Seasonal Challenges for Landlords (and How to Overcome Them)

Seasonal Challenges for Landlords

Winter is full of excitement for the holidays and the upcoming New Year, but most property owners know that the temperature, and time of year, are not without their downfalls. Landlords in particular face unique challenges. Not only is the rental market slow during the holidays, but their property might also be more susceptible to damage from the winter weather.

How do you overcome these common rental property woes during the snowy season? With a mix of preparation and flexibility, you can brace for whatever comes your way this winter.

Low Demand

Generally, most renters reserve moving for spring, summer, and fall, when the weather is moderate and there is no snow to contend with. If your property is vacant during the winter, you may have a harder time renting it, but it’s not impossible.

How to overcome it: There are several ways you can make your property more enticing. While the market may be slow, there are still people in need of rentals, just fewer to choose from. Start by reevaluating a rent price; you may have to lower it or offer one month free in order to find someone. You’ll need to remain flexible and cast a wide net, which could also mean loosening up on your rental terms (e.g. have someone to sign a 6 month lease as opposed to 1 year) or being open to certain allowances, such as pets or children.

Maintenance

Whether it is you or your tenant’s responsibility to tend to outdoor maintenance, make sure that you are both holding up your end of the deal. For instance, during winter, walkways need to be shoveled. Ensure that your tenant is keeping up with this task, or alternatively, that you keep the walkways clear.

Neglecting this task can lead to several liabilities or fines. If someone slips because you (or your tenant) have not shoveled or laid down proper deicing salt, then you could be liable for the passerby’s or tenant’s injury. Also, some snow removal laws state that you must have your walk shoveled within 24 hours of snowfall, so be sure this is adhered to, or you could be issued a fine.

How to overcome it: Be clear in your lease about who is responsible for maintenance and make sure that it is done properly and on time. If you can’t personally make it, arrange for a snow removal service or pay a neighbor to help you out.

Parking

Parking in the winter can be difficult depending on your property’s arrangement. If you provide a stall to a tenant as part of their rent, their vehicle should be okay, so long as the building or municipality cover snow removal in the parking lot. Note that for properties with private driveways, the tenant may have to pay for their own snow removal.

If there is parking on the street, ensure that the tenant knows the rules regarding plowing, seasonal parking bans, etc. so they do not get towed or plowed in.

How to overcome it: While it might be more for the tenant benefit, explain parking rules, if possible, and go over other hazards that they could incur during the season and who to call regarding parking matters.

High Utilities

With colder temperatures, utilities can be higher in your rental property.

How to overcome it: Before entering into a lease with a tenant, specify if they are to cover the utilities or if it is included in the rent. Prepare for any utility hikes by winterizing your home, which can include sealing the windows or servicing the HVAC before it gets cold.

Pests

According to the National Pest Management Association, approximately 21 million homes in the US are infested with pests every winter. While some pests are at rest during winter, others invade homes in search of food and warmth. Among them include raccoons, spiders, house mice, and cockroaches.

How to overcome it:
Seal all openings in and out of your rental with sealant or screens to put on vents to avoid any pesky bugs or vermin from getting in. Other ways to prevent invasion include keeping your garbage and food sealed, storing items in plastic containers, storing firewood properly, and ensuring that you channel water away from the property. Tell your tenant to advise you immediately if they notice any droppings, teeth marks or sounds of pests, so you can call a professional pest control specialist to inspect your property.

Fire Hazards

With Christmas décor and fireplaces lighting up and warming the home, the chances of hazards also increase around the holidays.

How to overcome it: Talk about safety with your tenant and where they can (and can’t) hang holiday lights. If you have a wood burning fireplace in your suite, discussing proper use of the device can save both you and the tenant any problems. Also be sure to mention candles, as their use can also be a hazard in a small space or if left unattended.

Travel

Around Christmas and prior, you or your tenant may be traveling or your tenant might be hosting guests in the property. With additional occupants, or alternatively, no one there at all, it’s important to have rules in place if an emergency should occur.

How to overcome it: Tell each other when and for how long you will be away for, and provide each other with an alternate contact. If the tenant is expecting to be away for an extended period of time, ensure they have someone looking in to make sure everything is okay.

Eviction

Tenants who fail to pay rent or violate their lease are prone to eviction any time of year, regardless of the season.

How to overcome it: If your tenant has not followed your rules, ensure you have provided adequate notice before making them leave. Try to remedy the situation before termination, if possible. That way, you can attempt to have an amicable resolution and help yourself to avoid finding a new tenant midway through the cold season, or worse, losing important rental income in the process.

Emergencies

The winter cold, by default, makes you and your property more prone to emergencies. Namely, frozen pipes or faulty furnaces can leave tenants and landlords in panic. Due to the nature of the season, a landlord should be prepared for any type of emergency. Repairs can be more costly and certainly more inconvenient for both parties during the holidays. Storms are also more prominent during this time of year, so be sure to storm proof your home as well.

How to overcome it: Winterize your rental property prior to the temperature dipping. In the event of heavy snowfall, ensure that the surroundings of your home are secure and trees won’t fall, or that your roof does not have any leaks. Other precautions to take include insulating your property, insulating pipes, and clearing the gutters.

Prepare for the Season’s Challenges

It is much easier to anticipate these challenges before they happen, rather than dealing with the problems as they occur.

If your property is located in a chilly part of the country, start early and begin winterizing your rental to avoid any costly damages or negligence. Communicate with your tenant about any upcoming issues or cold-season tips for the property, so you both are on the same page and can have a smooth winter tenancy, free from hang ups.

How do you prepare your rental property for the winter months? Do you have any tips to add?

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Kristy DeSmit

Marketing Specialist at LawDepot
Kristy is an avid blogger, Twitter enthusiast, and company legalese interpreter.
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