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How Landlords Can Save Money on Ice Dam Removal

In a previous post I talked about some of the ins and outs of ice dam removal that you, as a landlord, should know.  I also described ways you can avoid wasting money on ice dam removal.

Now I’d like to give you some tips on how to save money on ice dam removal.

1. Tell your renter how to prepare for ice dam removal.

Your renter likely has not owned a home before.  So you can’t expect renters necessarily to know what needs to be done.  Some people prefer renting precisely for that reason: there is a lot to know about maintaining one’s home.

You might need to walk your renter through what he needs to do to turn on the water spigot for us.  (If you’re not 100% sure yourself, see this piece, where we describe the steps.)  You might even offer him or a small discount on rent if he’ll not only turn the water on, but also go the extra mile with a hairdryer and thaw the likely-frozen spigot.  Your renter will enjoy the $50 you knock off the month’s rent, and he or she may have saved you as much $300 by taking care of those two things, rather than pay an ice dam removal company to deal with it.

Another tip: Tell your renter to move his or her car onto the street, and to move anything that’s under the overhangs (lawn chairs tables, equipment, etc.).  That way, you won’t have to pay the ice dam removal company “on the meter” to move that stuff out of the path of falling ice.

2.  Give your renter some options before the ice dam arrives.

One your rental property may be covered with ice dams is simply that nobody has raked the roof.   You may be on a vacation and in a hammock.  Meanwhile, your frosty renter doesn’t own a roof rake, let alone has thought it a good idea to rake the snow off the roof before an ice dam can form.

You, your renter, and your insurance company would probably all agree that that’s the landlord’s responsibility.  But you can’t be all places at once.

Therefore, you might consider knocking $100 off the rent each month if your renter rakes the roof and sends you before-and-after pictures of the roof after each major snowfall.

The alternative is rake the roof yourself every time, or to play ice dam roulette – which often ends in paying for ice dam removal, a much-higher bill to repair damage caused by leaking, angry renters, denied insurance claims or higher premiums, or a lawsuit, or some combination of the above.

Getting your renter on the case is much cheaper than dealing with an ice dam removal company (especially a “cheap” one).   Just make sure you ask your renter well in-advance – probably around November – and that you tell him or what kind of roof rake to use.

3.  Tell your renter how to birddog for you.

 You might take a moment to teach your renter the warning signs of an ice dam.  Ask your renter to contact you immediately if he or she sees any of the following:

  • Water on the walls, near the walls, or around the window
  • Leaks coming from the ceiling or any signs of moisture on the ceiling
  • Brown icicles hanging off the house
  • Icicles or large chunks of ice on the siding
  • A giant, thick block of ice on your roof

The sooner your renter can spot the ice dam and notify you, the less expensive it will be for you to get the problem handled.

4.  Invest in your property: its ventilation and insulation.

The final tip has little to do with your renter.  If you’re getting ice dams, there’s a good chance your property doesn’t have enough insulation or ventilation.  You may have air leaks into your attic that need to be properly sealed.  The more heat leaks up into your attic, the more likely you are to get ice dams.

Consider getting an energy audit in the summer, and to invest in doing whatever the inspector suggests to keep that warm air out of the attic.

If you do so you might get to worry about ice dams far less than you do now, which is good for your renter and for your blood pressure.

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