Labor Day marks the unofficial close of summer across the nation. As a property manager, you’re probably already getting a headstart scheduling your fall landscaping, putting away summer furniture and maybe even closing up the pools.
But as you look at your fall maintenance checklist, do you feel like you’ve got all the right tasks lined up for your vendors? We’ve come up with our own checklist of the essential fall maintenance for all climates and regions—and how to get them all done in time.
The Northeast, Midwest and Northern regions of the country can see snow and temperatures fall as early as late September. Even property managers in the Southeast may get weather cold enough for freezing. There’s a lot to do to get ready for winter.
Over the past year, leaves and other debris have probably made their way into gutters. Now is the time to pull it all out. When gutters are clogged, water from melting snow gets trapped at the edge of the roof. When the temperature drops, that water freezes, causing an ice damn. Built-up ice and water can leak into small cracks in the roof, causing water damage under roofs and in between walls.
Speaking of keeping things out, the colder months is when a whole host of creatures seek shelter from the frigid temperatures, and your warm property may be just the place they choose. Mice, rats, cockroaches, spiders and even raccoons and squirrels may find their way through small gaps in walls and basements.
Take a walk around your property and look for places they could get in. And remember, a mouse can fit through a hole the size of a pen. Set traps in basements and crawl spaces and talk to your exterminator about preventative measures for bugs.
If you’re due for an HVAC inspection, don’t delay. Emergency repair for furnaces and other elements that break on a cold night can be extremely costly, not to mention the discomfort—and even danger—you could put your residents in.
Make sure you have chimneys inspected and cleaned, too. Creosote buildup can lead to chimney fires. And remember those critters we mentioned earlier? If your chimney covers are broken, they can find their way in and get stuck creating quite a smell.
Insulate any water pipes that are near the exterior of the building. Don’t forget to winterize outdoor plumbing, too. Disconnect outdoor hoses and store them for the winter. Fill gaps around spigots and either shut off the water to the spigots and drain them (if they have a separate water supply) or wrap them with insulation until spring.
Loose shingles or flashing could become a big leakage problem in the winter. Make sure they’re secure and replace any broken or missing shingles. Check for gaps around chimneys and vents, too. It may be cold in winter, but the sun can still melt the snow on your roof, and that water is going get into any cracks it finds.
If you have a flat roof, get anything that shouldn’t be up there off, including debris, lawn furniture from rogue residents or equipment you might have stowed temporarily. It could puncture the roof and cause leaking.
Look around your property for dead or overgrown brush that could be blocking pathways. Clear clinging plants that have attached themselves to walls or steps. Those plants can compromise the integrity of structures and allow water in.
Now look up. Are there branches growing too close to your buildings? Are there dead trees anywhere on the property? Have them removed right away. In the event of a storm, they could come down, causing damage to your buildings and injury to those inside.
According to FEMA, home fires occur more in winter than in any other season. That’s due in part to the use of space heaters, fireplaces, candles and holiday lights. Now is the time to remind your residents about proper use of all of these things and the dangers of leaving them unattended. Remind them of restrictions on heating and lighting devices, as well.
Take the time to review your fire safety plan, should a fire occur. Post it and distribute it to your residents, as well.
There’s nothing worse than heading out to the equipment shed after a big storm only to find a loose blade on your snow blower or a faulty wire on the plow for your truck. That’s why it’s so important to audit your equipment now. Take stock of what you have, order what you need and replace older or worn out parts before they break to save money.
If you use a snow removal service, touch base with them now. Make sure your contract hasn’t expired and it’s up-to-date with the latest rates. Plowing services book up quickly, and if they don’t show with the first snow, there’s a good chance you’ll be getting out there yourself with your shovel to help your residents.
You will discover creative ways to identify and eliminate routines that are no longer benefiting your business.
For regions like the Northwest and Southeast, winter means a lot more rain. Coast regions in the northwest have to think about those pounding winds and driving rain, while the southeast should get ready for a mix of rain, ice, and even a little snow.
This is one property managers in snowy regions should do, as well. Look for cracks in basement and foundation walls, or gaps around basement windows. Make sure your drainage system is directing water away from foundation walls. Running a dehumidifier in basements can also help control moisture from heavy rains and dry up small leaks.
With all that wet weather, residents will be tracking in water and mud into entryways. If things have frozen over, they’ll probably bring in corrosive salt on their shoes, too. Place large, absorbent mats at all main entrances and invest in heavy-duty door mats for unit entrances. Not only will your floors and carpets stay clean, but they’ll keep your residents from slipping and sliding on uncarpeted floors.
Sleet and freezing rain can leave a nice, slick coat of ice on everything it touches. Make sure you have plenty of salt on hand for steps and pathways. Cover shrubbery with wooden protectors and store awnings away to keep the weight of the ice from ruining them.
The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Kentucky warns termites are attracted to moist places. To keep them from harming your properties, they recommend reducing your mulch use, directing runoff away from foundations, storing firewood away from buildings, and keeping wood elements of your building from making contact with the ground.
Even if you live in the dry, desert regions of Southern California and the Southwest, there still a few things you should do to get ready for winter. Sure, you don’t have to worry about rain and snow, but there are still some fall maintenance tasks for property managers to pay attention to now.
The hot sun can break down the granular surface of shingles. Once that happens, it’s a lot easier for water to get in the building. Get up on the roof and make sure the shingles don’t look worn or faded.
Just because it’s autumn doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about your landscaping. If you’re trying to keep a nice green lawn around your property, now is the time to overseed with some ryegrass, which stays green during the cooler months. And don’t forget to feed and aerate your soil.
Autumn might be right around the corner, but there’s still plenty of time to cross off everything on your fall maintenance checklist. Start early and be better prepared for whatever this winter throws at you.
Did we miss anything on this list? Let us know if there’s more must-do fall maintenance for property managers that you never miss!