Winter always seems to sneak up on us, year after year. Because most climates experience the most dramatic change in weather during the colder months, it's important to understand what apartment winter maintenance or preparatory tasks you'll be responsible for at your rental property.
While some tasks fall on the shoulders of your landlord or property manager, there are certain steps you can take as a renter to ensure a safe and comfortable winter at home.
1. Check in with your landlord or property manager
Before the winter hits, touch base with your landlord if you're unclear on what are tenant responsibilities and what are landlord responsibilities. Who's responsible for removing snow and ice at the property, and what are the expectations?
Some states have local snow and ice removal regulations regarding public sidewalks or other public areas. Discuss acceptable de-icing measures to make sure you aren't causing damage to any surfaces.
2. Test out the heat
While it's your landlord's responsibility to have heating and cooling systems serviced regularly, it's helpful to turn on the heat a bit early for a short period of time to make sure everything is functioning properly.
It's always better to learn about any issues ahead of time instead of discovering a winter maintenance problem in your apartment when the cold temperatures set in.
3. Avoid unwanted guests
Cooler weather and more precipitation means bugs, rodents and other pests are looking for a warm place to call home. An easy way to attract unwanted pests is by providing them with a food source, so be sure to take a few preventative steps, especially now that many of us are cooking at home more than ever before.
Store your dry, perishable food items inside air-tight containers that pests can't chew through. Try to take trash containing food scraps out as soon as possible instead of letting it sit. Aim to wipe down countertops at least once each day to get rid of crumbs and food remnants.
4. Prevent frozen pipes
Be sure to follow all of your landlord's instructions to avoid frozen or burst pipes due to cold weather. Most landlords or property managers will provide guidance on temperature levels and other preventative measures to avoid this issue.
If you're leaving on vacation or will otherwise be away from your rental for a period of time this winter, give your landlord a heads up and ask if they want you to set the temperature at a certain point or leave a couple of faucets on a slow drip.
5. Stay warm and save money
Of course, you want to be comfortable in your own home, but keeping a few things in mind when it comes to turning on the heat can have a dramatic impact on your monthly bill. Experts say you can save up to 10 percent on your yearly heating expenses by turning down the thermostat just 7-10 degrees for approximately eight hours per day, like while you're at work or while you're sleeping.
Ceiling fans are an excellent tool to help distribute heat evenly. Many models have a switch that forces blades to spin clockwise, which will push warm air down into a room.
6. Be prepared for emergencies
If you live in an area where winter weather and storms are a frequent occurrence, it's wise to make sure you're prepared ahead of time for any worst-case scenarios. Sign up for weather and emergency alert systems to stay informed about any potentially threatening storms and actions should take. In general, stay indoors during major storms and avoid road travel until it is safe to do so.
7. Notify your landlord of any issues as soon as possible
Common winter issues like ice dams, frozen pipes or issues with the heating system can quickly spiral out of control. It's important to keep tabs on your home and alert your landlord of any potential issues as soon as possible so they can be taken care of as quickly as possible.
Winter is coming
Whether you're dreading winter or it's your favorite season, taking the time to prepare your apartment for winter maintenance will help set you up for success as a renter. Come to a clear and established understanding of what your responsibilities are and what your landlord is responsible for, and make sure to hold up your end of the bargain.