As property managers, it’s important to take care of your residents, especially during the winter season.
Winter means frequent storms and colder weather (depending on where you live, of course), and it’s a good idea for landlords to check in with their residents more frequently around this time of year to ensure that their units are functioning properly and residents have what they need to weatherproof their home.
If you manage property in a “college town,” you may have a higher number of student renters to manage, and there are a few ways to keep your student residents safe during the winter months.
Firstly, you may want to provide residents with humidifiers when winter sets in. When it’s cold enough that residents leave all of their windows closed, moisture can wreak havoc on the structure of your unit. For instance, too much moisture trapped in a small space (like an apartment) can facilitate mold development on walls and lots of condensation on windows that cause properties to smell musty. This isn’t great for walls, either.
If you give your residents a humidifier to use, show them how to use it! Humidifiers, which collect moist air inside their units, end up filling with water. Once the body of the humidifier is 100 percent full of water, it can’t collect more moisture until someone dumps the water out of the humidifier. Your student residents may not know how to do this so walk them through the basics.
Many humidifiers also make quite a loud sound while in operation, so suggest that students turn them on in the morning before they run up to campus and turn them off later in the day once they get home. This way, they won’t become annoyed with the sound.
If you don’t have enough humidifiers for all of your residents, suggest to them that they find one on their own to use. You can even point them to stores that sell mini humidifiers that may be cheaper than the larger ones.
Most property managers also know that “cooking, heating, and electrical problems are leading causes of home fires,” and home fires are more likely to occur between December and February as noted by Appfolio. Other fires may be caused by candles or personal space heaters. To ensure your student residents avoid creating fire hazards in their (your) home, start by advising them against using a portable heater in their units.
If you’d rather not strip students of their household warmth, simply show residents how to use these heaters safely (such as not running heaters close to flammable material and keeping at least a 3-foot radius between the heater and other items in students’ homes).
It’s hard to pry students away from candles (especially when they come in so many cozy scents like peppermint, cedar, or apple cider); instead of asking residents to quit the candles completely, simply remind students to keep careful watch of their candles as they burn and never to leave the room when a candle is burning.
Multi-day storms can also pose numerous safety hazards for residents when things get windy and rainy. If the outside area around your property is prone to flooding (built on lower ground, for instance), place wooden crates around on the ground so that residents can step on the dry ground when it starts to rain for days on end.
It’s also a great idea to put out old towels in between your residents’ doorsteps (if you manage an apartment complex) so that students can wipe their feet outside before entering their units. This is also a safety measure that can prevent folks from slipping on tile walkways or slippery paths.
It’s generally a good idea to do a check-in with all of your residents when the winter season begins. Send residents an email asking them to make appointments with you in which you perform basic maintenance on each unit. Check to see that carbon monoxide alarms and fire alarms are working properly, check all furnaces, and perform more year-round tasks such as unclogging drains and removing mold or mildew with vinegar. Your residents will appreciate your care for their safety.
Lastly, let residents know to report household issues to you as soon as they arise so that smaller problems do not escalate into larger maintenance issues. When student residents feel cared for by their property managers, they will be more likely to comply with the rules you establish for living in the spaces you manage.
Residents will also be more likely to take care of the property in general, which is great for landlords. The better you can explain the need for extra safety measures during the wintry and wet months, the more your student residents will understand why these measures are in place. Best wishes for a safe winter season!