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Originally published October 24, 2014 at 8:02 PM | Page modified November 2, 2014 at 8:40 AM

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Preventive care can help through fall and winter | Rental Resource

Working from the outside in, there are several basic measures to ensure that rental properties — and the tenants inside — stay warm and dry.


Special to NWhomes

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Here comes the rain again!

Despite our attempts to put off fall, it’s finally here, and with it comes a not-so-subtle reminder to get some preventive maintenance done at home before it’s cold and dark at 5 p.m.

Working from the outside in, there are several basic measures to ensure that rental properties — and the tenants inside — stay warm and dry.

A property’s landscaping is an easy place to start.

Ground around the building should be graded to slope away from the foundation wall. This will prevent rainwater from pooling and draining against the foundation and into the basement.

Shrubs and other flora should be trimmed to keep them from resting against the foundation and siding. This will help keep air flowing around the outside of building and prevent the buildup of moisture.

Tenants whose lease agreements include responsibility for yard care should always consult with the rental owner before doing any landscaping alteration beyond routine lawn maintenance.

Rental owners brave enough to climb a ladder will want to clean leaves and dirt from the gutters and roof, and also test downspouts and drains for proper drainage. If the property is in an area with lots of shedding trees, consider delaying this work until all of the leaves have fallen.

A tenant should not be given permission to perform roof and gutter maintenance because of possible liabilities if an injury occurs.

Exposed faucets and pipes should be covered to prevent freezing. Hose bibs should have an insulated cover put on them when not in use.

Inside the home, one of the most important things a tenant can do is to test all smoke and carbon-monoxide (CO) detection devices to ensure that they’re operating correctly and have fresh batteries.

Tenants are expected to maintain their home’s smoke detectors, which typically last seven to 10 years. Maintenance of CO detectors is not specified as a tenant duty under the state’s landlord-tenant act. However, many lease agreements do include this responsibility.

During winter months, there is a heightened risk of CO deaths due to the increased use of fuel-burning sources to heat rooms. If your rental unit doesn’t include at least one CO detector, be sure to request that the rental owner install one as required by law.

A heating-system tuneup should also be considered. State law requires that rental owners supply safe and adequate heat for their tenants.

Rental owners are encouraged to have this done according to manufacturer recommendations — typically every two years for gas furnaces and yearly for oil. Furnace filters should be replaced annually.

For properties with baseboard heaters, remove the dust that may have accumulated by vacuuming the vents.

Renters tend to keep their windows and doors closed to keep out the cold during fall and winter. As outdoor temperatures dip, warm air inside can become condensation on windows when there is a lack of proper ventilation. This can lead to mold growth if left unchecked.

To avoid condensation, fans should be used by tenants to circulate indoor air. If a fan isn’t present, a window should be occasionally opened when there is moisture is in the air.

Tenant should notify the rental owner if there are maintenance issues that need to be addressed. Notices should always be in writing and mailed the owner, except in the case of an emergency.

Sean Martin is the director of external affairs of the Rental Housing Association of Washington, a not-for-profit association of more than 5,000 landlord members statewide. Rental Resource is the organization’s biweekly column. For more information for landlords or tenants, visit rhawa.org.



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