Stock, commercial real estate

The Northeast and Central Ohio communities are no stranger to inclement weather, whether it’s flooding and rainstorms in the spring or sudden blizzards and below freezing temperatures in the winter. Those extremes can wreak havoc on properties, no matter if it's a home or a commercial building.

For commercial properties, Aaron Gilbert, managing principal at The Gilbert Group in Columbus, and David Horowitz, principal at Presidio in Beachwood, suggested management companies and tenants begin to weatherproof as fall approaches.

Gilbert explained weatherproofing, and who is responsible for it, differs for the type of commercial property.

“In the retail sector, landlords are primarily responsible for common areas and vacant storerooms,” he said. “Our property management team makes sure that each vacant storeroom is ‘winterized.’ We have a process in place where the HVAC is inspected to ensure the heat is running properly. We also put antifreeze in the toilets in case there is an outage at any time during the winter months. The property management team also engages porter service professionals to check and make sure the vacant rooms are continuously heated.”

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, referring to the different systems, machines and technologies used in indoor buildings like homes, offices and other commercial settings, as well as transportation systems.

Gilbert added engaging a snow removal service is also in the best interest of management and one of the more important parts of the weatherproofing process. Contacting them early allows a plan to be put in place as to where snow will be pushed when plowed, he said. 

Horowitz mirrored the same sentiment about placing primary importance on having the HVAC system in working order. 

“The most important item is to make sure the HVAC system is working properly and filers are replaced if necessary,” he said. “It is also prudent to review your snow plowing contract, making sure to opt for sidewalk shoveling. Walk-off mats should be placed at all entrances and in elevator cabs. If present, exterior sprinkler systems should be winterized.”

 Both professionals said winterizing properties are an important part of owning a commercial building, especially in Ohio where the weather can quickly take a turn. Having plans in place also allows for a quick response, they said.

“All precautions are taken and preventative maintenance preformed are done not only to avoid larger problems in the future, but also for the safety of tenants/employees, guests and clients at the building,” Horowitz said.

Gilbert said, giving an example of bathroom maintenance, that, “much of the plumbing related to the bathrooms are located very close to the rear door in many retail rooms. There is a tremendous risk for frozen then subsequent burst plumbing lines. If it is scheduled to have multiple days below freezing, we will wrap those plumbing lines near the doors with heated tape or cable. The ultimate goal is to have the systems in place so even in harsh weather, the retailers can be open and be successfully generating volume.”

As many commercial properties and businesses begin the winterproofing process, the professionals offered advice.

“Weather in Ohio can turn drastically,” Gilbert said. “My advice is to be proactive instead of reactive. It is easier to handle potential weather catastrophes if you are prepared if it happens. Allow yourself enough time to get the systems in place and implemented well in advance of an inclement weather event.”

Horowitz said, “You can lean on your property manager to make sure your property is ready for winter. If you manage your own property, do your diligence on qualified service providers and schedule inspections and preventive maintenance to be performed.”

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