It is well and truly winter. The days are getting shorter, the cold is setting in, and (much to the chagrin of many) the Christmas decorations are up.
As a landlord, winter poses some unique problems. Your property is at its most vulnerable during the coldest months, and you need to take steps to protect it. As well as helping you fulfil your obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to your tenants, these simple steps will help to ensure that you avoid major problems further down the line.
1. Check the pipes
Frozen pipes can cause major damage to your property. Pipes are more likely to burst when they are frozen, and this can cause flooding and water damage. This is an expensive prospect.
You can minimise the potential for damage of this kind by making sure that all outside pipes are properly clad. You can clad pipes yourself, and the material to do so is cheap and readily available from DIY shops.
If you notice cracks or fissures in pipes, make sure they are dealt with as a matter of urgency. These will only get worse, particularly in cold weather.
2. Service the boiler
You have a range of legal responsibilities when it comes to the boiler in your property, including a requirement to secure an up-to-date CORGI certificate. In addition, though, you must make sure that this piece of equipment is fully functional – and this never more important than during the winter months.
You should consider having the boiler serviced before the winter. As well as keeping your tenants warm, a properly working boiler will help to ensure that your pipes do not freeze.
3. Instruct your tenants
Properly informed tenants are your most useful tool in the battle against winter. By making sure that your tenants have the information they need you can significantly reduce the potential for damage.
Consider preparing an information pack that outlines things like how the boiler works, and the location of the stopcock. You should also suggest that they leave the heating on at a low setting if they intend to leave the property empty for a few days, for example over Christmas. This will help to ensure that the pipes do not freeze.
4. Invest in insulation
As well as keeping your tenants from freezing, good insulation can help you to keep a safe, well-maintained property. Although it can seem like a big initial outlay, properly insulating your property can save you a significant sum in the long-term. It is also worth remembering that there is a range of grants and interest-free loans available to help you offset the cost of insulating your property.
Many people forget to check ‘entry points’ like doors and windows. Make sure that these close properly, and that draughts cannot enter. You may need to replace the insulating strips, or invest in new draught excluder.
5. Consider void periods
An empty property can begin to degrade remarkably quickly over the winter. If you are currently suffering from a void period, make sure that you visit the property regularly to do some simple maintenance.
Windows should be opened to air the property, and the heating system should be turned on regularly. Some systems feature automation that will perform this task for you. You should also make sure that the pipes have not frozen, and that the taps work correctly.
Consider unoccupied property insurance to protect your rental property even when it’s empty.
6. Clear the gutters
Blocked gutters can cause water to accumulate, and ice to form. This in turn can increase the chances of overflows or frozen pipes. You should therefore make sure that the gutters around your property are clear of leaves and other detritus, particularly if you anticipate heavy rain or very cold conditions.
7. Check outside lighting
If your property has outside lighting, make sure that this is working properly. This can be particularly important if the property has steps or other features that might make it difficult to access when dark and slippery. You might consider leaving a spare bulb for the tenants, and letting them know how to change it if it is not obvious.
Winter property maintenance might seem like a hassle, but it is very much part of the landlord’s job. By taking a few simple steps before the cold weather sets in, you can help to minimise the potential for bigger problems later on.