First Person: Money Saving Winter Repairs for Landlords

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A few years ago the property management company I work for bought rental properties in Missouri and Indiana, two states where winter can be very problematic. Since I live in Louisiana, winter storms are never something I have to deal with and I was ill-prepared. The first winter the pipes froze in one apartment and another apartment had a furnace fire. We spent nearly $6,000 on repairs. Now I make sure every apartment I manage goes through a checklist of winter-ready repairs. Here is what I look for.

Fireplace inspection

When the weather turns cold, tenants often turn to the fireplace. While you can hope that all your tenants know how to safely use the fireplace, you should still have each unit professional inspected once a year. An inspector will look at the chimney, flue, and the barrel of the fireplace for possible leaks, cracks or other potential fire hazards.

You will pay a fee for each inspection, but skip this step and you risk a major fire in your rental property. Last year one of our units got fire after the tenant turned a poorly working fireplace on. The damage was minor but still cost $3,500 in repairs.

Exterior pipe covers

If your rentals are in far northern states where the risk of major winter storms is a high possibility, you may want to invest in some exterior pipe covers. These covers are inexpensive (less than $40 per cover) and look like fitted blankets. They're easy to install. I put the covers on in less than 20 minutes and they will keep the pipes from freezing during the winter when they're exposed to extreme cold, snow or ice.

Skip this step and a burst pipe will lead to a costly repair and possibly a flood inside your rental.

Roadway cleaning

My next step is to make sure our maintenance staff is properly equipped with snow shovels and sand and salt mixtures. After even a mild snow, the staff clears any walkways around our properties and the parking lot so our tenants can walk in and out of their homes safely.

Skip this step and you run the risk of a tenant falling and injuring himself. Since you're the owner of the property, your insurance company may have to pay for any medical bills.

Freeze warning notifications

Finally, I post freeze warning notices on tenant's doors whenever a freeze is possible in the area. These warnings ask the tenants to leave the sinks on a slow drip. Since there is a small amount of water running through the pipes they are less likely to freeze and burst.

Skip this step and an interior pipe could burst, flooding your rental.

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