Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 224

The Park Owner’s Winter Survival Guide

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Each season has its own challenges when you own a mobile home park, and winter is no different. With the arrival of the holiday season comes new responsibilities and strategies to make your community in good operational condition. In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to review the items all park owners need to accomplish before the snow begins to fall.

Episode 224: The Park Owner’s Winter Survival Guide Transcript

Of all the seasons, summer is most difficult for most park owners. However, winter has its own challenges too. This is Frank Rolfe, The Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. We're going to be talking about the arrival of winter and the survival guide for all community owners to have a happy and pleasant winter experience.

Now why is summer the worst? Well, summer brings forth the concept of mowing, and mowing mobile home parks has always been difficult getting residents to properly mow and trim, and weed eat and edge is an endless battle. And most community owners at some point in the movie, realize that the best they can hope for through the mowing season is just to make the property presentable, but that they're never going to achieve that Country Club groomed look. And that's kind of depressing, because we all want our committees look the best they can. But at the same time, we realize that our residents typically are perhaps a little landscaping challenged. So that's one problem.

Another problem is the fact that utilities go up in the summer, because more people are using water and they're out in their yard. They're doing different stuff. And you also have a lot more rules violations, because again, are people active outside and they're leaving, you know, bikes everywhere, and toys and tires, and all kinds of stuff like that, that when winter comes in, we all feel like we get a break because the mowing ends, and people tend to not be outside and not playing in the yard. So it's a really pleasant break.

But there are some things you need to know about winter. And as we are going into winter here and the advent of the first snow in some markets, I don't think there's been much snow in fact, I think they're holding a world record right now in Colorado, Denver still hasn't had any snow. But at the same time, I thought it'd be good to review the things you need to know about winter, just to make sure you're in good position during the holiday season.

So the first thing that all community owners need to focus on is winter approaches, or smoke detectors. And you've got to make sure that you got working smoke detectors completely compliant with all laws in your park owned homes, and if you have any buildings like an office or community center those need them too. In fact, it would be a good idea based on what your insurance company tells you or your state association to do, to have the residents sign something saying that they agree that they have smoke detectors that are working. Now why is that so important? Well, because most of the fires in mobile home parks occur during the winter. And the number one cause are space heaters. So what happens is people either didn't pay the utility bill that powers their central system, or they decided to add in to the mix of how they heat their home a portable heater, typically not the expensive good ones that have tip over prevention that shut off if they fall over horizontally, but the really inexpensive ones that typically have the those little metal strips in them and have absolutely no shutoff whatsoever.

What will then happen is they'll either have a pet knock it over into the carpet, which will like the carpet on fire, or they're not paying attention they'll go ahead and put the drapes or a piece of furniture in front of it lighting that furniture on fire. So because fire is so rampant in the winter, it's absolutely essential that you make sure from a safety prevention to have smoke detectors done properly, batteries in them in any home or building the you're responsible for. And it's also important to have the resident sign something noting that simply because when they need some double A batteries to put in those Christmas toys, they look around and they suddenly realize where they can find some batteries. They won't take them out of the TV remote because you can't turn the TV on. But there's a smoke detector right there with some really nice double A batteries and yeah, they're going to take that off the wall, take out the batteries and then later when the house burns claim, it was your fault that you never put the batteries in. So definitely need to focus on smoke detectors going into the season.

Also, it's time to get rid of all dead trees and dead tree limbs before the advent of ice storms. There's probably no greater stressor on trees other than high winds than the good old ice storm. Not the granular ice, but what I call sticky ice where it's misting rain that's freezing on contact. That extra weight on the trees is a number one cause of tree failure, tree collapse. So get rid of all dead trees and dead tree limbs now before the first ice storm because otherwise, you will definitely regret it.

It's also very important to do pipe winterization. What does that mean? It means that all your pipes coming out of the ground, they can't freeze. You cannot allow them to be in a position to freeze because what will happen is then your customer will have no water service. And then equally bad when that changes, when things warm, the pipes will rupture. So what is it, how do you do it? Well, you do it with a thing called heat tape, and then of course insulation. So just make sure that everybody is properly winterized, particularly your park owned homes, your own buildings that you own, make sure you've got that got that going on. Because you don't want to have frozen pipes. Frozen pipes in the winter are one of the most unpleasant experiences imaginable.

Also, go ahead and winterize your vacant park owned homes, the homes that you don't have sold right now or don't have a deal pending on them. Rather than depend on heat set at a low level to keep the pipes from freezing and having the pipes winterized, it's even safer yet to go ahead and fully winterize the home. That means you turn the water off down in the ground, and then a plumber will blow with air all the water out of all the lines. In this manner that home is basically fully protected, regardless of the temperature. Whereas if you don't do it that way, all you have to have is for example, a power outage and your pipes will freeze. So it's safer, it's better, just to properly winterize the home. Now it doesn't preclude you from selling it, it doesn't preclude you from renting it, you just have to go ahead and turn the water back on. But if the home will be sitting there through the winter, and let's all admit that the worst time of the year to typically sell homes or rent homes, is during the holiday season where the fewest number of people move, that it might be better to just winterize the home totally.

It's also time to go ahead and get your snow plow plan ready for when it does snow. In many parts of America, it doesn't snow as much as it used to. But still, it does occasionally snow and what happens when it snows? Well, you have an obligation to the residents typically, if it snows to properly snow plow the streets so that they're safe for them to pass. Now you're not trying to do the greatest job ever, because you can't afford to do the greatest job ever. But such things as entrances, these need to be snow plowed in such a manner that someone can effectively stop their car before they kind of slide off into traffic and turn onto your park without sliding across and hitting something up in the property.

Now, based on what's been done in the past, and what your state requirements are, you don't have to necessarily snow plow all of the pads and other items. But typically, you do have to do some things in the form of safety regarding your streets. And since you can't do that yourself, you have to go ahead and find someone to do it. And you need to get a contract with them, or at least an understanding of what it will cost and the methodology to get them to go out and do the work. The problem is if you wait until the first snow to do that, if you wait till the first snow than you Google "snow plows in my area," you will never be able to find anyone because they're already booked by everyone else. So the time to find someone to do your snow removal is now not when the snow ultimately hits.

Finally, if you've got a lift station on your property, if you've got something that actually pumps the sewage uphill to the city's line, which many mobile home parks do, it's absolutely essential probably at this time of year that you obtained a generator that can run that lift station. Now why is that so essential? Well, because if you do have a big ice storm, and snowstorm and this is supposed to be a La Niña year, which means more severe weather than most, it's supposed to be very similar to last year. We saw record low temperatures, at least here in Missouri. Never seen temperatures that low for that long period of time. If you have that condition and if you have a power grid outage, or you have an ice storm that blows the power lines down, here's what happens: your lift station will no longer be able to push the sewage uphill. And effectively your sewage will then end. And that isn't going to work for you as a community owner.

However you can you can hold all of that at bay simply by buying a gas power generator. You can buy them through a catalog, you can buy them at a pawn shop. But the important thing is you need to have one and keep one in the park office. So what will then happen is if there's a power outage, you seamlessly go put the generator, hook the generator up, put gasoline in it, start it up, and it powers your lift station, and you have solved the crisis. It's also a handy thing to have around in other seasons, tornado seasons, any area with high winds, because if the power goes out to a mobile home, well it's no big deal. It's uncomfortable. I've lost the power to my own home for as long as a week before in certain ice storms and wind situations. But the problem is your lift station has to have power. It's not optional. So you can buy generators right now fairly readily, because not many people are out there looking for them. But again, if you have that big snowstorm, ice freeze, loss of power moment, what's going to happen? Everyone is going to flock to buying those generators and you won't be able to find any. So if you have a lift station, this is the best time as part of your Christmas shopping guide to go out and get that new or use generator to power that lift station.

Again, winter is a fun time of the year holiday season Christmas lights, meeting friends and family. It's all good. But those will give you some tips to make your mobile home park owning holiday season a little happier. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this and talk to you again soon.