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Preparing Your Home for Winter: A Checklist for New Landlords

As the temperature begins to drop, it’s time to take steps to winterize your rental property. Whether you own a single-family house or apartment, preparing your home for winter is necessary to ensure it can withstand the onslaught of cold, snow, and ice. 

However, suppose you’re a new landlord renting out a recently acquired home. In that case, trying to figure out precisely what you need to do can be overwhelming. Which tasks should you include in your winter preparation to-do list? Should you begin work in late fall or wait until winter officially arrives? Can you pass on some of the duties to your tenant, such as snow removal, or are you responsible for every task?

Luckily, we’ve created a winter maintenance checklist to prepare your home for the frosty weather. Read on to learn how to get started.

Winter checklist for rental properties

Winterizing your rental requires performing a variety of tasks. Depending on your property type, these can vary considerably in scope and complexity.

It’s essential to complete some work in the fall before temperatures drop, such as turning off the exterior faucets. Other tasks you can tackle in the winter, such as topping up the attic insulation. Certain types of maintenance will require your attention only once, while others will be ongoing throughout winter.

Fall tasks

Shut off exterior faucets – Turn off all exterior faucets and drain excess water from the pipes. Doing so will prevent water from freezing, which can cause the pipe to burst and flood the home. The landlord is responsible for performing this task.

 Inspect the roof for damaged shingles – Check the roof for damaged or missing shingles and make any necessary replacements. An intact roof will help prevent water damage from melted snow. The landlord assumes responsibility for this task.

 Clean the gutters and eavestroughs – Clear the gutters and eavestroughs of leaves, twigs, and other debris so water can flow freely and collect on the ground away from the property. Doing so prevents ice dams from building up along the roof and moisture from harming the home’s foundation. The landlord is responsible for this task.

 Disconnect the garden hose – Disconnect all garden hoses, drain any excess water, and store them away in a dry place. Doing so ensures water doesn’t remain trapped inside, which can freeze and rupture the spigot or hose, resulting in flooding. Typically, the landlord carries out this task.

 Empty flower pots – Remove soil and water from flower pots and store them in a cool, dry place like a garden shed. Frigid temperatures may cause the pots to crack or become brittle, particularly if any leftover water freezes. Both the landlord and tenant can carry out this task.

 Turn off power to the air conditioning unit – Disconnecting power to the air conditioning unit prevents any water build-up should it become active during warmer days. Once the water freezes, it can cause damage to the internal components. The landlord is responsible for performing this task.

 Clean the chimney – Inspect the chimney and clear it of any obstructions if necessary. Over time, creosote (a combination of tar and soot) accumulates on the inside, which can cause smoke to flow back into the home and possibly spark a fire. The landlord is accountable for this task.

 Seal or stain a wooden deck or porch – Check the wooden deck or porch for tattered spots and patch them up using a stain/sealer product. A combination of sealing and staining will ward off water damage and reduce colour fading. The landlord is responsible for carrying out this task.

 Seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors – Apply caulking or weather stripping to any large gaps and cracks around windows and doors. Doing so will prevent cold air from creeping in, keeping the home warm and energy costs low. The landlord is responsible for performing this task.

 Cover up bushes and shrubs – Cover up bushes, shrubs, and similar plants with burlap, bed sheets, or canvas cloth. Doing so helps to prevent damage to the plants from freezing moisture. The landlord is responsible for performing this task, but the tenant can help if needed.

 Winter tasks

Replace furnace filter – Inspect the furnace filter monthly and replace it as needed. Doing so ensures the furnace runs smoothly and keeps the home free of dust and dirt. The landlord is responsible for performing this task.

 Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms – Ensure that all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working correctly; replace the batteries if needed. Faulty alarms pose a critical safety risk, as they may fail to alert the occupants of a fire or carbon monoxide leak. Both the landlord and tenant can carry out this task.

 Inspect and service the HVAC system – Perform regular maintenance of the HVAC unit to ensure it’s operating efficiently. Neglecting this routine can result in inflated energy bills, costly repairs, decreased air quality, and uneven distribution of warm air throughout the home. The landlord is responsible for performing this task.

 Clean the attic vent – Inspect the attic vents and clear them of excessive dust and debris. Doing so ensures moisture can exit the attic freely rather than get trapped, creating a perfect environment for mould and mildew. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to execute this task.

 Salt or sand the walkways, stairways, and driveways – Periodically spreading sand or salt on walkways and driveways reduces the chance of a severe injury from a fall. Usually, the tenant is responsible for this task (unless the property is an apartment or condo, in which case it’s the property manager’s job).

 Clear snow from the walkways and driveways – Removing snow from walkways and driveways helps prevent injuries from falls. It also reduces the chance of melted snow seeping into the home’s foundation, which can result in costly damage over time. Usually, the tenant is responsible for this task (unless the property is an apartment or condo, in which case it’s the job of the property manager)

 Upgrade attic insulation – Assess the state of the attic insulation and top it up if necessary. If the attic lacks sufficient insulation, too much heat will escape, leading to thick ice dams forming. The result is a higher energy bill and possible mould growth. The landlord is responsible for performing this task.

 Adjust thermostat for winter temperatures – Set the thermostat (if it’s programmable) to temperatures suitable for winter. Doing so helps save money on heating costs, as the home is never too warm nor too cool. Typically, the tenant takes charge of this task.

 Check the hot water tank thermostat – Inspect the tank’s thermostat to ensure it’s set to an appropriate temperature (anywhere from 54° – 60° is fine). The household won’t be able to access enough hot water if it remains too low. Either the landlord or the tenant can carry out this task.

Our Final Thoughts

Preparing your rental property for the winter months is essential to keep the home warm and safe from damage from frigid temperatures and heavy snowfalls.

As the landlord, it’s primarily your responsibility to winterize your home. Some tasks require a combination of specialized knowledge, tools, and expertise, so you may need to outsource parts of the work. But no matter how you get the job done, you’re the one who’s accountable for the result.

You can delegate simple duties to your tenant such as replacing the batteries in the smoke alarm and shovelling snow. But always consult with them first to ensure they’re comfortable taking responsibility for the task and can perform it safely and efficiently. Never pass on extensive and complex maintenance tasks to your tenant. Otherwise, you risk facing severe legal repercussions should something go wrong.

If you’re unsure whether you or your tenant bears responsibility for a specific task, check your jurisdiction’s legislation concerning rental property maintenance. However, it’s wise to always assume the onus is on you when in doubt.

Prepping your rental property for winter will help to keep your property in top shape for years to come. But there is no guarantee that you’ll bring in steady rent income each month. Whether due to a job loss or willful neglect, your tenant may suddenly stop paying their rent, resulting in a massive hit to your bottom line.

At SingleKey, we understand the financial and emotional toll non-paying tenants can inflict on landlords. It’s for this reason that we offer the Rent Guarantee program. Should your tenant default on their payments, you’ll receive compensation worth up to 12 months of lost rent, up to a maximum of $60,000. You also get coverage for up to $10,000 in property damage and $1,500 in legal fees to offset eviction costs.

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