Landlord Tips: What to Watch Out for This Winter

by Chris on December 9, 2019

Reducing liabilities is an important part of maintaining profitable rentals. Winter comes with its own set of risks, so take a moment and consider how you can avoid these common cold-weather liabilities:

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Minimal exposure still is dangerous to tenants’ health.

Government of Canada warns common activities like smoking indoors with windows closed or idling cars in the garage can produce unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide. Misuse of gas-powered machines such as snowblowers and generators can be dangerous, as well as fuel-burning camping stoves or heaters, and kerosene or oil space heaters and lamps which may not be designed to be used indoors.

Gas appliances like furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves and hot water heaters should be inspected regularly, at least once per year. Look for blocked vents or chimneys, and leaks or cracks that may expand rapidly in the winter months.

Most importantly, install carbon monoxide detectors according to building code (typically outside of each sleeping area) and educate tenants on what to do in the event an alarm goes off.

Track the age of the detectors and replace them according to manufacturer instructions. Old detectors can create false positive alarms. The last thing a landlord wants is a tenant who shuts off or ignores the alarm believing it is defective. The best detectors to choose are those with a numerical display which will confirm that carbon monoxide is present.

Fire

Holiday decorations are one factor that can increase the risk of wintertime fires, according to Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs. These experts have produced of list of Winter Fire Safety Tips.

Share winter safety tips with tenants. Some examples include:

Avoid natural trees that are dry or artificial trees not labeled as fire-resistant;
Keep decorations away from heat sources, vents and exits. Don’t hang decorations from the mantle if the fireplace is in use;
Avoid burning trees, paper, or boxes in the fireplace;
Don’t overload extension cords;
Only burn candles when the tenant can supervise, and never place them in windows near window coverings; and,
Dispose of fireplace embers carefully — not in plastic or paper bags or near any structures.

Tenants should not leave portable heaters on overnight. The best strategy is to keep the heat up so tenants don’t need these extra appliances.

More cooking for parties or guests can generate more grease than usual. Tenants should have kitchen fire extinguishers and know what to do in the event of a grease fire.

Tenants also should check routinely if windows are frozen shut or if snow is blocking a door.

Injury

Injuries caused by falls are a significant safety issue for tenants — and a source of liability for landlords. Last October, a MontrĂ©al tenant sued his landlord over injuries he sustained when he fell down an icy staircase. He is asking for $1 million.

The tenancy agreement should state who is responsible for clearing snow from stairs and walkways in the rental property. Accommodation may have to be made for tenants with disabilities who are unable to take on the task.

Outdoor lighting is an important safety feature, especially when walkways are slick. The days are shorter, so lights burn longer in the winter. Temperature fluctuations can drain bulbs more quickly. When one bulb in a light goes out, the others burn out more quickly. Snow or wind can damage or misalign light fixtures.

At the same time, tenants tend to go out often and guests are likely to visit during the winter months. Landlords should regularly check for spotty lighting, and tenants should be encouraged to report malfunctions.

The best way to avoid landlord liability is to keep tenants safe.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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