As a landlord, you provide timely repairs for tenants upon request. It takes teamwork to protects tenants from unsafe conditions and help to protect your property from long-term damage. During the winter, your duty is especially important, as repair issues can become much more urgent in cold weather.
What types of winter maintenance can you expect? Should you set aside cash to ensure funds for winter repairs? It’s important to be prepared for winter maintenance requests from your rental home tenants. Here are the most common winter maintenance requests.
1. Broken Heating
Heating doesn’t always fail. But when the heat stops in the middle of winter, your tenants will call right away. After all, heat is essential to their health and safety. If it happens, be prepared to send your most trusted HVAC team over within the day.
A small repair is often sufficient to get the heating back online. However, if your HVAC system is 15+ years old, you should already be saving for a replacement system when either the AC or heat finally gives out.
2. Water Heater: No Hot Water or Not Warm Enough
Tenants will also notice if the water heater can’t keep up in the winter chill. If the water never gets hot enough for a comfortable shower or efficient washing, odds are you’ll get a call. Keep in mind that a lack of hot water is also a health and safety issue, so immediate repairs are necessary.
Often, flushing and descaling a water heater and adding a water heater blanket – a special insulating wrap – will get your tenant’s hot water back online. But again, an older unit may need to be replaced and your scheduled budget should be prepared.
3. Systemic Pipe Clogs
In the wintertime, clogs are more likely to congeal and become hard in cold pipes instead of melting and flushing out into the sewer system. This means clogs – deep, unplungable clogs – are more likely to occur in the winter.
Have a good plumber on-call to snake out pipes for your rental homes if tenants call about deep, persistent, or multi-drain clogs. You may also send out a newsletter about winter drain care to help avoid these problems in the future.
4. Frozen and Burst Pipes
In colder climates, there is a higher risk of frozen pipes. Make sure that you add insulation wrapping or heat wire to pipes below the house and between the walls if the temperature drops below freezing. Some tenants know how to minimize pipe freezing, and some do not. It’s best to take precautionary measures.
Inform your tenants about how to drip faucets and open cabinets during a deep temperature drop. Be prepared to send emergency services for either frozen pipes or – worse – burst pipes.
5. Loose and Drafty Windows
Tenants may not notice a rattling and drafty window in the spring or fall, but sources of cold drafts stand out in the winter. Have a handyman ready to arrive with a screwdriver and caulk gun if your tenants call about loose windows. In fact, send over a whole new round of weather stripping. Your tenants will enjoy a cozier house and lower power bills. Your property will achieve better energy efficiency in one round of repairs.
6. Chimney Issues
Chimney care can also be an issue. In a perfect world, preparations will be made before the cold hits and your tenants want to curl up next to the fire. There are a couple of key practices that will help keep your property safe and your tenants happy:
- Have a chimney service on-call. They can inspect for damage, clean out creosote, remove animal nests, and repair any crumbling exterior bricks.
- Provide instructions on proper flue operation. This will allow your tenants to become comfortable with opening and closing the damper (and knowing when to do it!).
Taking Action in Harsh Winter Weather
If you live in a region that has harsh winter storms, there may also be damage that your tenants may not immediately notice. Roof damage from wind or hail, ice dams, or leaks between the walls might slip their notice until it’s caused significant damage. Consider an annual inspection of these issues or let your tenants know that special repairs may be scheduled after any major winter storm.
Setting Aside an Emergency Fund for Winter Repairs
Should you set aside funds for winter repairs? Absolutely, yes. This is especially true if your rental properties are in regions with a harsh winter or if the key appliances like the HVAC or water heater are particularly old. Be ready to provide critical services like heater, water heater, and burst pipe repairs.
It also helps to ensure your tenants have a rental insurance policy that can provide a few days of alternate lodgings in case repairs take time.
To prevent emergencies, consider both saving a winter fund and scheduling routine repairs and tune-ups in the late fall before disaster has a chance to strike.