Winter is nearly upon us. In fact, with the build-up to Christmas fully in swing, temperatures falling and the early appearance of more severe weather, it’s tempting to say it’s already arrived!
How to keep your rental property safe this winter
While the winter months conjure many positive images – Christmas festivities, New Year’s Eve fireworks displays, comfort food, roaring fires, the possibility of snow, etc. – it is also a time that can bring with it harsher conditions, whether that’s storms, gales, heavy rain or icy cold snaps.
As a landlord, this could cause problems for your rental properties, particularly if they are unoccupied over the festive season.
There are things you can do, however, to give yourself peace of mind and ensure your property stays safe when winter hits.
Regular dialogue between you and your tenants is crucial at this time of the year, especially if they plan to go away for Christmas. Many tenants will head to visit loved ones and friends over the festive period, which could mean that your rental property is left empty for weeks on end.
An unoccupied property massively ups the risks of pipes freezing over, which could lead to severe, costly-to-repair issues.
To reduce the chances of this happening, make sure you, or your letting agents, liaise with your tenants so you know if they intend to go away for an extended period – and, if they do, the exact dates for when they will be gone.
If they are staying put, it’s a good idea to ask them to keep the heating on a low level (even during the evening) to prevent pipes from freezing over. If they are away, and unable to set the thermostat so the heating comes on for at least an hour a day, it is best for you – or your agent – to visit the property in person to ensure your home is being heated sufficiently. Frozen pipes can cause considerable damage – and cost a bomb to fix – so it’s best to play it safe at all times.
Unfortunately, you are much more likely to encounter issues with damp and mould in the winter months. Not only are these problems unsightly, they can also potentially damage people’s health and prove very costly to eradicate – so preventing them from becoming issues in the first place is crucial.
Mould and damp thrive when there is more condensation about, something that is more likely in colder, murkier weather. The temptation is to close all windows to keep the cold out, but this can actually cause you more problems, especially when cooking meals or taking a shower. Asking tenants to open windows and turn on extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom will help, as will encouraging them to refrain from drying clothes indoors as much as possible.
It’s harder to avoid excess moisture at this time of year, but ensuring that the property remains well-ventilated will reduce the chances of damp and mould becoming major issues. Again, if your tenants have gone elsewhere for a few weeks, it will fall upon you to ensure your property is adequately ventilated.
Stepping in early
As the old saying goes, prevention is often better than cure. And it’s nearly always the case when it comes to property. Dealing with issues (or potential issues) early will not only act as a reassurance, it is also likely to save you a lot of time, money and worry in the future.
Preventative maintenance to walls, ceilings, gutters and your roof is advisable. As always, if you’re not confident or knowledgeable enough to carry out the work yourself, call in the experts. While this might cost in the short-term, it is highly likely to save you plenty in the long run.
Know the thermostat
When winter hits, it’s more important than ever to heat homes the right amount. Make sure that tenants fully understand how the heating system in your property works – allowing them to get to grips with the thermostat and all its various settings before the colder weather strikes.
A good, effective heating system plays a key role in keeping things like damp, mould and frozen pipes at bay, so it’s something that needs to be working efficiently at all times.
To make sure your boiler is doing its job right, you can call upon a Gas Safe registered engineer to give it the once-over. You can’t take any chances when it comes to your boiler, so it’s a very sensible idea to have it checked on a regular basis.
This might sound like quite a lot of stuff that could potentially go wrong, but chances are winter will pass of without a hitch. What is advisable, though, is to have a plan and strategy in place, to deal with issues if they come and to work out with your tenants when (and when they won’t) be at home.
An empty property is at far more threat of the issues raised above, so you will need to work closely with your tenants to ensure a good, two-way system is established.