While summer is the time for homeowners’ associations to show off their luxurious amenities — the sparkling pool, the pristine tennis courts, the vibrant landscaping, etc — winter is no less important when it comes to maintenance. When the weather turns frosty, a host of different problems present themselves. And if community associations are not proactive, they may find themselves faced with costly repairs. Here are a few winter problems community association property managers should look out for.
HOA Winter Problems
- Frozen or Burst Pipes: Cold winter temperatures can cause pipes to freeze, or even burst. That’s because when water freezes, it expands, putting pressure on pipes that may result in a tiny leak or a full crack — and no one wants to be spending their annual budget on water damage and plumbing repairs. Keep your community prepared by insulting all exterior pipes and keeping unoccupied interior areas heated. Make sure landscapers drain hoses and sprinkler systems, and have the pool drained and covered at the end of the season. Have a plan of action if pipes do freeze and communicate it to residents.
- Home Fires: More home fires happen during the winter months than at any other time of the year. Heating, holiday decorations, winter storms, and candles all contribute to the increased risk of fire. Couple fire prevention measures and education with a strong insurance policy to reduce risk of accidents and ensure that the HOA is covered in the event of a disaster.
- Slips, Trips, and Falls: Year after year, slips, trips, and falls remain the number-one insurance claim for property owners. Make sure walkways and outdoor surfaces are free of snow and ice and are salted to avoid a freeze. Ensure that ramps and stairs are adequately lit. Use signage to warn residents of particularly slippery spaces.
Mitigating Risk Through Communication
Beyond winter maintenance, one of the best ways to prevent winter-related problems is to communicate with residents. Keep them informed and communicate early and often. Send out emails explaining what to do to reduce risk of a pipe bursting, how to appropriately use space heaters, snow removal policies and responsibilities, etc. Put up signs in public areas to remind residents of the possible risks and quick tips on avoiding disaster.
Community associations should also ensure that they are financially prepared for cold-weather issues, by securing the proper insurance coverage and budgeting appropriately. Even when property owners and managers follow all precautionary steps, risk remains. Preparing for the worst is ultimately the best solution, as it reduces the risk of an accident while creating a safety net in the event of a catastrophe.