Winter is upon us 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 as Allison Thompson, managing director at Leaders, explains: “If you carry out a few basic checks 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.”
Check the heating system
Make sure the heating system is working as it should so there are no nasty surprises when it gets really cold. Aim to have the boiler serviced annually 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. Make sure they are properly secured to the walls and check the brickwork for cracks which could let water in.
Sweep the chimney
If there is an open fire make sure the chimney has been swept and don’t forget to provide a suitable fireguard.
Keep the draughts out
Your property should be adequately insulated and any obvious draught points identified and dealt with. 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 your 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 them 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 so the pipes don’t freeze.
Condensation is a common problem. 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 telling your tenants how to minimise condensation, such as opening windows when cooking or 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.
Keep voids to a minimum
Having an empty property during the winter is a worry. If your property is likely to be unoccupied you need to make plans for its upkeep and visit regularly to open windows and check on the heating. With rental demand exceptionally high, if your property is priced and marketed correctly, it is unlikely to be empty for long.
Get the right insurance plus cover for emergencies
Not all insurance products cover rented properties so check that you have appropriate landlords’ building and contents insurance in place.
You never know exactly when an emergency will happen but problems do tend to arise more often in winter and an immediate response is always vital. If you are a Leaders landlord now is a good time to consider signing up to our Emergency Repairs Service which covers landlords for all emergency call-outs not usually covered by typical home insurance products. Tenants are given an Emergency Helpline number with access to fully vetted contractors who will attend to an emergency promptly.
For more information and advice contact your local Leaders branch