If long-term forecasts are anything to go by, we could be in for another bitter winter. Before the nights draw in and the temperature drops, enjoy the last of the autumnal sun and start winter-proofing your rental property. Improve your home’s security and condition with these few simple ideas.
Frozen pipes and ‘no water’ are particularly common winter complaints. When water pressure builds up behind a frozen section of pipework, the pipe can burst potentially causing flooding. Some practical tips to avoid this problem include:
· Placing pipes in heated areas away from loft space or outside walls – this reduces the chance of frost setting in behind the pipes
· If this isn’t possible (or practical), an experienced plumber would be able to fit vulnerable pipes with a type of insulation in the form of wrapping or ‘sleeves’
· If you spot any cracks or holes in the outside walls, make sure they are filled and/or sealed before the bitter weather sets in – leaving them could enable cold air to find its way into pipes
· Contact your tenants and ask them to keep the heating on – at a low level (around 4C) – even when they are not home, especially if they are leaving the property for long periods of time. This will help to maintain a constant temperature around the pipes to avoid freezing
While frozen pipes are perhaps the most worrying side effect of winter weather, they are not a landlord’s only concern.
As beautiful as autumn leaves are, they can cause havoc on gutters and drainpipes as they continue to fall throughout the season. If the gutters and drainpipes at your rental property become blocked, they run the risk of overflowing or building up with water, which can have catastrophic consequences. To avoid leakage into your property, ensure you or your tenants stay on top of keeping gutters and pipes clear.
On the subject of water, condensation and damp are two further concerns of many landlords, especially when the temperature drops. It’s important to allow fresh air to flow in the winter months, otherwise you run the risk of ending up with nasty damp patches on the walls – particularly in high-humidity areas like bathrooms and kitchens. Many tenants aren’t sure how to combat this, so here’s a couple of measures you can suggest to your tenants:
· Close the kitchen door when cooking – this avoids steam moving into colder rooms
· Dry wet washing outdoors if possible – this avoids condensation making the room damp
· Use the extractor fan in the kitchen and bathrooms (even though they are noisy!) – this will really help to ventilate the property properly
Boiler failure is one of the most common maintenance complaints in winter. We recently covered why now is a good time to check the heating system in your rental property, but it really is important to check all your property’s heating appliances are working seamlessly before the cold weather sets in.
If you haven’t done already, now is a great time to check the radiators in your rental property are working properly. If they’re colder at the top than they are at the bottom, it’s likely that air is trapped in them and so they’ll need bleeding. Not only will this enable to radiator to work better, it’ll be more efficient and will save your tenants money on their energy bills.
Getting your boiler serviced by a Gas Safety registered engineer at least once a year is also an important way of maintaining your heating system, not to mention keeping an eye on any potentially damaging problems, such as leaking carbon monoxide. It’s worth getting your boiler serviced around now, so you can flag any issues early. It could be worth investing in a service plan, such as British Gas Home Serve, so that your tenants have somebody to call if something does go wrong.
As the evenings draw in, seemingly earlier by the day, it’s important to make sure your property’s security is up to scratch – especially if your property is empty between tenancies or while your tenants are away over the festive period.
Make sure your home looks occupied. Setting the heating and lighting to come on regularly each day will help to prevent pipes freezing (especially if the house is empty for a few days or more), and scheduling a lamp or two to come on with a timer will help to deter any potential thieves or squatters.
Making sure your property has the correct number of blinds/curtains and adequate security features such as working door and window locks will also help to avoid potential pre-Christmas break-ins.
As the evenings turn darker, household thefts rise by 5% in the week the clocks go back in October and Halloween sees malicious damage rise by 160%. If you’re lucky enough to have CCTV or a house alarm already, make sure they are serviced and maintained so that they work correctly. This is especially important if your property unoccupied or located in a particularly remote area.
Believe it or not, Christmas Day sees the worst increase in fire-related insurance claims, up by 120%, so making sure your rental property is kitted out with at least one fire alarm on each storey – plus a carbon monoxide alarm for extra measure – is essential.
While we’re on the subject of Christmas, it’s a good idea to check in with your tenants or property manager in the weeks running up to Christmas. Make sure that everything is working as it should be and that your tenants are happy and prepared for the festivities to begin. Establish in writing the procedure you wish your tenants to follow in the case of an emergency and check they have spare keys, to save you any Christmas Day dramas!
If you’re currently managing your rental property and would like further information on how Romans’ Property Management service could work for you over the winter months, contact your local branch here.