Property owners exposures are ramped up during the winter in most states.  Both cold and possible precipitation increase the likelihood of outside slip and fall, fire, and water damage.  Moreover, the holidays increase the number of visitors to these sites and thereby increase the internal slip and falls and theft possibilities as well.  Here are some key tips for these winter time property management exposures.

Parking lot and sidewalk maintenance- most apartments, shopping malls, and office buildings have other companies who maintain the parking lot and sidewalk.  If this is the case, the property owner’s risk management is centered around negotiating the contract and supervising its implementation.  Contract should ensure that owner is additional insured on the maintenance company’s policy.  Contract should clearly outline weather triggers for services.  Contract should identify appropriate spots for salt and snow storage with a clear eye to how the lots and sidewalks slope and drain.  On site managers and maintenance professionals as well as tenants, should have a number to call to report lot conditions should there be an emergency condition.  Also due care should be given to tracking in of ice and water internally. Use of mats, signage, and frequent mopping will decrease the likelihood of an internal slip and fall loss.

Enforce voltage limitations for tenants- holiday lighting and space heater usage increase the potential for electrical fires.  Your tenant handbook should prohibit appliances and devices that will overload your electrical wiring.  You can also encourage use of surge protectors over extension cords.

Keep utilities on in vacant units- if you have vacant units, the cost of maintaining utilities in that unit will offset the cost of loss that could result from the lack of heat or water movement causes frozen pipes and subsequent water damage.  

Ensure security measures are properly functioning- Security cameras and alarms will assist in both discouraging theft and in the event of theft, allowing for recovery and/or prosecution of theft.

Reviewing these additional risk management tools and policies during the winter season will go a long way to decreasing the frequency and severity of weather and holiday related risks.
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