What Property Managers Need to Do to Prepare for Winter
According to research compiled by the Insurance Information Institute, businesses lose $1.2 billion in potential revenue each year thanks to winter weather complications. We’re not here to tell you that all this loss is preventable, but we believe a lot of it might be. It requires business and property managers to become more proactive about winter property management — and remember that our properties should be safe, comfortable and efficient.
Seasonal Building Inspections Aren’t Optional
We take that back: They’re optional if you don’t care about your visitors’ safety or the long-term health of your building. So what should you be looking for?
Piping is one of the biggest sources of winter-related problems. In fact, the average claim amount for building damage caused by frozen pipes is about $18,000. To make sure you’re not stuck with a big mess and a bigger bill, insulate all the pipes in your building that pose a risk of freezing. Look around your basement, too. Your municipality might have codes against installing pipes on external walls, but if it doesn’t, or somebody cut corners, pipes in the basement are especially susceptible to freezing and bursting.
This is just one area your winter building inspection needs to cover. Here are some others:
- The health and remaining expected life of your HVAC system
- The condition of your roof and the cleanliness of your gutters and downspouts
- The state of your walkways and parking lots — crumbling asphalt, trip hazards, plow hazards, etc.
- Any hardscaping, landscaping, and planted trees and shrubs that might become dangerous when frozen or laden with snow
You don’t want your heating system quitting in the middle of a busy winter afternoon, or filling your building with compromised air because you didn’t replace the filter when you should have. You also don’t want visitors and residents falling down on their way to their car because the sidewalk is in disrepair or you haven’t plowed the parking lot yet.
Reserve Snow Removal Crews Before You Actually Need Them
As you may have seen, in the wintertime, your parking lot can become a magnet for mishaps. It can drive away business if customers come out to see you, but you’re hours or days behind on clearing away the snow. It doesn’t have to be this way.
You should have a plan in place for snow removal long before the first flakes start falling. For most commercial properties, that probably means retaining a snow removal company. It’s also worth your while to know what the rules are in your particular region when it comes to clearing snow from sidewalks. Some states, like Alaska, require landlords or property managers to clear snow from all common areas. Connecticut and other states require landlords to clear snow from adjacent areas like sidewalks and gutters.
Know which rules you need to abide by and, additionally, do a bit of research on the snow management companies available. Many of them will have a reputation for respecting the properties they maintain, but probably not all.
Fix Problems on Your Property
Do you have an HVAC system, or perhaps a series of baseboard heaters, that has been on the fritz for weeks, months or years? You might want to remember that heating systems are one of the leading culprits in property fires and that property fires don’t take the winter off.
If your building has had a known issue for some time, or your winter inspection turns up a problem you didn’t know about, history will not look kindly on you if you neglect to fix it and somebody gets hurt. If your chimney sweep found a water leak, get it fixed. If your windows are cracked or drafty, replace them. If you have loose railings, crumbling steps, out-of-service smoke detectors, or anything else that’s been piling up on your property management to-do list, you need to make the most of the time before winter gets bad. Make it a priority to see to the health of your property.
Get More Proactive About Pest Control
Plenty of renters and homeowners are only too familiar with the way bugs and other pests seem to find their way indoors when the weather turns. While a handful of stinkbugs or even an odd mouse here and there are manageable problems for people living in apartments and homes, the risk is scaled up significantly when it comes to commercial properties — and so is the amount of work required to put it right.
That’s why it pays to get proactive about winter pests. Rodents don’t hibernate in the winter, and many species of bugs, like centipedes and spiders, don’t take the season off. They just move indoors the way snowbirds flock to Florida to wait out the cold. Your best bet for keeping pests and the diseases they may be carrying at bay is to find a full-service pest control company in your area that can examine your building for weak points that our smaller friends might take advantage of in the winter.
An Ounce of Prevention
The last thing you want is to lose tenants, employees, customers, visitors, vendors, manufacturing partners or anybody else who has to interact with your property on a regular basis just because one of these winter challenges got the better of you. Take the time to form a plan each season, and pretty soon it’ll feel like just another routine part of doing business instead of a burdensome chore.
Megan Ray Nichols
STEM Writer & Blogger
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Picture from Tetro Smog