Property management companies employ maintenance teams to ensure the safety and comfort of residents. They do more than keep lawns maintained and change old light bulbs; maintenance staff fix damaged railings, shovel snow, and perform a variety of functions to make sure the building not only looks great but also stays safe all year round. But when cold weather arrives, building maintenance can be challenging. While many of the cosmetic upgrades aren’t needed, there are tasks that are required and may be hard to perform in a snowy, windy, or icy climate.

One of the best ways to keep up with building maintenance in winter conditions is to know what needs to be done before cold weather sets in, and prepare your property, residents, and staff early. Here are some tips for getting your properties ready for winter.

Make a list and check it twice.

Keep track of what work needs to be done long before winter arrives. Base the list on what issues you encountered in the past and assess if they were handled effectively. If not, readjust your processes to avoid any reoccurring issues. One suggestion is in Column 1, make a list of quick-fix items that you can do early to prepare (like check smoke alarms, chimneys, heaters, gutters). In Column 2, write items that might take a little more time, but are necessary (replacing roofs, railings, broken steps, faulty windows). In Column 3, write out all the worse-case scenarios you can think of and evaluate if you are equipped to handle these emergencies (flooding, roofs collapsing, trees falling). In the final column, make a list of service requests you foresee coming in during the cold months that can’t be done in advance (like clearing the daily snow, frozen pipes, etc.) With unpredictable weather, you never know what will happen and it’s better to be ready for what could happen.

Complete the maintenance early.

Cleaning the gutters, addressing any concerns with the roof, and stocking up on items that will be needed for winter, such as bags of salt for walkways and driveways, gasoline for snow blowers, and any other things that maintenance workers may be required to have when the weather becomes snowy or icy, is a good idea. These items can be found during the winter months, of course, but they may be harder to find and more expensive. They may also be in short supply during some periods (such as right before or after a significant snowfall event or a blizzard). An important area for winter weather maintenance is heating. Common areas and resident units need to have heat that works properly and consistently. If the building uses natural gas heat, the furnace also needs to be serviced to make sure it’s safe to operate. Not taking care of gas furnace maintenance can put residents at risk of more than just being cold. If your homes have chimneys make sure they are clear and work as expected. With heat that works properly and walkways and parking lots that are clear and free of ice and snow, your property management company will have fewer resident complaints and less accidents.

Fix things quickly.

As for actual maintenance that will take place during winter weather, keeping the walkways, driveways, and parking lot clear will take up a lot of the maintenance department’s time and energy if the area gets significant snowfall. Residents who slip and fall on snowy or icy patches, or who can’t safely get into or out of the parking lot and driveway because of ice or accumulated snow, may file a complaint with the property management company. An accident like a slip and fall may also be something a resident could sue over, requesting compensation for injuries sustained and financial damages acquired. With proper maintenance, a lot of the risk of that can be removed and the building will be better protected from damage and lawsuits. (This is now a good time to make sure your insurance and your tenants’ insurance is in place.)

To make sure everyone has a happy and safe winter, make sure you are staffed with the right people and tools to handle any incidents during harsh weather. Inform all your residents about your winter hours, holiday schedule, and the best way to contact you in case of an emergency. It also helps to provide them with tips on what they can do to stay safe this winter.

If you are concerned that you might not be well-equipped this winter to handle the influx of requests, consider AppFolio’s Maintenance Contact Center, a 24/7 property management answering service to answer all your maintenance requests and dispatch vendors when needed so your residents always feel safe and taken care of.

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