July 27, 2023 |
Updated August 28, 2023
The top 10 risk management considerations for rental housing professionals headed into autumn.
As autumn approaches, it’s time for rental housing property managers to shift gears and focus on fall maintenance and compliance. These tasks are critical for keeping the property in top shape, ensuring safety and making sure residents stay cozy and comfortable.
No matter the season, multifamily housing property management is a risky business; however, autumn poses a unique set of challenges. Depending on where your properties are located, you could be dealing with a range of weather-related risks. The imminent arrival of cold weather and falling leaves demands preparation, while regions vulnerable to hurricanes could see additional threats to apartment communities. With insurance premiums rising (annual increases between 30%-50%), it’s essential for multifamily property managers to possess a comprehensive understanding of effective risk-mitigation strategies.
With that in mind, here’s a quick checklist to help property managers and owners prepare for the fall.
Inspect and Clean Gutters
While the fall foliage is a beautiful reminder of autumn weather, those bright yellow, orange and red leaves can wreak havoc on your gutters. Over time, leaves, debris and other materials can accumulate, leading to clogged gutters and potential water damage. By removing these obstructions, you allow rainwater to flow freely, preventing overflowing gutters and water seepage into the property’s foundation. Regular gutter maintenance ensures proper drainage and protects the structural integrity of the building.
HVAC System Maintenance
As the colder months approach, it’s crucial to have all HVAC systems professionally inspected and maintained. This preventive measure helps identify any issues with the system before winter, ensuring optimal performance and energy efficiency. Changing air filters and cleaning vents are additional tasks that should not be overlooked, as they contribute to maintaining indoor air quality and reducing allergens.
Test and Inspect Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Safety should always be a top priority for property managers and owners. Fall is an ideal time to test and inspect smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms throughout the community. These devices play a critical role in alerting residents to potential fire or carbon monoxide hazards. Regular testing, battery replacement and professional inspection are necessary to ensure their proper functioning.
Exterior Building Inspection
The exterior of the building is exposed to the elements and requires a careful inspection to identify any vulnerabilities. Take the time to examine the walls, windows and roofs for signs of damage or deterioration. Cracks, gaps or missing shingles can lead to water leaks, energy loss and even pest infestations. Prompt repairs, caulking and sealing can prevent further damage and help maintain a comfortable living environment.
Landscape and Grounds Maintenance
Preparing the landscape and grounds for the fall season is essential for maintaining the property’s curb appeal and safety. Start by trimming trees and shrubs away from the building to prevent damage during storms. Clear fallen leaves and debris from walkways and common areas to prevent slip and fall accidents. Additionally, consider winterizing irrigation systems to prevent freezing and pipe damage.
Pest Control and Exclusion
Pest control is a year-round concern, but it becomes particularly important during colder months when pests seek shelter indoors. Conduct a thorough inspection of the property to identify and seal potential entry points for rodents, insects and other pests. Collaborate with professional pest control services to implement effective prevention measures and promptly address any existing infestations.
Check and Maintain Fire Safety Equipment
Properly functioning fire safety equipment is vital for the protection of residents and the property. Fall is an opportune time to check fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, fire alarms and emergency exits. Inspect fire extinguishers for expiration dates and proper pressure levels. Test smoke alarms and fire alarms to ensure they are in working order. Also, ensure that emergency exits are clear and accessible. Consider professional servicing to guarantee compliance with safety regulations.
Winterize Vacant Apartments
If you have any vacant units, it’s essential to winterize them to prevent damage and minimize energy costs. Start by draining water lines to avoid freezing and burst pipes. Set thermostats to a suitable temperature to prevent extreme temperature fluctuations and maintain a controlled environment. Additionally, check the insulation to ensure it is sufficient to keep the apartment protected during colder months.
Review and Update Emergency Preparedness Plans
Emergency preparedness is key for the safety and well-being of residents. Take the opportunity in the fall to review and update emergency preparedness plans. Verify contact information for emergency services, staff and residents. Communicate emergency procedures to residents and ensure they are aware of evacuation routes and safety protocols. Conduct drills if necessary to reinforce preparedness.
Document and Maintain Compliance Records
Effective record-keeping is essential for multifamily property management. Maintain detailed records of all fall maintenance and compliance activities. Document inspections, repairs, servicing and any actions taken to address compliance requirements. Utilize property management software or systems to streamline record-keeping processes and ensure easy access to compliance records when needed.
A Proactive, Accountable Approach
Preparing a multifamily property for the fall season involves a series of critical tasks, and it’s essential to ensure none of these slip through the cracks. Property managers and owners must establish a system to hold their teams accountable and ensure everything is carried out in a timely and proactive manner.
A proactive and accountable maintenance team is key to preventing potential issues, reducing costly repairs and fostering a positive living environment for residents. By prioritizing communication, using task management tools, conducting regular check-ins and investing in training, you can maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your maintenance team’s efforts.
With a well-organized and accountable approach to fall maintenance, you can confidently navigate the seasonal changes and provide a safe, comfortable and compliant living experience for your residents.
Amy Lloyd is Director, Product Management with NAA.
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