Winter can be a frustrating month for landlords. In addition to standard responsibilities and maintenance procedures, landlords may need to go out of their way to make sure that their tenants are kept comfortable during the winter months. If you are a new landlord and need to stay on top of your responsibilities, be sure to keep them in mind as necessary.
On-Site Snow Removal
Perhaps one of the largest responsibilities facing landlords is shoveling snow. If you own a multi-housing unit or apartment building, the responsibility lies entirely on you, but the line can become blurred with a single-family residence. In most cases, you can designate the people responsible for keeping driveways and walkways clear in the lease, but be sure to keep city ordinances in mind as well.
If your lease specifies that you want your tenants responsible for the walkways and driveways, a good way to get them to keep the area clean is to provide incentives. Offer them the shovel and ice-melting chemicals as necessary, or provide them with a rent discount to keep them up to date on the task. No matter what, be sure to outline the details as carefully as you can in the lease, as you do not want any gray areas.
The deadline for snow removal varies city by city. If you are unsure, check with your city ordinance to see if there are any specifics to keep in mind. Remember that the longer you leave the snow on the property, the higher the chance of an accident for which you may be liable. If in doubt and approaching the deadline too quickly, hire a company to manage the snow removal efficiently.
Maintaining Heating Systems
Depending on the age and state of the building, maintaining the heating system can be difficult, but ultimately the responsibility falls on the landlord’s shoulders. Though you are responsible for the heating system, there are some specifics to keep in mind. Outline how quickly your tenants can expect repairs in the lease, and be sure to provide them with an emergency number they can reach.
The lease should always designate how fast you can respond to the problem, but it is also equally important to have reliable professionals on call to help your tenants. It is usually recommended to have a repair person available on-site for 24 hour emergency services. One of the best ways to avoid such problems in the first place is to regularly schedule preventative maintenance for your HVAC system. This can help reduce the emergency calls you receive throughout the colder months.
Repairing Frozen Pipes
Finally, one of the most frustrating issues to deal with on the property is frozen pipes. Frozen pips may burst or break during the winter months, and it is an all-too common issue with older apartment buildings. The emergency professionals can help you handle a frozen pipe on your property, but it is equally important for you to maintain the building’s pipes as frequently as possible.
In addition to standard maintenance procedures, it is also a good idea to issue reminders and maintenance tips to your tenants. Remind them to allow the pipes to heat slowly and make sure that your tenants leave the heat on when they go away to avoid returning to burst pipes and other heating issues.