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Protecting your rental property in winter

What’s in a landlord’s room 101? We think that a Christmas Eve phonecall from a tenant about a frozen pipe, a broken boiler or a power cut could may well be in there. The onset of mid-winter unfortunately comes with a host of problems that any discerning landlord will want to watch out for. To avoid being faced with the situation above, we’ve put together our tips on how to safeguard your property- and your tenants- against five common cold-weather problems.

Frozen Pipes

A frozen pipe

If the temperature in your property drops for a sustained amount of time, you run the risk of your pipes freezing. This can be a serious (not to mention expensive) problem as when water freezes, it expands- potentially leaving you with a cracked pipe and a substantial leak.

Obviously, this is one you’ll want to avoid from the get-go. Advise your tenants to have the heating on for at least twenty minutes every other day during winter. If your house is going to be empty over the Christmas period, turn off the supply to the water pipes if possible. If it’s not, you’ll want to drop in regularly to inspect the pipes, as well as opening the kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate. You’ll also want to double check for any draughts and maybe invest in insulation to keep your pipes warm.

If there’s frost on the pipe, no water’s coming out of the taps, and you can hear strange bubbling or whistling noises, or smell bad odours, then your pipes are probably already frozen. You’ll need to turn off the water supply, open the taps and gently heat the frozen section of pipe with heating pads or a hairdryer. If you can’t identify where the frozen section of the pipe is or this isn’t working, then it’s best to call a professional plumber.

What happens if the worst has happened? If you notice or your tenants report a burst pipe, then turn off the water supply and electricity as soon as possible and contact an emergency plumber. Move as much furniture out of the way as you can until the leak has been contained.     

Broken Boiler

A broken boiler is a common issue that’s easy enough to prevent. Ideally you will have already had it inspected in autumn to ensure it’s in top shape for the winter months. Getting regular inspections also shows your tenants you are committed to making sure they have a good experience in your property- and happy tenants make long-term tenants. Ensure you have a plan in place for if the boiler does break, so your tenants know what to do and who to call.

While we’re on the subject of heating, make sure that your radiators are regularly bled to ensure they’re running as efficiently as possible- keeping heating costs down and your tenants happy!

Condensation

condensation on a window

Condensation occurs when warm air meets a cold surface. If the room is not ventilated properly, the warm air will release some moisture. This may lead to damp patches on the walls. This may also be more common in new build properties that are well-insulated. Talk to your tenants about keeping the property ventilated. Ask them to open the windows (particularly in the bathroom and kitchen) for a short period of time even in winter, and make sure that any extractor fans are cleared of dust so they can work to their full potential. Ask your tenants to inform you right away if they notice anything to stop the problem in its tracks.

Damaged roof

London may not be particularly known for its wild weather, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for (at least) strong winds and heavy rain. Now’s the time to check your roof for any potential leaks or loose tiles. It may seem like we’re going slightly over the top here, but it’s also worth thinking about trees surrounding your area. Trees and branches do occasionally fall or get blown down and can cause a huge amount of damage to your property. If you do identify a potential risk, then call a tree surgeon for advice.

Loss of power

A fuse box

The increased demand on power supplies over the winter months means that there’s a higher risk of outages. Show your tenants where the fusebox is so they can check to see if the supply has ‘tripped’, and how to fix this if necessary. In case of a power cut, call 105 to find out more information to relay to your tenants- make sure they know to do this as well in case they can’t get hold of you. They should also unplug any electrical items at the source, if it is safe to do so, to minimise risk of damage if the power comes back in a surge. Seeing as we don’t quite benefit from an abundance of natural light in the middle of winter, providing a torch and batteries will also be very helpful.

 

Following these tips should help to keep your tenants comfortable in the winter months. If you’re considering taking a more hands-off approach to being a landlord, our property management team may be able to help.  Contact them here.

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