For landlords who own property in cooler climates, the threat of a winter storm is always a possibility. Unexpected snowstorms can also impact typically warmer climates, causing havoc for those who are not used to dealing with such weather.
Rental property owners have a duty to their tenants and to their properties to be prepared for such events. Actions can be taken to help better equip you in handling such an emergency. Here is how to prepare for a winter storm.
Track the Weather
Make sure you are always up to date on the weather patterns in your area. You should make it a habit of checking your local weather forecast every morning and night. The more advanced notice you have, the better your opportunity to prepare.
There are many different ways to access the weather forecast, so you should choose the one that best fits your lifestyle. Weather reports are available:
- In the newspaper
- On your local television news
- On morning shows like The Today Show or Good Morning America
- On nationwide news programs like CNN, MSNBC, or FoxNews
- On The Weather Channel
- Online: You can visit almost every television show or newspaper online where you can view the weather forecast.
- On your phone or other mobile device: Sites like Weather Bug or The Weather Channel offer alerts that go straight to your desktop, email, or another mobile device.
- Apps for your phone or other mobile device: There are numerous apps available for your mobile devices which provide you with up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and severe weather alerts. There are numerous options to choose from, including apps from The Weather Channel and the NOAA.
Inspect and Winterize Your Property
Ideally speaking, you will want to winterize your property well before the winter season actually begins. Making sure your property is ready for cold conditions and potentially heavy snow can help prevent problems down the line.
- Check for Vulnerable Trees and Branches: You will want to inspect the perimeter of your property for any trees or tree branches that may not be able to survive a winter storm. Strong winds or the weight of snow or freezing rain can cause trees and branches to fall. Before the storm hits, you should have dead branches removed and, if time permits, have especially dangerous trees removed. It may be a large expense, but it certainly outweighs the alternative of having the tree fall and damage your property, someone else’s property, or, worse yet, fall on a person.
- Insulate the Property: Having the proper insulation in walls and attic spaces can help keep out the cold. You should also caulk or add weather-stripping to windows and doors.
- Insulate the Pipes: Pipes freezing and ultimately bursting are a concern in colder temperatures. You should make sure all pipes are properly insulated. Another tip for avoiding freezing pipes is to allow faucets to have a small drip so that there is constantly running water in the pipes.
- Check the Roof: You will want to check the roof for possible leaks before a major storm occurs. This can prevent water from damaging the interior of the property. You may not have time to do this if you learn of a storm that is scheduled to hit in a day or two, but it is also very important to determine if the roof is strong enough to handle the weight from a heavy snowstorm. A contractor will be able to tell you if your roof is structurally sound.
- Clear Gutters: Before any type of storm, you should always make sure the gutters are clear of debris to prevent flooding from improper draining.
- Make Sure All Furnaces or Boilers Are Functioning: A winter storm involves snow, sleet, or freezing rain, which are created by very cold temperatures. To have snow, for example, the temperature must usually be below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. Anticipating frigid temperatures such as these, and potentially being unable to get to your property because of the bad weather, it is imperative that you make sure the boilers or furnaces at your properties are working properly before the storm hits. You would not want your tenants to be without heat in these adverse conditions.
Alert Your Tenants
When you are aware that a winter storm will be hitting your area, it is important to notify your tenants. You should alert them to stay indoors if possible and minimize travel to reduce the risk of accident or injury.
You can advise tenants to stock up on supplies such as food and water in case they are not able to leave the property for a period of time.
You should also advise them to have warm blankets and flashlights in case the property loses electricity.
For properties where you do not reside or those that do not have a live-in superintendent, you can try and negotiate for one of the tenants to be responsible for snow removal in the event you cannot make it to the property. You can offer the tenant a reduction in their monthly rent if they agree to put down salt and shovel.
Have the Appropriate Materials on Hand
As the property owner, it is your responsibility to make sure all of your properties are equipped with the essentials for handling a winter storm. You will want to make sure each property has at least one shovel that is readily accessible and a medium which will melt snow or ice. There are many options to choose from depending on your preferences. These include rock salt, calcium chloride, and even cat litter.