Prevention

Rental Property Fall Maintenance Checklist

Spring might be indoor cleaning time, but fall is the season to get some heavy-duty building maintenance done.

It’s time to check for damage, clean up summer weathering, and prepare the building for the onslaught of winter.

Landlords with rental properties need to pay special attention to this. Your reputation and income-earning ability are on the line here.

This fall maintenance checklist is an overview of what you need to do.

1. Air Leakage and Insulation

Air leaks are expensive. The EPA’s Energy Star program estimates that building owners can save around 15% of heating and cooling costs or 11% of total energy costs by properly air sealing and insulating the structure. Prime culprits are leaky windows, doors, attics, crawl spaces, and basements.

Find and seal air leaks around windows and doors:

  • Inspect the weather stripping and caulking for gaps, weathering, and deterioration
  • Replace any stripping and caulk areas as needed
  • Check for drafts under the doors
  • Examine windows for cracks and separations 
  • Check for window condensation

Evaluate the attic, basement, floor above crawl spaces, and foundation:

  • Check for any air leaks and drafts then have them sealed tight
  • Feel for air leaks around pipes, ducts, and wiring in the attic
  • Check exposed insulation for signs of moisture damage, mold, deterioration, or pests
  • Evaluate exposed insulation’s thickness to ensure it still meets the recommended R-value
  • Check the foundation for cracks and holes
  • Seal off small foundation cracks and holes with caulking
  • Seal larger foundation holes with steel wool and caulking

2. Turn off the Outdoor Water

Outdoor piping and outlets can burst or break if water remains in them during freezing temperatures. To avoid this, turn off the outdoor water supply valve and then completely drain all the outdoor fixtures. 

  1. Find the outdoor water supply valve. Buildings often have this located in the basement, utility room, crawl space, or outside. Outside valves might be found somewhere on the streetside of the building, where city employees can easily get to them. Indoor ones are sometimes located on the other side of an outdoor fixture. Some buildings have multiple valves.
  2. Turn off the outdoor water valve by rotating it clockwise to the right. Make sure it’s firmly closed.
  3. Open every outdoor faucet or hose bibb. Leave them open for a few minutes to ensure all the water drips out.
  4. Close the fixtures once the water has finished draining.

Have this done long before freezing weather sets in. Water within outdoor pipes only needs around 6 hours of exposure to freeze. Even insulated outdoor pipes are vulnerable to cold weather and should be drained, as the heat that radiates from the building is not enough to keep the water within them warm.

3. HVAC, Humidifier, and Water Heater Maintenance

Routine HVAC maintenance needs to be done every fall. That means furnaces, heat recovery vehicle systems, air conditioning, and building humidifiers.

Furnaces:

  • Clean or replace the filter
  • Have regular servicing and inspections done

HRV System:

  • Check and clean the system
  • Clean or replace the filter

Air Conditioning System:

  • Clean the central unit to remove debris
  • Drain drip pans of water
  • Cover exterior units to protect them from winter

Humidifier:

  • Change the water panel
  • Clean the reservoir and components of mineral deposits, buildup, and bacteria
  • Look for leaks and standing water near the humidifier
  • Have it inspected for basic functioning
  • Check the humidistat to see if humidity levels are correct

Water Heater:

  • Clean the heater

You can time this to occur after the air conditioning is turned off but before tenants turn on the heat.

Related reading: When to hire a property manager

4. Shared Outdoor Living Spaces

Shared outdoor spaces like decks, patios, and rooftops need to be cleaned, closed down, and winterized. Or prepared for winterlong use.

  • Clean common grilling equipment and outdoor furniture.
  • Put all furniture, equipment, and objects away. Or tie them down in place and cover them with waterproof tarps for winter.
  • Sweep the leaves and fall debris away. Power wash surfaces that are extremely dirty.
  1. Outside Stairs and Walkways

Ensure that stairs, handrails, and walkways are in good condition before it snows or gets icy. 

  • Look for cracks, broken pieces, and gaps
  • Test how secure the handrail is, and if it can hold your weight
  • Pressure wash the walkways

5. Lawn and Landscaping

If your rental property has any landscaping, make sure it has a place on your fall maintenance checklist. Lawns, shrubbery, and other elements must be prepped and protected for winter.

Lawns need to be raked, watered, mowed, fertilized, and reseeded. Rake fallen leaves away to prevent the lawn from being smothered. Water and mow the grass regularly until it stops growing in late fall. Around half an inch of water per week should be good enough if the weather is dry. Mow the grass at a shorter lawnmower setting once it stops growing. This will keep it from matting and growing mold.

Seed bare lawn spots in early fall before it begins to frost. Aerate the lawn at this time if the soil is compacted. Soils can be compacted due to heavy foot traffic, recent construction, dryness, or installation errors. Aeration gives the lawn room to grow and gets water, air, and light into the soil. Fertilize the lawn in late fall, while the grass is still growing and before the soil freezes. 

Shrubbery and trees need fall fertilization, deep root feeding, anti-desiccant spray, and mulching. Fall is also the best time to plant new shrubs or trees. 

Landscaping and landscaping maintenance can be significant investments. But it needs to be well taken care of. This will impact the rental property’s value and attractiveness to potential renters.

6. Prune and Trim Trees

Larger trees on rental properties must be pruned to remove sections that are dead, diseased, or weak. Fall pruning is important for tree health. It prevents rot and disease from spreading through the tree and concentrates growth in healthy areas.

Landlords must prune trees for safety reasons as weakened limbs can be broken off by strong winter winds or accumulated snow and ice. Be extra cautious with any trees hanging over the rental property.

It’s best to have a professional arborist take care of this item on your maintenance checklist.

7. Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Put smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide alarm testing and battery replacement on your fall maintenance checklist. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends testing smoke alarms at least once a month. To be safe and practical, landlords should provide this maintenance service at least twice a year.

Test both hard-wired and battery-operated alarms. Then replace any batteries. Replace alarms or alarm sensors that are over ten years old.

8. Winterize the Septic System

If your rental property has a septic system, this will need to be winterized.

  • Remove leaves, twigs, mulch, plants, and other debris from around the system.
  • Stop mowing over the system and let the grass grow to insulate it.
  • Hire septic system plumbers to do a routine fall maintenance check

9. Roofing Inspection and Cleaning

The roof needs a professional fall inspection. This late-season inspection will check for weathering and damage that occurred during spring and summer.

Roofers will check for:

  • Lifted, loose, or missing shingles
  • Lost asphalt granules
  • Missing pieces
  • Shingle discoloration
  • Broken flashing and structural integrity
  • Mold, mildew, and fungal growth

Have this done earlier on in the season. There should be enough time to get needed repairs done before the weather freezes.

The roof’s surface will also need to be cleaned to remove fallen leaves and other organic material. Organic material can degrade the roof’s shingles if left to decay on it. This will shorten the roof’s lifecycle and encourage the growth of mold and mildew.

Related reading: How long can a landlord leave you without electricity?

10. Clean the Gutters

The entire gutter system needs a deep fall cleaning to remove leaves, twigs, dirt, and debris.

Clean out the eavestroughs, gutters, and downspouts to remove accumulated matter and clogs. Give it a thorough rinse to get all the dirt out. Then make sure the system is in good condition.

  • Are the gutters attached and pitched correctly?
  • Are there any cracks, tears, or missing pieces?
  • Are there visible signs of damage around the eaves?

Repair any signs of damage – even small tears or holes. After that, ensure the downspouts are fully connected, open, and angled out at least six inches away from the building.

This process has to be done after all the leaves have fallen but before temperatures dip below freezing. Frozen dirt and waste clogs can become lodged in place and may lead to gutter breakage.

How often you will have to do this depends on your local temperatures and the amount of tree foliage. A rental property with overhanging trees may need to be cleaned more than once. Otherwise, you should be able to get away with one thorough maintenance session late during the season.

11. Chimney Inspection

If the rental property has a chimney or chimneys, schedule an inspection and cleaning service from a certified chimney sweep or specialized roofer.

The service should include flue cleaning, ash removal, damper testing, flashing tests, chimney cap inspections, and any repairs.

Have this service done even if you don't expect the chimney to be in use. You never know what a tenant will decide to do. 

Get Landlord Insurance

Winter is tough on buildings. It can be even tougher on your pockets. Landlords have to deal with natural disasters and common property issues, along with problems caused by tenant behavior such as fires from Christmas trees, malfunctioning space heaters, and cooking.

You don't have to pay for those costs on your own. Landlord property insurance will cover your financial losses and ensure you can meet your tenant-related duties and responsibilities.

Discover more by getting a free landlord insurance quote today.

Table of Contents

Air leakage and insulation

Turn off the outdoor water

HVAC, humidifier and water heater maintenance

Shared outdoor living spaces

Outside stairs and walkways

Lawn and landscaping

Prune and trim trees

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

Winterize the septic system

Roofing inspection and cleaning

Clean the gutters

Chimney inspection

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