home ownership

Winter Checklist for Landlords

For Philly landlords, winter is more than hot chocolate and mistletoe. It’s making sure your properties are protected against seasonal events that can damage property, harm tenants or cause expensive repairs if not addressed before freezing temperatures occur. We invite you to use the below guideline to prepare your rental properties for whatever winter brings.


Clear all sidewalks, stairs, and yards of fallen leaves. When wet, autumn leaves turn into slippery surfaces which may cause serious falls for tenants, as well as to pedestrians, for which you are legally responsible. Even if there is only one tree on your property, wind and ice can bring down dead limbs, damaging roofs, cars, power lines, and anyone who happens to be there at the time. If you aren’t sure of the stability of the tree, call in an arborist for a consultation. Trees located too close to buildings can also provide access to your attic for squirrels and raccoons. 


Nat King Cole’s version of “Autumn Leaves” is swoon-worthy. But there is nothing romantic about clogged gutters. They need to be cleaned twice a year and now, when they are stopped up with leaves, is an important time. While you are up on that ladder, repair damaged gutters, detached downspouts, as well as any roof issues you spot.

Exterior and Foundation Inspection

Check the foundation, patio, walkways, and entry points to ensure they are free from leaks, cracking, or damage. Winter’s colder temperatures attract rodents looking for shelter indoors. They can cause a great deal of damage destroying wiring, harboring diseases, and chewing through drywall. Seal up any exterior points of entry before rodents take up residence.

Winterize Outdoor Hookups

Outside garden hoses and spigots can freeze and break. Detach hose connections and drain all liquid before storing hoses for the winter. Then, turn off the outside water supply and bleed the lines to ensure no water remains that could freeze and rupture the fixture or pipe.

Chimney Cleaning

If the property has a fireplace, hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect and clean chimneys and vents. This helps prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Review fireplace safety with tenants to avoid smoke-filled units, false fire alarms, and related problems.

Prepare for Snow Removal

If your rental property lease doesn’t require tenants to be responsible for snow removal, hire a snow removal service to avoid financial liability for a tenant, pedestrian, or mailman falling on an icy patch of pavement.

Check for Cracks

Windows and doors can leak cold air into your rental property. Do not depend on tenants to seal off these air leaks. Visit the property when temperatures drop and check yourself. Attics, crawl spaces, and open areas can also cause warm air to be lost if there is insufficient insulation. 

Winterize Pipes

Frozen pipes are a costly repair. Signs that pipes are frozen include a lack of running water, odd smells, and the accumulation of frost on the exterior of the pipes. Installing adequate pipe insulation and help prevent frozen pipes.

Service HVAC Systems

Having working heat during the winter months is a basic right to tenants and the system needs to function properly to prevent an emergency. Consider a service contract with a reputable maintenance specialist to ensure your systems are running smoothly all year long. We recommend a bi-yearly HVAC inspection to look for any new tears or breaches, deterioration, insulation falling off, or ductwork falling. At Solo, we typically schedule our inspections in the spring and fall, right before winter hits.

The furnace filter should be changed at the start of winter and then again in spring. This is just a simple matter of following the furnace operating manual to find the appropriate filter type, size, and rating, then determining the filter’s location in the furnace, and swapping it out.

A dirty or clogged filter not only hinders your indoor air quality but makes your furnace work harder, costing you money. It also shortens the life of your furnace. Make sure you Clear the area around your furnace so it will run more efficiently. This allows for enough air to be used for the combustion of the heating element as well as safe and smooth operation. 

Change Thermostat Batteries

Fresh batteries in the thermostat ensure your tenants won’t wake up freezing some cold winter morning. And the furnace won’t need to work that much harder to restore a comfortable temperature. Tenants are typically responsible for replacing batteries on thermostats that are beeping during their tenancy but be sure to check them during move-out walkthroughs and replace them as needed.

Reverse Ceiling Fans

Warm air rises. So, if possible, reverse the property’s ceiling fans or reach out to your tenants and remind them to. This forces warm air back down into living spaces to help regulate the temperature more efficiently. Especially if the home has vaulted or high ceilings, tenants will appreciate the added heating savings.

Check Your Detectors

Checking and testing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is critical to the tenant’s safety and the protection of your property. If you do not have the correct amount or proper devices, now is the time to correct it. At a minimum, each floor needs to have an alarm but check with your local code guidelines to ensure compliance. Also, check with tenants to see if they have removed alarms that were going off too often due to everyday cooking.

Should You Consider Property Management Services?

The ongoing property maintenance of a rental can be a lot to manage however it’s key to protecting your investment. With over seventy years of experience, a strong network of resources, and a hands-on approach to property management, Solo can help you manage your rental property effectively. We know that no property or owner is the same so we custom tailor our services to your needs. Contact us to learn more.

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