Winter is a stressful month for rental property owners. When the weather freezes, they must occasionally spring into action, dealing with weather-related emergencies like frozen or burst pipes, broken heaters and furnaces, and iced-over driveways and sidewalks. Now’s the time for rental property owners affected by sub-freezing temperatures to figure out how to handle these maintenance emergencies.
If you haven’t done so already, have insulation, plumbing, roofing and HVAC/furnace units inspected and serviced. You’ll want to get this taken care of before the next blizzard or ice storm hits your area. You may still be able to take proactive measures if the inspection shows a problem.
If you wait until the ice storms come, you’ll have problems scheduling plumbers and other contractors to do maintenance work, even if you need it in a hurry. They’ll be busy responding to other emergencies!
Educate Your Tenants
Reach out to your tenants and tell them what you need from them. Provide them with things to look out for, such as warning signs of furnace, heating or plumbing problems, along with exactly what you want them to do in the event things go wrong.
Republish your emergency maintenance requests numbers, both for regular business hours and for after hours.
Check on Your Vendors
Now’s a good time to inspect your existing contracts with the vendors you may need in an emergency. Make sure you have any retainer arrangements in place so you aren’t forced to negotiate prices during a crisis. You won’t get the same advantageous pricing when water is pouring into the basement as you will when you’re prearranging your emergency plumbing responses! The same goes for HVAC contractors, roofers and other contractors you may need to call in at short notice.
Check on Insurance Coverage
Naturally, you will want to ensure that coverage for your rental properties is in place and adequate, together with reserves, to cover any weather-related issues.
It’s particularly important to understand the insurance concept of fair market value versus replacement cost coverage. Many insurance companies issue policies that cover fair market value of, say, a new roof. Fair market value, however, falls over time through depreciation. So if the roof incurs significant structural damage because of the weight of snow and ice, for example, a fair market value policy would not cover the entire cost of replacement. The older the roof, the less the insurance company will pay.
This is fine, if you have been regularly setting money aside to replace the roof at the end of its useful life. Between the insurance company and the savings, the capital should be there to replace the roof.
In the real world, though, rental property owners are often blindsided by unexpectedly low settlements on insurance policies. This catches them in a cash flow crunch when they need to replace a roof on short notice with an insurance check that only covers a fraction of the immediate need.
Keep Your Tenants Happy and Rentals in Good Shape
This will hopefully be a mild winter with no major blizzard events that cause major damage and disruption to the communities your rental properties are located in. But by reaching out to your tenants ahead of time and being proactive rather than reactive, you can ensure your tenants are kept happy and your rental properties remain in good shape.