Getting a Rental Home Winter Ready

The fall is a good time of year to give your income property a very thorough once-over and do some winter maintenance. Winter-proofing your home is essential if you wish to avoid costly surprises, like a leaking roof, water damage, burst pipes, and loss of rent.

Here’s a comprehensive list of the general maintenance that will help spruce up your space and keep your property running smoothly during the cold winter months and through spring’s thaw.

winter advice for tenants

Your Outside Checklist

A Really Good Outside Inspection

This is the time of year to walk around your property and do a thorough inspection. You want to ensure everything is looking good. Take a look at all your windows and doors, and at the brickwork to ensure you’re not likely to have any leaks into your home over the course of the winter or during spring’s thaw. Consider calking around windows and door frames to seal heat inside, and keep moisture out.

If you see any damaged bricks, you’ll want to ensure a professional can come and do a thorough inspection. You don’t want a leaking basement come spring.

Climb up a ladder to inspect your roof. You’re going to want to keep an eye open for any loose shingles or areas of wear. If you do see any problems, get this addressed as quickly as possible. You want to do everything possible to avoid a leaking roof over the winter months. If your rental property is a semi-detached building, you’ll want to also look at your neighbor’s roof. Alert them if you see any problem areas.

If you’ve got a chimney, this is the time to get it swept. You’ll want to ensure all vents and your chimney are clean before the season’s first fire is lit in the fireplace.

Clean, Clean, Clean

Giving the garden a good once over is great this time of year. Have a landscaper come and rake up leaves and get any plants winter ready if needed. Trim trees and bushes.

This is also the time to give the garage and porch a deep clean. Put down non-skid mats on porch steps to ensure safe coming and going through the icy, slushy, snowy weather.

Clean up the driveway and ensure any sewer and stormwater drains are clear of leaves and other debris. Come spring, you’ll be glad you did.

Think Lighting

 It’s important to consider lighting during your regular fall maintenance. Ensure that any motion lights are in good working order on the property. As days get shorter and the terrain gets a little more uneven with snow and ice, it’s important to ensure tenants have a safe route around the property.

Outdoor lighting is also a simple way to add some unexpected drama to your property. Showcase your garden and help deter property crime by including some landscape lighting.

Don’t Forget About Those Gutters

This is the time of year to get someone in to clean out your gutters. Lots of debris builds up over the year, most especially during the fall. You’ll want to make sure these are as clear as possible going into winter. Once spring comes you’ll be relieved to see everything is draining properly.

PLEASE Don’t Forget to Turn Off the Outdoor Water Taps

If you’ve got a garden bib tap, be sure to have these turned off for the winter. In a deep freeze, these are the first pipes to burst, and they will cause lots of damage. Be proactive and prevent this nasty surprise.

Your Inside Checklist

Test All the Smoke Detectors and Fire Extinguishers

If your income property has battery-operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, this is the time of year to change those batteries and test the units to ensure they’re working properly.

Each rental unit needs to have at least one fire extinguisher. Ensure these are filled, tested, and unexpired.

General Furnace Maintenance is a MUST

This is the time to get your furnace professionally serviced. You’ll want to ensure it’s working efficiently. Get the filters changed if needed; bleed all your radiators if needed.

If you have an older thermostat, consider replacing it with a programmable one. These will keep your unit more energy efficient.

furnace repair


Caulking, weather-stripping, draft snakes, insulating the attic, installing storm windows and doors. There are so many ways easy and inexpensive ways to draft-proof your rental property. And draft-proofing will save you lots of money on your heating costs. Research shows that most people save between 5-30% on their heating costs after properly draft-proofing. That’s a lot of money, literally out the window if you don’t take the time to draft proof.

Pipes, Wrap Those Pipes!

Pad and wrap any pipes that are in unheated areas of the home. You run the risk of bursting your pipes in the dead of winter if you don’t. This is also a great way to keep heat leaks at bay.

Look for Signs of Critters

Unfortunately, late fall is the time we see vermin looking for warm, dry places to put down winter roots. Inside – and outside – look for any signs of mice, squirrels, raccoons, and cockroaches.

Consider a maintenance plan with an exterminator, just in case. Avoiding infestations really should be a top priority.

The Tenant Check-In

If you don’t see your tenant regularly, this is also a great time to connect with them to see if there’s anything on their list of things that might need attention. Are the appliances working tickety-boo? What about the garbage, recycling, and compost bins – are they in good working order? Talk to tenants about fixtures  – are there any that need to be looked at? Like most things, minor repairs around your income property are better dealt with before it’s a total emergency. And winter emergencies always seem just that much harder.

There you have it, a comprehensive winter-proofing list to keep your rental properties (and really any home) running smoothly as you go into a cold, harsh Canadian winter. Because, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Ain’t that the truth when it comes to maintaining a home.

Want to read more? Check our article on Spring Cleaning Your Rental here. 

Or the Top 5 Reasons to Hire a Property Manager, if this is all feeling like it’s too much.

Sabine Ghali

Sabine Ghali

Helping real estate investors build wealth over time

Sabine Ghali, Managing Director at Buttonwood Property Management, Award Winning Real Estate Broker and an Entrepreneur at heart. Sabine is on a mission to help investors create real estate wealth over time in the Greater Toronto Area. Sabine is published in a number of media outlets, including Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Gulf News, among many others.