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As any homeowner knows, the changing seasons bring lots of maintenance chores. But what about your rental? Who is responsible for all of the tasks that must be done? The best way to spell out these terms is directly in your lease agreement. If you and the tenants are unsure of the division of labor, the chances increase that maintenance will be overlooked or left undone. In the end, this can damage your property and cause unnecessary expenses, and your tenant may become frustrated or complacent. With some forethought, your lease can specify how the maintenance responsibilities are divided, and save negative feelings, unsightly overgrowth, and costly repairs. Here are some of the maintenance responsibilities every landlord should keep in mind each autumn.

Removing Leaves, Pruning Shrubs, and Other Landscaping Chores

Look at all of the trees, shrubs, and other landscaping on your property. Take inventory of the seasonal tasks that keep your trees and flower beds looking their best. Some plantings require little care in the fall, while others must be properly pruned in order to bloom next year. Perhaps your tenants can be expected to rake leaves, but think about whether your other landscaping expectations are realistic. Consider hiring a landscape professional if you have elaborate plantings that need special care.

Snow Removal

Think about snow removal before the snow and ice arrive! While tenants often perform some or all snow removal, you may want to get referrals and quotes for someone to clear parking spots or common areas. It is critical that the sidewalks are being take care of, as many towns and cities have ordinances that require these areas to be cleared. Such laws typically specify how soon after a snowfall the area must be shoveled.

Winterizing Sprinkler

This is an important step to avoid costly damage to your sprinkler system. Some landlords may hire a company to carry this out. Even in this case, the tenant may need to be involved to give the contractor access to the proper control systems. Another option is to provide the tenant with detailed winterizing instructions to complete.

Pool Closing

Winterizing a pool or other water feature must be done properly. Don’t forget to include instructions for cleaning and storing all of the pool equipment and filter parts. Closing your pool is another task that could be farmed out to professionals. Be sure to decide who will provide the required supplies and chemicals for winterizing the pool.

Plumbing

It is critical that your tenants know how to keep the pipes from freezing. Outdoor plumbing must be winterized, but tenants can care for indoor plumbing as well. Consider enforcing a minimum indoor temperature, so that your tenant does not turn off the heat before going on vacation. A burst pipe could cause destruction that would render your unit uninhabitable for weeks or even months.

Cleaning Gutters

Falling leaves, pine needles, or other debris can clog gutters. Overflowing rainwater or ice can ruin your siding or stucco, rot your wood infrastructure, leak through your ceilings, or sink your foundation. Be sure to think about when and how often your gutters need to be cleaned.

Removing Moss from the Roof

In damp climates, it is important to treat for moss at least once a year. Without treatment, moss can significantly shorten the life of your roof. This task is slippery and dangerous, so entrusting this chore to a professional is a good idea.

Your lease will set the expectations for how winterizing gets done. You will find many suggested rules and regulations, as well as addenda, through the ezLandlordForms lease builder. Bear in mind that you may have tenants who are unwilling or unable to take on these responsibilities, or you might have renters who ask to do these tasks in exchange for a rent reduction. Whether you will utilize a hired professional or your tenant, either one could be unreliable. The responsibility to protect your investment ultimately rests with you, so make arrangements to follow up and be sure these jobs are done correctly. While you are thinking about all of these chores, it is a good time to encourage - or require - your tenant to carry their own renter’s insurance.