How To Winterize Your Rentals and Vacant Properties
As temperatures begin dropping this Fall, it is important to winterize your real estate investments, to prevent costly damage and insurance claims. Whether you manage your own properties or hire a property management company, you should think about putting your winterizing procedures at the top of your priorities for your rentals, vacant-homes, and commercial buildings.
Winterizing is preparing your property’s systems to handle the winter weather conditions. In Colorado, we usually get our first snowfall in October. Therefore, landlords, property managers, and homeowners usually start the winterization process during the first two weeks of October to avoid calls for burst pipes or broken tree branches after a snowstorm. Proactive planning saves owners and property managers both time and money in the long run. With that in mind, we will discuss some steps for the winterization of your property.
Normally, insurance policies cover against, fire, hail, snow, rain, wind, ice, frozen pipes, and mechanical breakdown. However, if you file a claim, you would be subject to a deductible. My suggestion is to have a list of maintenance and repairs to avoid having a claim filed under your property. Below is my list of recommendations to prepare your real estate investment for the winter temperatures:
- Keep the heat on. It should be included in your lease agreement to have a minimum temperature of 60 degrees when the tenant(s) are on vacation. It will prevent a claim or more expensive repairs.
- Outdoor pipes shut off and the sprinkler system blown out.
- Cover outdoor plumbing and pipes with foam pipe insulation.
- Inspect your HVAC system with a professional to make sure they are running efficiently.
- Replace caulking or sealant as needed for your windows and doors.
- Shop for snow and ice removal services. Before the snow arrives, you should look for snow removal contractors to help you with your properties and avoid a liability claim.
- Trim tree branches to prevent falling and damage to your property, the tenants, or the neighbors. Frequently, I hear about claims of falling tree branches on vehicles or the neighbor’s property.
- Clean your chimneys. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, it is recommended to hire a professional to clean and inspect the chimney for any signs of damage or obstruction.
- Testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Inspect your vacant properties often during the winter. You may want to completely turn off the water supply, drain the pipes and toilets, and put non-toxic antifreeze in the toilet bowl.
- If your dwelling is vacant: Be sure you've removed all food from your pantry before vacating the place, so pests don't have something to feed on if they do get inside.
Why should you winterize your properties if you have insurance?
As I mentioned above, insurance should cover water damage, snow, rain, ice and burst pipes. However, each policy has an individual language. Some policies only cover the cost of the repairs, but not the damage surrounding the property while others may just be the opposite. Every insurance carrier requires the property owner to take appropriate steps to avoid potential problems.
No one wants to deal with the consequences, repairs, and cost of failing to prepare and winterize a real estate investment. If you have too many properties or you are an out-of-state investor, I highly suggest contacting a reputable property management company to help you with winterization and maintenance. I also suggest contacting your insurance agent to understand the policy language regarding your coverage during the winter. If you need help understanding your policy, please contact me and I will be happy to explain the terms from the insurance and investing point of view.