Today as I’m writing this article its 75 degrees outside, so winterizing my home in SoCal isn’t top of mind. I do own property in other parts of the country where winterizing needs to be taken seriously, however. In fact, there are many parts of the US that have already had a freeze and or snow, like New York shown in the photo below from earlier this month. The consequences of not properly winterizing your home and/or rental property can be costly.
We will focus on how to properly winterize your home to prevent these types of disasters: water damage, fire, and physical liability.
How to Properly Winterize Your Home
Winterizing to Prevent Water Damage
Nature brings water in the forms of rain, snow and ice and, in extreme circumstances it can cause quite a bit of damage. But water disasters can also be manmade, such as busted pipes. When you have flooding, there’s practically nowhere water can’t penetrate so it can not only damage personal property (why it’s a good idea to require tenants have renters insurance) but also sheet rock, wood trim, flooring and walls. What’s worse is, it often leads to mold if the areas are not quickly dried. Natural causes are difficult to predict and prepare for, however, items like burst pipes can be avoided with proper planning.
Things the property owner can do to winterize against water damage:
- Insulate pipes
- Insulate waterlines
- If you have separate water sources for the garage or laundry, make sure they are also insulated
- Make sure your HVAC is working correctly and heating key areas where pipes are located
Things the tenants can do to winterize against water damage:
- Keep cabinets doors open so heat can get to the pipes
- Keep a slow drip going in the faucets to keep them from freezing
- Keep the heat above 55 degrees (you can install regulators)
Winterizing to Prevent Fires
Fire can happen any time, of course. However, there are two ways that winter increases the chance of fires in rental properties: heating and cooking. Here are some suggestions of things that can be done to help reduce the possibility of these kinds of fires.
- Some forms of heat are safer than others, so ensure your heating systems are safe and in good working order. Don’t leave it up to the tenant to find a heating source.
- Regular maintenance of HVAC systems – which includes changing furnace filters monthly
- Strict rules on the use of ovens and space heaters
- If units have fireplaces:
- provide screens
- have a 3-foot perimeter
- maintain chimneys
- Maintain working smoke and CO2 alarms. In many states it is required to have a third party annual inspection.
- Provide a fire extinguisher which can often be provided by a third party company that will also do an annual inspection.
- Provide a cooking safety checklist to your tenant.
- Install StoveTop Fire Stop, an inexpensive fire suppression product.
Winterizing to Prevent Liability
Of course, liability can always be an issue but in the winter there are added hazards and often increased traffic because of the holidays. Attention to the following maintenance issues can prevent a costly liability claim.
- Walkways, stairs and drive ways should be kept in good repair – eliminate uneven surfaces, secure handrails, clear driveways
- Have guidelines in your leases about who’s responsible for clearing walkways and driveways in inclement weather.
- Create easy and secure ways tenants can inform you of hazards such as:
- Electrical issues
- Concern of mold
- Broken windows, floor boards, stairs, or exposed wires, nails or pipes
- Leaky pipes
Ben Franklin said, ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’, and he lived in cold weather…
Diana D. Hill – Diana@OTARealEstate.com