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The risk of damage to rental properties escalates in winter, particularly for homes that are empty, according to recent research by the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC). Private rental sector landlords are encouraged to protect properties and conduct timely repairs on behalf of tenants. This should minimise the damaging effects of heavy rain, snow, low temperatures and strong winds forecast by the Met Office for much of the UK this winter.

According to the AIIC, the longer properties remain unoccupied and / or unchecked, the higher the chances are of drain blockages, pipe and gutter problems and ventilation issues that could lead to damp and mouldy conditions and potential associated health problems for tenants.

The main advantage for landlords of routine maintenance checks on property assets is that this can help to attract and retain responsible tenants. People are invariably encouraged to rent and look after homes that are already in good condition and which offer a safe, secure, warm and inviting environment.

As the coldest months of the year approach, the following 4-step winter health check plan for private rental properties can save landlords time, money, worry and hopefully prevent a buildings insurance claim.

1. Pipes – Frozen/burst pipes and flooding can lead to vacant properties and loss of rental income when tenants need to move out while vital repairs take place. Simple measures include ensuring that pipes are located in naturally warmer areas of the property; applying insulation sleeves; sealing any gaps in outside walls through which cold air may reach; and requesting that tenants leave the heating on at a low level (ideally just above 4°C) when they are out. All of these measures combine to maintain consistent temperatures around pipes and reduce the risk of damage.

2. Guttering – Keep gutters and drainpipes free from blockages caused by the accumulation of fallen autumn leaves. This prevents the build-up of debris and water and the possibility that this may filter onto the roof and even result in water damage to the interior of the property.

3. Damp – To reduce the risk of condensation and damp inside the property, a polite request to tenants to close kitchen doors whilst cooking can help to prevent steam escaping into colder rooms. If appropriate, suggest that washing is dried outdoors and that tenants keep all rooms well ventilated by ensuring that windows are opened regularly.

4. Heating – Checking that heating appliances work correctly is a legal obligation for landlords. Boiler servicing once a year by a Gas Safe engineer to prevent carbon monoxide leakage is a necessity for tenant safety. Radiator checks and bleeding if necessary can ensure that these essential elements of the heating system work effectively and efficiently.

All of the above preventative actions can potentially save landlords time, money and inconvenience by reducing the need to make repairs or take corrective measures at rental properties over the longer term.