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  • Tracey is a 9-time EMMY and Edward R. Murrow

Fall Rental Property Check List

Although it's unseasonably warm in many areas, it's October and winter is coming, so now is a great time to take out your notepads and give your rental properties the once over. Doing so before the harsh weather sets in could save you time, stress and money later. According to fortune, and Zillow, HVAC issues, pest control, frozen pipes and overgrown trees are just a few of the problems that could plague you over the winter of 2017 and into next spring if you don't address them now.

Here are 7 Seasonal Tips


Let's begin with your heating and air or HVAC. Change your air filters. Air filters are designed to trap particles smaller than a seed and protect the internal engine.Experts suggest that you toss out those old, dusty filters every three months. I usually try to comply but ended up stretching it to six months instead. Not a wise move because by the time I pull them out, the old filters are nothing short of - disgusting. Clogged filters can shorten the lifetime of the unit.

It's difficult to control filter replacement at rental properties, although I send out reminders and even purchase the filters if necessary to encourage timely compliance. Seasonal maintenance is another step that experts say is worth paying for up front, especially if your HVAC units are older.

The last thing you want to get is a call in the middle of the night, saying children are sleeping in the cold! At that point you've got an emergency on your hands and repair crews will likely be booked solid, leaving you with an extra fee for same-day or overnight service. Annual maintenance plans can help avoid that and are worth exploring. They can cost upwards of 150 dollars a year. Keep in mind that some manufacturers may require routine maintenance to validate their warranty. Check the paperwork on each unit to see if this is a requirement for your coverage.

2) Check Your Gutters

Check gutters for leaves and make sure you and your tenants have a snow and ice removal plan. I often impose gutter cleaning and snow removal responsibilities on the tenants, as they are the best ones to keep an eye on property conditions and prevent damage. Leaking gutters can cause significant damage to the interior, exterior, foundation, and landscaping. It's helpful to gently encourage your tenants to clean the gutters now so that when the peak of leaf dropping season kicks in, proper drainage will not be hampered by old debris. Even if you have to shell out the cash yourself, it's far less expensive to pay to have them cleaned now, rather than pay for collateral water damage later.

3. Tree Trimming

Hurricane season 2017 was extraordinary destructive and left thousands still trying to piece their lives back to together. While most winter storms don't cause that kind of widespread devastation, a few downed tree limbs landing in the wrong spot can be costly and even dangerous. I just left one of my rental properties, and I noticed that some limbs are overhanging the roof and others are hanging low from previous high winds. While it may not look bad yet, I am going to have the tree limbs cut back anyway, because limbs on the roof can quickly become a hazard, taking off layers of shingles or spreading moss. And squirrels and other small animals can use those limbs as a bridge to your roof , causing damage as they make their way into the attic.

4) Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes can also wreak havoc on your rental properties. Remember to advise your tenants to let the cold water drip and slight open other faucets. If your pipes do freeze, you can usually thaw them out. Early one morning I received a call from a tenant telling me that they had no heat on the first floor. The house had a new HVAC system, so we were puzzled.The problem turned out to be a pipe that had frozen overnight when the temperatures dropped. Fortunately, in that case, a hair dryer with a long extension cord solved the problem. Others suggest wrapping exposed pipes and faucets with heat tape or insulation sleeves, all of which you can find at major hardware stores. Zillow suggests that pipes located in chilly basements, exposed crawlspaces or accessible attics be insulated as well, further suggesting that even a towel can reduce the risk of exposure.

5) Fireplaces

In the past, I've purchased historic properties with wood burning fireplaces and was never keen on gas. However, once I realized how clean, efficient and effortless gas fireplaces are to use and maintain, I became a fan. Vented logs can develop soot, and need to cleaned annually or semi-annually. Like wood, the chimneys can become clogged with debris and even old birds nests which can restrict airflow. If your units have a glass screen, inspect the glass for cracks and a snug fit to ensure a stable heat output. Old faux logs can become quite worn and need to be inspected and re-stacked by a professional. The ignition switches located under the logs can also give out over time.

6) Check Detectors

And, speaking of time, fall is not only when we set clocks back, but it is also a great time to check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at your rental properties. According to the US Fire Administration, three out of five house fire deaths result from properties without working smoke detectors. Providing new 9-volt batteries can be a great incentive to your tenants to make the replacement. The risk of dying in a house fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke detectors. ​​

7) Winterize Sprinkler Systems

Lastly, if your properties have sprinklers systems, don't forget they need to be winterized. Winterizing helps to prevent water build-up in the pipes, avoiding burst pipes buried in your landscaping. And, take it from me, it's worth the hundred bucks, or so you might pay to have it done. I'm facing a five or six hundred bill at one property with a burst sprinkler line. The repairman told me that it ruptured due to the previous owner failing to winterize the system.

While you can't prevent all weather-related issues that might come up at your properties this fall, taking a few steps now and reminding your tenants to keep the thermostat set at 57+ degrees when away this winter, should help to ensure less stress when the cold-snap finally kicks in.

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