Landlording & Rental Properties

12 Things Every Landlord Should Do NOW to Prepare Rentals for Winter

Expertise: Business Management, Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate News & Commentary, Real Estate Marketing, Personal Development, Real Estate Investing Basics
106 Articles Written

As the cold approaches, it's the duty of every landlord, be they property manager or real estate investor managing directly, to prepare their properties for the upcoming season. That's no small amount of work, done correctly. Let's take a look:

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Fill All Gaps in the Exterior

Gaps around doors, windows, pipes, conduits, and vents cause significant heat loss when unattended. Furthermore, as the cold drives pests like mice and roaches to find warmth and easy food sources, those gaps can easily become the ports of entry for the annoyances, and that’s a whole new layer of expenses.

Get Preventative Maintenance for the Heater

Every year, you should pay for a standard preventative-maintenance routine for the heater on every one of your properties — including a filter change. It’s a small expense today that will save you a much larger expense in the future.

Check the Attic Insulation

Most of the time, this is a two-minute task involving sticking your head into the attic and shining a flashlight around. Like the previous point, though, on those occasions when there is a serious problem, you’ll be very happy you found out and ordered corrective measures before you discover that your tenant is overworking your heater.

Inspect the Roof

The wintertime is by far the most difficult time to deal with missing shingles or other roof-related problems. Make sure you don’t have them before they’re buried under the snow.


Clean the Gutters

Gutters that get clogged during the fall can cause poor drainage of future melting snow, which can in turn cause all kinds of problems down the road.

Related: Winter is Coming! The Investor’s 7-Point Checklist to Prep Rental Properties for Colder Months

Winterize the Sprinklers

If you happen to have a sprinkler system, you’ll need to get all of the water emptied out of it before it freezes — failure will mean a cracked pipe and a useless sprinkler (and possibly a huge water bill) come spring!

Prune Anything Near the House

Snow and ice can make trees and shrubs sag and break. Rather than let that happen haphazardly — and potentially damage the house — trim before the snow hits.

Seal Cracks in the Driveway and Walkways

A small crack pre-winter can become a large crack by springtime just by the action of water freezing. A concrete sealer can help enormously.

Schedule Snow Removal Services

If you’re going to have someone else keep the driveway and walkways free of snow this winter, get the service lined up and scheduled now so it’s off your plate once the inevitable wintertime emergencies hit.

winter house

Check the Insulation Around the Pipes

Look for un-insulated pipes, and get (at the minimum) foam sleeves around them so they won’t freeze when temperatures drop. Frozen pipes burst easily, so don’t let them freeze in the first place.

Check Smoke and CO2 Detectors

Tenants tend to keep circulation through the house at a minimum over the winter, so you need to make sure that the emergency detectors are functional and have fresh batteries.

Related: 7 Easy Tips for Filling Vacancies in the Dreaded Winter

Possibly Clean the Ducts

This one isn’t necessary every year, but at least every three years, you should have a professional come in and clean the heating ducts thoroughly to keep the heater working efficiently for as long as possible.

If you don’t have a property manager, that’s a list that can easily take up a few days for every house you run (and require you to have a mountain of handyman skills on top of it). If you do have a property manager, you can simply forward this list to your PM and ask them to let you know when it’s done — problem solved!

Anything to add to this list?

Let me know with a comment!

While in the mortgage business, Drew rose to a VP position at the first broker he worked for and then started his own company. In the pursuit of excellence, he obtained several mortgage designation...
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    Karen Rittenhouse Flipper/Rehabber from Greensboro, NC
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Be sure you and your tenants know where the water shut off valve is. We’re nearing the time for freezing and bursting pipes and the first one to the shut-off valve wins… Thanks for your post!
    Drew Sygit Property Manager from Birmingham, MI
    Replied over 3 years ago
    @KAREN RITTENHOUSE: very good point! We actually take a pic of the location so our staff can easily explain to tenants where to find it. (sorry for responding so late!)
    Jeff Morelock Real Estate Agent from St Petersburg, FL
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    The temperature in Florida has plummeted to 76. Thanks for the post I’ll start my preparations. lol
    Drew Sygit Property Manager from Birmingham, MI
    Replied over 3 years ago
    @JEFF MORELOCK: when do you start preparing for hurricane season? 🙂 (sorry for responding so late!)
    Russell Brazil Real Estate Agent from Rockville, MD
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    I just had to drop the rent in one of my units to fill a December vacancy, sigh
    Drew Sygit Property Manager from Birmingham, MI
    Replied over 3 years ago
    @RUSSELL BRAZIL: we have to do the same often, just be careful about dropping your screening requirements. (sorry for responding so late!)
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Russell I feel your pain. I just had 4 units open up. I have 2 of them rented but worry I might be paying the heat bill for a few months.
    Scott Arno Accountant from Denver, CO
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    That brings up a question I’ve always thought about! Do you have your tenants tell you when they’re leaving for holidays etc. i.e. professional college students, so you can make sure the heat stays at a decent level and/or shut off the water?
    Drew Sygit Property Manager from Birmingham, MI
    Replied over 3 years ago
    @SCOTT ARNO: our lease warns tenants not to shut off heat or electric EVER and to let us know if they will be gone for more than 2 weeks. Years ago, we actually had a tenant shut off their electric & gas when they went out of town for xmas for 10 days. So we added this clause. Of course, this tenant was so upset we charged them for the resulting damage that they moved out. (sorry for responding so late!)
    Darren Sager Investor from Summit, NJ
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Clean the gutters is Number 1 in my book. Amazing all the stuff that happens in cold weather when that hasn’t been done! Great list Drew! I would say you have to check on insulating pipes there’s a greater reason why that’s the case and one should look into it.
    Drew Sygit Property Manager from Birmingham, MI
    Replied over 3 years ago
    @DARREN SAGER: gutters full of debris just means ice dams form quicker! Insulating pipes is always important when possible. Thanks for posting, sorry for responding so late!
    Sarnen Steinbarth Commercial Real Estate Broker from Fort Collins, Colorado
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Here are our 6 things:
    Michael Boyer Investor from Juneau, AK
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    nice list! for the real snow and ice area folks, I like this task: get a 5 gallon bucket with a top (just lightly press it on, not all the way sealed or too hard to open) and put in your ice melt and then write the tenant’s unit number in Sharpie and put in a scoop. I try to use a melt that is affordable but easier on concrete, metal, plants and pets… Then empower tenants to use it and refill as needed, check the level when you are shoveling.. Also, I like an easy rope light on steps, rails or areas that may not get enough light in dark winter days…
    Drew Sygit Property Manager from Birmingham, MI
    Replied over 3 years ago
    @MICHAEL BOYER: kudos to you for being so thoughtful, but in our society, no good deed seems to ever go unpunished. Recommend you confer with a real estate/litigation attorney on these practises as they might actually expose you to a tenant slip & fall lawsuit if you set the standard for supplying these and then fail to maintain them:( Thanks for posting, sorry for responding so late!
    Drew Sygit Property Manager from Birmingham, MI
    Replied over 3 years ago
    @KENDALL: while we sure your tenants will appreciate their lower heating bills, an investor should always do an ROI analysis on expenditures. Also, there are often government/utility company programs offering tax credits, etc. for this type of work. Thanks for posting, sorry for responding so late!