It’s a simple but wise piece of advice which applies both figuratively and literally to landlords across the regions, especially as the UK faces a winter that is going to be both cold and costly with the impact of rising energy prices and high inflation hitting everybody’s pocket.
Timely and effective maintenance is important all year round but as the autumn gives way to winter, the potential threats to rental properties and to the well-being of the tenants who occupy them can easily multiply.
The change in climate conditions and the falling temperatures present challenges that can be easily forgotten in the summer months.
Getting ready for the onslaught of winter by anticipating the risks and taking preventive measures should be at the top of every landlord’s to-do list.
Cost of energy
This measure cancels the proposed increase on 1st October to £3,549 for an average household and holds the cap at £2,500.
This is a very welcome decision, but it still means that energy prices in the UK are over 60% higher than they were in the winter of 21/22.
Homeowners and tenants alike will face hefty bills for keeping their homes warm.
Heating is important not only for the health and comfort of occupiers but also to protect property against the effects of rain, high winds, low temperatures and the encroachment of damp, which can increase in winter months.
While homeowners have the freedom to make whatever alterations they can, tenants in the private rental sector are largely at the mercy of their landlords.
At the same time, landlords have certain legal obligations to provide sufficient heating and to maintain their properties in habitable condition. It’s also in their interests to do what’s necessary to prevent the often-unseen damage that can occur.
If rented flats and houses are left undefended, then the eventual cost of repairs will be much greater than if any pre-emptive action is taken. Properties that stand empty at this time of year are even more vulnerable.
Renting in Winter – 5 Ways To Prepare Your Property
Lag the pipes
Water pipes are a hidden threat in winter. They can easily freeze, which could cause them to crack so that when the thaw comes, they will burst, requiring costly repairs.
Even if they don’t freeze, they represent a serious source of heat loss because they will cool down more severely along with the water inside them.
This means more power will be needed to maintain adequate water temperature. The relatively simple procedure of lagging or insulating them will save energy and avoid the nightmare of burst pipes, which is expensive for the landlord and profoundly inconvenient for the tenant.
Also remember to check the pipework regularly especially during void periods or when tenants are away for an extended period.
Check the roof
Roofs suffer inordinate punishment from the elements and if they already have weaknesses, the winter weather can exacerbate these. You should check for loose, broken or missing roof tiles because replacing a few is quick and cheap.
If the weather gets to work on damaged areas, then much more extensive repairs will be needed later on.
From the tenant’s point of view, holes in the roof can let the rain in and allow precious heat to escape, resulting in higher energy bills as well as the inconvenience of leaks. Once water gets in anywhere, it tends to wreak havoc.
Landlords should instruct their inventory clerks to make regular checks as part of every interim report, as well as at check-in and check-out. The property management software supplied by Inventorybase can turn this special measure into a routine task.
In most cases, flaws in the roof can be detected simply by shining a torch around the loft space. Once discovered, they can be put in the hands of an experienced trades person or roofer to be fixed.
Insulate the property
All new builds are required by law to incorporate insulation to the very highest standards, as part of government efforts to reduce energy consumption.
Older properties can be retrofitted and the upfront cost of this is offset in the longer term. It will not only make life more comfortable for tenants and reduce energy bills, but it also helps landlords to meet their obligations under the government’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES).
If the windows are not yet double-glazed this should be attended to urgently, since heat loss through glass is substantial and helps keep the heat int during the winter months.
Service the boiler
Boilers should be serviced at least once a year, but if the annual visit is in the spring, then it’s wise to check it as winter approaches.
This is another job which you can ask an inventory clerk to carry out. Clearly, they are not qualified engineers, but they can verify that the boiler is working and alert you to any concerns.
Replacement is expensive but gambling on it to survive the winter is a mistake.
If it’s inefficient, you could be compelled under the MEES to replace it anyway so it’s better to take the initiative. It also means your tenants are guaranteed a reliable source of heating and hot water.
While you’re at it, you can maximise the efficiency of the heating system by bleeding the radiators so that the hot water always fills them to the top.
Contact our partner Safe2 to find a Gas Safe registered engineer.
These are the most vulnerable of all. Winter weather doesn’t distinguish but with no tenant in situ, it’s easy for serious problems to develop.
Even keeping the heating on at a low level can create condensation which, if the property is not sufficiently ventilated, can cause damp and mould to develop. This can severely damage plaster, timber and even brickwork.
Regular checks are invaluable and may be part of your buildings insurance so its always advisable to check you have the right cover.
If these measures sound like a lot of work, bear in mind how much greater the work and higher the costs you could face by not paying enough attention. Your tenants will experience a much more comfortable winter and you will be maintaining the value of your asset.
Preparing for Winter: Key takeaways
To avoid unnecessary damage and limit complaints from tenants; landlords should:
- Ensure boilers are regularly serviced by a Gas Safe engineer
- Plan you maintenance schedule to ensure small issues don’t become bigger, more costly problems during winter
- Schedule regular visits to the property to check that tenants are ventilating the property and check on signs of damp or mould
- Regularly inspect void properties for signs of leaks or damage
- Check your insurance for appropriate cover especially if the property is void or when tenants are away for an extended period.
To find out more about how Inventory Base can help keep your property safe in winter; visit our support guide Inspection Scheduler to plan your maintenance and property visits or service, repair or replace your boiler with a qualified Gas Safe engineer with Safe2.