear on your snow removal plans — and making sure all tenants understand what, if any, their responsibilities are for snow removal — will ensure your property doesn’t stay buried in snow all winter.
Steps You and Your Tenants Can Take During the Winter
Preventative measures are important to protect your rental properties during the winter. But it’s also important that you and your tenants know what to do to protect your property in the moment when temperatures dip below freezing.
Keep heat at a reasonable temperature
Now, most tenants will keep their heat reasonably high when temperatures dip outside, but you’ll always have one or two who try to keep the heat off in order to save on heating costs. But letting the temperature drop too much in your units puts your pipes at risk of freezing.
Make sure all tenants keep their heat on and set it to at least 50 degrees to protect your pipes (and if you have any vacant properties, make sure you do the same).
Leave faucets on and at a drip
A great way to prevent pipes from bursting is to tell your tenants to leave all faucets on slightly (just enough for water to drip out). Letting water trickle out of the faucets relieves pressure within the pipes. Pressure is what causes pipes to burst, so relieving the pressure will remove that risk.
Open cabinets with plumbing to allow heat to pass through
Many pipes are hidden behind cabinets. Let your tenants know to keep all cabinets with pipes open when it’s cold outside; that way, the heat from the rest of the property can get into the cabinets and warm up the pipes, which will prevent freezing.
With this cold-weather checklist for rentals, you have everything you need to protect your rentals from the harsh winter elements and make sure they emerge in the spring without any damage. So get out there and start winterizing!
Need help getting your properties ready for the winter months? Get in touch with LEAP today to find out how we can help.