Bright Ideas for Winter Safety

Keep your units safe, secure and profitable through the winter months.

The winter holidays are one of the busiest times of year. With all the shopping, cooking and family visits, it can be easy to get distracted—even though the risks of property damage and injuries can be significantly higher during these months.

What should you watch out for? Keep the following areas of concern on your holiday to-do list, and you can help your investment continue to be the gift that keeps on giving.

GENERAL WINTER HAZARDS

HEATING If your property has a fireplace and a chimney, ensure that both are in good working condition, and make sure tenants know how to safely use them. Fireplaces also need mesh or glass screens to be installed.

APPLIANCES Your property’s dryer vents will probably need to be cleaned more often due to a buildup of excess lint from heavier winter clothing. Vacuum or wipe down refrigerator condenser coils on the bottom or back of the machine. And remind tenants not to use ovens as a heating source for the house.

GAS AND ELECTRIC Talk to tenants about what they should do if they ever smell a gas odor in their rentals. Step one is to exit the property and then call the gas company or 911. Check your property’s switch plates and outlets to make sure they’re in good condition. Put ground fault circuit interrupters on any outlets near water.

WATER Check water heaters for leaks, and provide adequate water at the appropriate temperature—neither too hot nor too cold. Maintain heat of at least 55 degrees, and properly insulate pipes on exterior walls to keep them from freezing. When temperatures get really cold, tenants should also keep faucets on a slow drip, which could help prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

In vacant properties, winterize the plumbing, and shut off the water at the house and the street. Speaking of vacant properties …

SECURITY Vacant properties can present problems of their own during the cold season, attracting those looking for shelter from the elements. If you board up the property, use longer screws, and board up properties according to current municipal standards. Ample motion-sensor lighting, clean lawns, and well-secured windows and doors will encourage intruders to move down the block.

WINDOWS AND DOORS Seal any cracks, and make sure the locks are in good working condition.

PATHWAYS AROUND THE HOUSE Secure any loose steps or handrails on decks and entrances, both at the front and back of the house. Fix any cracks and fill any holes in sidewalks and driveways. Have a plan for who will be responsible for putting down salt and removing snow.

GUESTS AND PARKING Holiday guests should not obstruct the flow of traffic. Make sure tenants know where their guests can park. Be sure tenants don’t exceed maximum occupancy with long-term house guests visiting from out of town.

TREES Keep up with trimming and maintenance to prevent damage from the weight of snow and ice.

HOLIDAY DECORATIONS

The National Fire Protection Association shares the following advice about holiday decorations. Pass it on to your tenants.

>> When using an artificial Christmas tree, make sure that it’s fire retardant.

>> When using a natural tree, be sure to add water to its tree stand every day. If a tree dries out, pitch it.

>> Beware of putting trees and other decorations too close to fireplaces and other heat sources. The NFPA recommends a distance of three feet or more.

>> Get rid of light strings with exposed wires or other signs of deterioration.

>> Double-check your lights to make sure they’re being used correctly. You don’t want to use outdoor-only lights indoors, or vice versa.

>> Avoid linking too many strings of lights together. Three is the maximum for most “mini-string” sets. For strings with screw-in bulbs, the maximum is 50 bulbs.

>> Don’t leave candles burning unattended, and never use them on a tree. Use battery-powered candles whenever possible.

BreAnn Stephenson is the assistance vice president of Affinity Loss Prevention Services.breann@affinityLPS.com

Article compliments of Community Investor magazine