Winter’s Coming. Are You Ready for It?

snow, apartment buildingEvery corner of the United States experiences its own version of extreme wintry weather. It seems like each winter has been harsher than the one before, so it is increasingly important that landlords prepare their properties and tenants for what lies ahead in the coming months. 

While the seven western states and New England appear to be on track for normal winter temperatures and precipitation, the Farmers’ Almanac is predicting that the 2021-22 season will bring snow, ice and bone-chilling temperatures to the rest of the country. Even the southeast is expected to be quite chilly along with a mixed bag of precipitation. 

How to prepare your properties for winter, a national public service campaign run by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), suggests that property owners create a checklist to ensure that all of their property’s systems are in good working order in advance of the harsh weather.  

They recommend the following preventive steps: 

  • Check to be sure that insulation, caulking and weather stripping are all in good condition.  
  • Take precautions to keep pipes from freezing by wrapping them in insulation. 
  • Inspect the septic system to prevent sewage from backing up into the residence. 
  • Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups. 
  • Look for openings where rain could enter and repair them. 
  • Examine all walls, windows, the roof and the foundation.  
  • Strengthen doors, including the garage door. 
  • Test the sump pump. 

Winterizing the outdoors 

There are many hazards that can be prevented by preparing your outdoor spaces and landscaping for the winter. Use outdoor faucet covers and freeze caps to keep your spigots from freezing. Ask your landscaping team to look for any risky trees. Overhanging limbs, overgrown bushes and shrubs should be trimmed or cut down.  

Inspect siding and/or shingles to be sure they won’t blow away. Repair any holes or raised shingles and have tarps ready to cover any damage to the roof. Examine gutters and add extensions to your downspouts so rainwater and melted snow can flow away from the building. Windows, which are particularly threatened by freezing temperatures and flying debris, can be protected by storm shutters, hurricane films, boards and plastic coverings. 

In high-wind areas, outdoor items, such as pool lounges, lawn chairs, barbecue grills, etc., should be stored indoors. Items too large to move need to be anchored and/or strapped down. 

Prepare your tenants, too 

When the bad weather hits, your tenants can be instrumental in keeping your property safe. Discuss with them what they can do to minimize harm to themselves, your property and their belongings. Make sure they know how to turn off the electricity and where the gas shut-off valve is located. When a storm hits, gas should be shut off for the main line, water heater and all gas-powered appliances. If the shut-off valves are automatic, make sure they are working properly by bringing in a professional to check them before a major weather event. 

Your tenants should also be instructed to turn off the main water valve before a storm reaches landfall. If the home sustains severe damages, tell them not to enter since it might not be structurally safe. 

Also advise your tenants that if the power goes out, they should unplug everything and not use candles. 

Even the most detailed preparations cannot guarantee that your property will not sustain damage. Know where your property insurance documents are located. Be sure to familiarize yourself ahead of time on what damage is covered so that you can make a claim as quickly as possible. 

Winter is unavoidable. It comes whether we are prepared for it or not. Better to be ready rather than suffer the distress, pain and loss to your investment when these cautionary steps are not taken.