Tenant water crisis

As winter descends upon us, property owners find themselves facing a unique set of challenges in ensuring the safety and comfort of their rental properties. The harsh winter weather can take a toll on your property if not properly managed, potentially leading to costly repairs and disgruntled tenants.

To help you navigate the winter season successfully, we’ve put together a guide of winter tips for property owners like you. These tips cover everything from heating systems and insulation to preventing frozen pipes and accommodating residents during improvement projects.

Ensure a Reliable Heating System: One of the top priorities during the winter season is to guarantee that your rental property has an efficient and reliable heating system. DC Housing Code requires a minimum temperature be provided inside the living space and heating sources need to be permanent installations, not just a plug-in heater. Here are some steps to consider:

HVAC inspection: Have a licensed technician inspect and service your heating system before the winter season begins. This will help identify and address any issues before they escalate.

Change air filters: Encourage tenants to regularly change the air filters, as dirty filters can reduce heating system efficiency and air quality.

Consider a programmable thermostat: Installing programmable thermostats can help optimize energy usage and keep utility costs in check. They also allow tenants to set comfortable temperatures according to their preferences.

  warm and cozy

Keep Your Tenants Warm and Cozy

Proper Insulation Matters
Proper insulation is crucial for maintaining a comfortable indoor environment and reducing energy costs. Inspect your rental property for any insulation gaps.

Seal cracks: Check for gaps and cracks in doors, windows, and walls, and seal them to prevent cold drafts.

Provide weatherstripping: Ensure that exterior doors have weatherstripping to prevent cold air from entering and warm air from escaping.

Insulate attics, extensions and crawl spaces: Proper insulation in these areas helps prevent heat loss and helps to reduce the risk of frozen pipes.

Work With Tenants to Prevent Frozen Pipes
Frozen pipes can unleash significant damage and turmoil, especially on unsuspecting tenants who could have been shielded from this ordeal. You as a landlord can work with your tenants ahead of a cold snap. In addition to educating tenants about turning off the water to outside hoses, landlords can take some simple steps to further prevent frozen pipes and ensure a comfortable winter for their tenant.

Frozen Pipes

Schedule periodic inspections of the property’s plumbing and insulation to identify and address potential issues before they become major problems. Share a winterization checklist with tenants, including instructions on and setting the thermostat to a minimum temperature if the property will be vacant.

Ensure that tenants have access to emergency plumbing and heating professionals in case of frozen pipes or other winter-related issues and if they cannot reach you. They may also need contact information for a remediation company.. And finally, of course, consider investing in proper insulation for the property, especially in areas exposed to frigid temperatures.

Typically in our area if we have multiple nights with low temperatures below 25 degrees the risks start to climb, depending on the nature of your home and whether winterization has occurred. When the high temperatures fail to get over 35 degrees during those same days is when you should take extra measures.

Show your tenants how to turn off the water to the outside hose spigots or faucets. Hoses should also be removed. If you do not have a separate valve inside to shut off the outdoor pipes, then consider installing one.

During nights with extreme cold temperatures (in the teens) encourage tenants to let faucets drip water to keep the water moving through them and to prevent pipes from freezing. This is particularly important in homes where you have had troubles before with the water freezing inside the pipes or even past pipe leaks or bursts.

Keeping cabinet doors open to allow warm air to reach pipes can also help with his. And make sure that the rental property maintains a minimum temperature when they leave for winter holiday trips to warmer climes.

Tenant-Friendly Winter Improvement Projects
Property owners may need to undertake maintenance and improvement projects during the winter season, which can inconvenience tenants. However, with careful planning and communication, you can simplify the process for your tenants.

Notify tenants in advance: Provide tenants with ample notice about upcoming projects, explaining the purpose, expected duration, and any disruptions they may experience. DC regulations require at least a 48 hour notice for non-emergency entering of rental units.

Offer accommodations: If necessary, offer temporary accommodations or discounts on rent to tenants who may need to temporarily vacate the property during extensive renovations. If it is not habitable, you cannot charge rent for those days.

Communicate regularly: Keep the lines of communication open with your tenants throughout the project, addressing any concerns or issues promptly.

Provide winter safety guidelines: Share winter safety tips with your tenants, including instructions on what to do in case of a power outage, frozen pipes, or severe weather conditions.

shoveling snow

Snow and ice removal: Clearly define responsibilities for snow and ice removal, whether it’s the tenant’s responsibility or yours, to prevent slip-and-fall accidents.

Winter maintenance for rental properties requires proactive planning and regular maintenance to ensure the safety, comfort, and satisfaction of your tenants. And to reduce your liability. By following these winter maintenance tips, property owners can navigate the challenges of the season with confidence. And if you thinking, “Oh that’s far too much work!” consider hiring a professional management company to do this for you.

Scott Bloom, Owner and Senior Property Manager, Columbia Property Management
Bloom founded Columbia Property Management in 2012. CPM’s goal is to provide a powerful, personal level of service to our clients. We focus on smaller landlords, professionally managing their assets, so they can succeed by investing in rental real estate.

Scott is an active member in multiple professional organizations including the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) and serves on the property management committee of Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS® (GCAAR).

For more information and resources, go to www.ColumbiaPM.com