There are several key winterization items that should be done every winter, but who is responsible, the owner or tenant? I break them down into two categories. The first are the items that are the “must dos” to protect the integrity and structure of the home. And the second category are those items that are solely for comfort. And, there are some items that fall into both categories.
The “must dos” items would be things like cleaning out the gutters & downspouts to protect them from creating “ice dams” and causing problems of the gutters detaching from the roof. Leases should have the tenants responsible for cleaning out the gutters and downspouts.
Outside plumbing is another “must do” and this is one of the easiest things the tenant can and must do. We mark all of the outside shutoff valves and show the tenants where they are in time for winter. Don’t forget, they also have to bleed out the lines by turning the outside faucet all the way on. This reduces the risk of water freezing inside the piping and cracking the pipes that are hidden between the walls.
Cleaning the chimney flue is another “must do” if the fireplace is being used. Tree sap builds up inside the metal flu and can catch fire if the chimney is not cleaned properly. This too is a tenant’s responsiblity if they are using or have used the fireplace. Here is some more information about chimney safety, http://www.hantsfire.gov.uk/yoursafety/athome/thatchfires/fires-chimneys-flues.htm.
Having the furnace or heat-pump serviced and checked is really an owner item. Changing the filter to maintain a well working unit is the tenant’s responsibility. We inspect the filters during our inspections to make sure the tenants are keeping up with their end of the deal. By keeping up with the servicing of the heating unit will prolong the life time of the unit and reduce the chance of having a unit die in the middle of a blizzard and paying extra to have one delivered and installed! And since, most heat pumps are also the air conditioner, keeping up with the servicing will also save a headache during the heat wave season!”
Roofs are the owner’s responsibility and should be visually checked twice a year after the major storm seasons. Missing shingles from major wind storms are the first thing to look for and other damage may require professionals. Here is a great page about how long roofs last and what to look for, http://www.ehow.com/facts_5028518_long-should-roof-last.html
Leaks in the windows and doors would be left up to the tenant to solve, short of buying new ones. This is also true for insulation, especially in the attic. Although the owner could benefit from having the attic properly insulated to help the resale of the house in the future.
The important thing to remember are the items that aren’t properly winterized may not cause a problem until the spring. This is also important if the house becomes vacant during the winter months and the heat is turned off. Keeping up with the tenants on the winterization items in the lease and maintaining the home during vacancy is standard practice for my property management company.
Stay warm this season!