Landlords – how to prepare your rental property for winter

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  • Landlords – how to prepare your rental property for winter

We’ve reached the period where the evenings draw in much earlier and the months grow colder, and if long-term forecasts are anything to go by, we could be in for another bitter winter.

Yet, the run-up to Christmas is guaranteed to get everyone in the festive mood, with an abundance of Christmas adverts and generous deals as everyone gears up for the holidays – which should be more normal this year compared to last.

For landlords, the winter months come with additional risks to property management that they will need to consider and factor into their plans in order to keep their rental property protected.

Here at Harringtons Lettings, we list the all-important steps that landlords can take to ensure their rental property survives the seasonal upheaval.

Insulate to keep the cold at bay

A well-insulated home is crucial for keeping potential hazards at bay and ensuring your tenants are warm and content.

Fortunately, there are a few cost-effective ways to draught-proof the small areas throughout your home and retain the heat.

Check for draughts around the edges of window frames, gaps under doors and around the letterbox. Draught-excluders are available to purchase online, which will block these openings. Meanwhile, sealing the windows and other small gaps is effective enough to keep the cold out this winter.

Insulating the walls, while a more costly method, is a key part of having a thermal-efficient home. Although the average budget for renovating a full home can cost up to £7,000, the savings that come from doing so are worthwhile.

A better insulated home is also a more energy-efficient one – and, with this now an increasingly important factor for tenants, it’s something that all landlords need to be prioritising as much as possible.

Clear the gutters and drainpipes

Keeping the gutters and drainpipes clear of leaves, litter and other debris will save you plenty of hassle in the long run.

Clogged or damaged gutters can lead to serious issues over time. If gutters or drains are left to clog up, there can be a build-up of excess water which can potentially damage exterior walls or leak into the property itself, causing costly damage.

With your tenants more likely to stay put this winter, it could be worthwhile asking them to carry out this simple task on an infrequent basis as a preventative measure.

Similarly, pipes that are blocked or leaking can potentially freeze, expand and burst during the winter months. To prevent this, wrap lagging around external pipes or pipes in cold areas such as the garage. This will stop pipes from freezing and will avoid blockages and burst pipes.

Whether located inside or outside, if you or your tenants spot a frozen pipe, consider using a hot water bottle or a hairdryer to apply warmth and melt the blockage.

Keep your property secure

The winter season is a prime time for burglars, and it’s important to make sure your property’s security is up to scratch – especially if it’s empty between tenancies or while your tenants are away over Christmas.

If they do happen to be away, ensure that your tenants leave the home looking occupied. Setting the heating to come on regularly each day will help to prevent pipes from freezing, while scheduling a lamp or two to come on with a timer will help to deter any potential thieves or squatters.

Also, consider investing in theft deterrents such as alarms (visible from the exterior of the property) and motion sensors.

In fact, an increasing number of households now use alarm systems that can be accessed and managed anywhere via a smartphone, so do your research and speak with both your agent and tenants to find the best security option to ensure the home is safe at all times.

Thoroughly check the boiler 

As well as checking the cladding around your boiler and pipes to ensure that taps and faucets aren’t leaking, you will also need to inspect the boiler’s pressure.

Generally, the pressure should be between one and two bars. The pressure gauge can be found on the front of the boiler (or underneath it where the pipes are) and will either be a dial or a digital display. If it’s too high or too low, contact a Gas Safe engineer to make sure the pressure is right.

With a recent push to phase out gas boilers by 2025 and use alternative heating systems such as low carbon heat pumps in new-build homes, it’s even more important that your boiler is up to standard and working efficiently.

Of course, while not every landlord is required to get rid of their existing gas boiler, it could be time to weigh your options and invest in greener alternatives.

Void periods

When your rental property is without tenants it may not seem much of an issue. But a lot can go wrong when a property is left unattended. For an insurers point of view, things like water leaks, fire and burglary are more than likely to happen when the property is unoccupied. That is why it is important you let your insurance company know immediately about any vacant periods. Especially if they last longer than you would initially expect.

You will find that your policy conditions allow for a certain number of days where your property can be empty. It is best to understand your obligations and ensure you are fully covered.

It is good practise to visit the property as regular as possible. To ensure it is in a good order in any event. This includes opening windows to air the property as well as checking the boiler as we mention above.

Beware of thief

Leaving your property empty can also increase the risk of thief – another reason to visit the property regularly.

Even if the tenants are in the property, there may still be periods where it is empty due to occupants going away. Especially students when they might go back for Christmas. You may find when it comes to the University of Brighton and Sussex that they are not always at the student accommodation.

You might want to consider asking your tenants whether they have any form of contents cover etc. We do offer this through our sister company iInsure 365.

You might want to even consider investing in thief deterrents such as alarms which can be visible from the property outside and motion sensors.

Make sure your roof is in good repair

Winter is a good time to check the roof of your rental property, looking out for any broken tiles, issues with pointing and rendering and cracks in the chimney if you have one. You may wish us to go and do a visual inspection for you. If you spot anything wrong you will need to get it fixed first. You might find that water comes in during heavy rains and there may be weak spots in the roof. A roofer may need to identify and help you wish any issues.

Check your insurance policy

A standard landlords insurance policy may not cover things like maintenance call outs, so it could be worth considering a view of your policy in this regard.

We have a sister company iInsure 365 who deal with landlords across the whole of the United Kingdom. They will be able to help you in this regard. They can cover occupied, unoccupied and commercial property and can be contacted on 01273 827090 or enquiries@iinsure365.co.uk . Don’t hesitate to contact them.

Did you know that a substantial amount of landlords currently underinsure their properties. Why not click here to read their article regarding underinsurance on a property.

Show your tenants where the stopcock is

Do your tenants know where the stopcock is? If the water in the pipes freezes, pressure can build up behind a blockage and often cause them to burst. Whilst this is rare, it is important that your tenants can locate the stopcock. Allowing them to switch off the water mains in an emergency.

Seal any draft prone areas

If your tenants are feeling a chill from a draft in your property sealing them is a quick, simple way to stay warm and save money. Check for drafts around the edges of the window frames, gaps under the doors and around the letter box. Draft excluders are available online, which will block out drafts between doors. For windows and other small gaps, just seal the openings to keep the cold out this winter.

Communicate with your tenants 

It’s unlikely many tenants will be on the move this year. But the lack of lockdown this Christmas means it is entirely possible that your rental home may be left vacant.

Therefore, it’s vitally important that you establish what your tenants’ plans are for this period and create an action plan accordingly. This includes putting a plan in place for any emergencies over the holiday period and who should be contacted.

Likewise, you’ll want to test everything is working as it should. Making sure your tenants are well-prepared for the festive period.

Here at Harringtons Lettings, we can help you to manage your rental property this Christmas. Ensuring you get the most from your tenancy as a result. For more information on how we can assist you on your lettings journey in Sussex, including Brighton, Hove, Portslade, Shoreham, Worthing, Lewes, Peacehaven, Seaford, Newhaven and Eastbourne, please contact us today.

You can also get an idea of how much rent you could be charging each month by using our free instant online valuation tool here.

Students

Do you have a property that would suit students? We have students from the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex currently looking for student accommodation. We always have tenants looking for properties in Hove and specially at the moment the city centre. At Harringtons we deal with a huge amount of different areas within the Brighton and Hove area including Lewes Road, central Brighton, Western Road and many other districts. Contact us on 01273 724000 and admin@harringtonslettings.co.uk

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