Extreme weather conditions over the winter months can cause serious damage to your home and any properties that you let out. Winter winds are some of the strongest of the year, while a roof full of snow can wreak havoc on your tiles and guttering, which can lead to unexpected damage, costs and hassle for both you and your tenants.
Prevention is better than cure. Follow this useful seasonal maintenance checklist to help you and your tenants prepare for winter, and to protect your property from storm damage, high winds, snow and ice.
WINDOWS AND DOORS
• Insert a rubber or foam window draft excluder in each room, which will immediately stop draughts from entering a room. You can also draught proof windows and doors with a sealant that you can get at any DIY store.
• Putting up thick curtains lined with heavy material can also help to block draughts. Hollow blinds fitted into place with a sealed frame and sealed shutters will also help cut draughts and keep your heat in for longer.
A boiler breakdown can be a grim experience for your tenants, particularly over the winter months. It’s a legal requirement for landlords to have the boilers in their let properties checked annually, but it may be worth spot checking them before the cold weather sets in.
• Get your boiler and heating system serviced or inspected, as a well-maintained boiler will burn less fuel and could help you save money.
• You should also check the radiators in your rental property. Chances are that if they’re colder at the top than they are at the bottom, air is trapped inside them. By bleeding them, you release the built up air, allowing the radiator to work better.
A pipe can burst when water pressure builds up behind a frozen section of the pipe. The result can cause flooding, which could lead to your tenants having to move out as well as a loss of rent. Where possible, insulate external pipes and unheated internal areas (such as the loft) so they don’t freeze during extreme cold weather.
• If your pipes freeze, warm them with a hairdryer. Start at the frozen tap end or the valve and work along until the water starts to flow.
• Alternatively, put a hot water bottle over the pipe or soak flannels or towels in hot water and wrap them around the pipe. Never use a blowtorch.
When poorly maintained, gutters can be easily blown loose and cause damage other parts of your property. As the autumn leaves fall, gutters and drainpipes can also become blocked, causing a build-up of water which may then filter onto the roof and find a way into the property. Twice a year you should check your gutters for blockages and damage, and your fascias for damage and wear.
With our winters expected to get colder and heating costs on the rise, it’s important to make sure your property is well insulated and retaining as much heat as possible.
• Ensure your loft has adequate insulation and fit draught excluders
• If you’ve got a water tank in the loft, make sure the loft is insulated otherwise the tank can get very cold. If water freezes it can expand and cause the tank to split. When the ice thaws, the water will leak.
• You can also insulate your loft water tank to prevent freezing. Check the water tank to make sure it’s in good condition and not showing signs of age which can include cracking or splitting.
The roof is often the most vulnerable part of your house, so you should aim to get the roofs inspected at your rental properties twice a year. In poor weather conditions, the risk of ice damage to your roof is even higher.
• Inspect the roof for any broken, loose or missing tiles, and watch for any early signs of leaks or condensation on the ceilings.
• Check for leaning chimneys or pots, as these can be easily knocked over in high winds.
• In the case of ice and snow on the roof, make sure that there is nothing that could be damaged should an ice shelf slide off as it thaws. If you’re in doubt, get a reputable builder to come out and check the property. You can also hire professionals to remove any snow for you, if it comes to it. Specialist roofs will require specialist repair.
Often a forgotten area, but along with roofs, gardens are one of the most vulnerable.
• Your tenants should store away any garden furniture, trampolines, barbeques, tools, toys and anything else that could be picked up and thrown about in high winds.
• Regularly trim any trees that you have around the property to remove dead branches that could pose a threat, and clear away fallen leaves and other debris.
• Garden sheds or green houses should be firmly fixed to a strong base, with a secured roof and door. Insulate outdoor containers and delicate plants from the frost – bubble wrap works well.
HOW YOUR TENANTS CAN HELP
If you have a good relationship with your tenant and property managers, it’s likely they won’t mind helping you out with a bit of property maintenance over the winter months. If this is the case, you can ask them to assist with the following:
• During a snowfall, ask them to remove snow build up using a rake or broom on and around the property.
• When cooking, suggest to your tenants they close the kitchen door to prevent steam going into colder rooms. This can cause condensation and dampness in the property. In the summer months, ask them to put washing outdoors to dry (if they can).
• Ask them to securely shut and lock garage doors in preparation for high winds, as these can be surprisingly expensive to repair or replace.
Even if you take every preventative measure, there's still a risk that your property might be damaged by extreme weather. That’s why it's important to make sure that you have the right landlord insurance cover in place to protect your property. Most landlord insurance policies will provide cover against storm damage - but it's worth checking this with your insurer, just in case.
If you need to make a claim, remember that speed is important – insurers need to be notified at the earliest opportunity so that they can ensure the property is made watertight. A continuing water leak following frost damage can dramatically increase the cost of the claim.
This post was contributed by TrustMark.