The colder months can present a risk to your rental properties that could lead to costly problems. However, by taking the time to check over your property now, you could help to ensure that you enjoy a relaxing, trouble-free winter.
1. Check the pipework on the property
It is important that you check all external pipes for any breaks, leaks, or blockages. Blocked or leaking pipes can freeze up during the colder winter months. They will often expand and burst – causing potentially expensive water damage. Make sure you and the tenant know where the water stopcock is located for the property. Ensure all pipes are in good order and that they are secured to the walls. Whilst checking the pipes, it is also a good opportunity for you to check the brickwork around the building for any cracks, which could potentially allow water in.
2. Think about insulation and drafts
A properly insulated property is critical – and it will save on the heating bills! Ensure the pipes and the water tanks are well insulated. Make sure that you check the basics, starting with any obvious draft points (around doors and windows, loft hatches and pipes which lead outside). Invest in some draft excluder to keep doors and windows secure. Check the cladding around your boiler and pipes, and make sure that taps and valves don’t leak. You can also leave the loft door open to allow heated air to circulate around the loft and the boiler to prevent burst pipes in the attic.
3. Make sure your tenants are kept informed
Well-informed tenants are the best protection against any winter property damage. Do not assume that your tenants know how to deal with the cold weather; many won’t. Similarly, you should remember that it is your responsibility as a landlord to make sure they have the information they need. Consider putting together an information pack, including things like the location of stopcocks, basic boiler operation, and so on. Remind tenants to periodically turn the heating on (using the timer system if one is available) if they go away over Christmas, in order to ensure that pipes don’t freeze.
4. Void periods are dangerous
Void periods are a major threat during the cold months. If you know that your property is likely to be empty over the winter, you will need to make extra plans to ensure its upkeep. Make sure that you visit regularly to open windows and check on the heating. If you can’t do this yourself, make sure that you arrange for someone else to visit.
5. Fix those little ‘snagging’ issues
We all know about the little problems that we mean to get around to fixing. All properties seem to have them – a door with a draft, or a flimsy pipe. Make sure that you deal with these now, rather than later. By addressing these problems before the really cold weather sets in, you can help to prevent bigger, potentially expensive issues later on.
6. Stock up on emergency supplies
It is always sensible to keep a few key items in your property for emergencies. A torch and a basic tool kit will help to ensure that any minor disasters can be dealt with, or at least mitigated. Remember, though, that your tenants may not be able to deal with all issues on their own. You should therefore make sure that they also have contact numbers for you, and for the relevant utility companies.
7. Check your insurance policy
Make sure that you understand the terms of your landlord insurance policy. Remember that maintenance-related issues tend not to be covered by landlord policies. This means that you need to make sure that your property is fighting fit for winter – both for your own peace of mind, and for that of your tenants.
8. Maintain your heating system
A great way to warm up your property is to bleed the radiators. This releases any trapped air, allowing hot water to fill every part of your radiator and warm the property more efficiently. Also, arrange for your boiler to be serviced every year. As everyone starts to switch on their central heating, the surge in gas consumption can lead to a big increase in boiler breakdowns.
9. Clear out the gutters and chimney
In autumn, leaves can collect in gutters and drains, leading to blocks and overflows – so it is best to clean them regularly. Consider investing in gutter leaf guards to help prevent gutters becoming blocked in future. If your chimneys are in use, make sure that they get swept every year. This will remove the build-up of dirt and grime from the chimney walls.
10. Be wary of thefts
If your property is likely to be unoccupied over the Christmas period whilst tenants are visiting family or taking a long holiday, ensure some precautions are taken. Expensive items on display are an easy target for thieves. Why not invest in theft deterrents such as alarms (visible from the exterior of the property) and motion sensors? Also, check that door locking mechanisms meet the policy requirements (5 lever mortice locks). These additions will also help your tenants feel more secure and increase the attractiveness of your rental property.