Winter is on its way and with it comes a number of risks to rental properties which can lead to costly problems for landlords.
The good news is most of these are preventable. If you carry out the basic checks below and take any necessary action now - before the cold weather hits - you and your tenant are likely to enjoy a safe, cosy and disaster-free winter.
A good letting agent should take care of everything mentioned below if they are managing your property for you.
Check the heating system
Now is the time to make sure the heating system is working as it should so there are no nasty surprises when it gets really cold. It is good practice to have the boiler serviced regularly to keep it in good working order throughout the year.
Check the pipes and brickwork
Check all external pipes for any signs of leaks, breaks or blockages. Serious problems can occur when blocked or leaking pipes freeze during the winter, then expand and burst.
When checking that the pipes are in good order make sure they are secured to the walls properly and at the same time check the brickwork around your property for cracks which could let water in.
Sweep the chimney
If there is an open fire make sure the chimney has been swept, and provide a suitable fireguard for your tenant’s safety.
Keep the draughts out
Make sure your property is adequately insulated. Check the obvious draught points and fit draught excluders to any doors and windows that need it.
Tell your tenants
Tenants need to be made aware of the simple steps they can take to protect the property from unnecessary damage during the winter. Don’t assume that they already know how to deal with the cold weather as many won’t, or may not think about it.
Ask your tenants to keep background heating on at a level to avoid extremes of temperature. If they go away during the winter they should leave the heating on a setting to maintain a constant temperature of between eight and ten degrees Celsius to ensure the pipes don’t freeze. They should keep inner doors and loft hatches open to allow the circulation of warm air and arrange for someone to check the property regularly while they are away.
An information pack for your tenants which includes this information, plus details of where stopcocks are located, basic boiler operation and steps they can take to minimise condensation, as below, is a good idea.
Condensation occurs when moist warm air, e.g. steam from showering or cooking, comes into contact with any surface of a lower temperature. It can form on any surface and may not be noticed until mould starts to grow or materials show signs of rotting.
The simplest and most effective way of preventing condensation is to make sure there is adequate ventilation and heating. Extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom will help, as will closing doors and opening windows when cooking and washing and not drying clothes on radiators.
Get those little jobs sorted now
Most property owners have a list of small issues that need sorting that they simply haven’t got round to. Now is the time to see to those outstanding jobs, from clearing the gutters to fixing that loose pipe or draughty backdoor to prevent them becoming bigger and potentially more expensive issues when the weather turns bad.
Get the right insurance plus cover for emergencies
Not all insurance products cover rented properties so it is important to check that you have appropriate landlords’ building and contents insurance in place.
You never know exactly when an emergency will happen but when it does, an immediate response is vital and you can bet it will be at the most inconvenient time possible! We offer our landlords an Emergency Repairs Service which covers them for all emergency call outs which are not usually covered by typical home insurance products. Tenants are given an Emergency Helpline number, open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, with access fully vetted contractors who will attend to the emergency promptly.
Keep void periods to a minimum
Having an empty property during the winter is a worry. If your property is likely to be empty you need to make plans for its upkeep and visit regularly to open windows and check on the heating. If you are unable to do this yourself arrange for someone else to do so; this is something we can do for our landlords as part of our management service.
There is strong demand for good quality property to rent at the moment, with many tenants wanting to move into their new home before Christmas. If your property is available to let contact us without delay so we can secure a good tenant for you quickly.
For advice you can trust on all aspects of renting or letting please contact your local Leaders branch.