Eliminate unnecessary costs for your buy-to-let this winter

Winter can be a costly period for buy-to-let investors and professional landlords. As we all know, the colder months are often those in which niggling problems with a property become urgent – and in which new issues arise.

Many buy-to-let landlords are still feeling the pinch of the recession and as a result, saving money is likely to be particularly high on your agenda this year. The good news is that, with a bit of forethought, you can minimise or eliminate many of the costs you might otherwise endure over the winter.

Get insulated

As a landlord you have a responsibility to ensure that your properties are habitable and comfortable all year round, and making sure that your tenants are not freezing is an important part of this. But making sure that your property is warm and properly insulated is also vital if you are to avoid more significant and costly problems down the line.

Check for gaps around window fittings and doors, and make sure that floorboards are fitted properly. If you think there may be drafts, a draft excluder is very cheap and can significantly reduce the amount of cold air entering the property. This is particularly important if you pay the utility bills. A few hours spent draft-proofing the property will not only ingratiate you with the tenants – it will also cut your heating costs significantly.

It is also worth remembering that there are several grants available to cover some or all of the costs of insulating your property. Contact your local authority to see if you are entitled to some cash.

Check the boiler

Boiler problems can be very expensive and tend to occur most frequently during the beginning of the winter months, when the central heating is switched on. By getting your boiler checked out at the start of the cold period you can minimise the risk of having to have it repaired or replaced later on.

Don’t attempt to fix problems with a boiler yourself as this can be dangerous and you’ll more than likely end up making things worse. Instead, have a professional come to service your boiler. As well as dealing with ad hoc boiler issues, landlords have a legal obligation to carry out regular gas safety checks. Fortunately, these checks often cost less than £100, and many engineers will offer discounts for multiple properties.

Frozen pipes

Frozen pipes are among the most common and potentially expensive problems during the winter months. If pipes freeze they are liable to burst, wreaking havoc on your property.

The first step towards avoiding frozen pipes is to ensure that they are properly insulated. All pipes should be clad, but this is particularly important for any pipes that run outside. Cladding is very cheap, and fitting it is simple.

You should also speak with your tenants to make sure they take steps to avoid frozen or burst pipes. For example, encourage them to maintain the heating on a low setting during the coldest periods – particularly if they are going away. Tenants should also be on the lookout for dripping taps; these should have their washers replaced immediately, particularly if they are outside.

Look after the property in void periods

If your property is currently empty you will need to work much harder to keep it in good order. In many ways it is even more important that your look after your property between tenants; potential residents will be able to tell when a property is in a poor state of repair, and your void periods will last longer as a result.

Ensuring that the heating is turned on regularly is one of the most important things you can do when the property is empty. Many heating systems feature scheduling capabilities, allowing you to program times for the heating to come on. If this is not possible you will need to visit the property and do it yourself – but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Regular visits to the property will help you notice and keep on top of any problems or deterioration.Winter is a traditionally difficult time to find new tenants. As such, you may wish to consider dropping the rental price to encourage those who may be tempted into moving. This will not only help ensure you have some income from the property – it will also save you much of the work associated with winter maintenance.

Above all, it is important that you take some time at the start of winter to avoid bigger problems later on. The cold weather is likely to exacerbate any niggling issues with your property, so make sure you deal with small problems now before you have bigger things to worry about – like Christmas!