Winter tips for landlords
December 20, 2019
With days getting shorter and temperatures dropping there are a number of things that can go wrong at a property during the cold winter months. It is therefore a good idea to check your property is in good order before the first cold snaps, giving you and your tenants peace of mind. Quickly dealing with any issues that arise will ensure your property is kept in the best possible condition and preserve a healthy relationship with your tenants.
Service your boilers and heating
As temperatures start going down it is an excellent time to schedule a boiler service and you should ask that they bleed the radiators at the same time. It is good practice to do this once a year, as increased gas consumption can lead to boilers breaking down.
The boiler company or heating engineer will check to ensure that the boiler is running efficiently, saving everyone money, and also mitigate any worries that it might break down unexpectedly. It will also help reassure your tenants that there are no problems, carbon monoxide leaks or faults on the gas line.
If it gets particularly cold during winter months the drainage pipe might freeze. This a common problem that you should ensure that your tenants are aware of and if they do have any problems this is the first thing they should check and try to thaw the external condensate pipe if necessary. Checking this first can save a lot of time-wasting and unnecessary cost.
Electrical appliances and safety checks
Almost half of all domestic fires are caused by electrical faults, be that from the mains or from electrical appliances that are brought into the house. While it is not your job to supervise your tenant’s lights it might be worth sending a friendly message asking them to remember to turn off any Xmas fairy lights when they are not in. You could even provide them with timers to make it as easy as possible to manage their usage.
If you do have the boiler serviced, some companies will also check your smoke alarm functions properly too so always good to ask if they do (if they don’t, you might want to use a different company or arrange for this to be done by a suitable professional). Many people are away during the festive period, so it is even more important than usual that the alarms are fully functional and loud.
Check your insurance policy
You should check your landlord insurance policy to see if it is still right for you and guarantees the appropriate cover. Now could be a time to consider a review of your policy.
Clear out gutters
Clearing leaves and muck out of guttering regularly throughout the winter months stops blockages which in turn prevents lingering smells and potentially severe water damage to your property.
Speak to your tenants
A strong landlord-tenant relationship is vital to any tenancy but also means that they will be more likely to keep you informed if anything is wrong at your property. At this time of the year it might be a nice gesture to include your tenants on your Christmas card list.
You should ensure your tenants have all the information they may need about the property. One day it may be useful to know where the location of the stopcock is if there is a leak. You should also talk to your tenants about maintenance or security steps you would like them to undertake and provide them with a number of options to reach you in a case of emergency. It is worth checking your tenants have up to date contact details for you. If you are going to be away and uncontactable you should make sure your tenants are aware and have alternative emergency contacts if there are any problems that the landlord should be made aware of.
Details of trusted tradesmen
Not only should your tenants know how they can get in contact with you in an emergency, you should also know who to call if you require an emergency plumber or electrician.
We recommend to always have an up-to-date list with contact information of tradespeople instead of ending up frantically looking for someone in an emergency. These could be people you already know and trust or traders that have been recommended to you.
If you already have a number of trusted tradesmen it is worth checking if they are on call over the festive season or if you might have to find alternative emergency contacts during that time.
Tenants away over Christmas?
During the festive season your tenants may go somewhere else for their festivities and could potentially leave the property empty for a long period or even several weeks if your tenants are students. Most students break up early for Christmas and courses may not start again until mid-January. You therefore want to ensure that your property is safe and secure.
Christmas also provides the perfect opportunity for eagle-eyed ne’er-do-wells. Make sure that you find out if there are any issues with locks or doors that should be sorted out, and if there is an alarm in place that it is operational and being used. If they are away they should also ensure that a neighbour who will be around is aware in case the alarm does go off so that it can be dealt with. Your tenants’ possessions will probably not be insured under your house insurance, so it is ultimately up to them to insure their belongings. However, you should help secure your property to the best of your ability, for your sake and the tenants’.
You might consider asking your tenants if they are going away at all and letting them know your plans as well. You should let your tenants know your plan of action if there is an emergency at the property while they are away. Have all the keys for the property ready to go, just in case. If there is going to be a long period of time where the property is vacant and you are not near to look after it.
If your tenants are planning to go away it is worth asking them to set the heating to come on at least once per day to warm the house and prevent pipes from freezing over.
It’s been another busy year for landlords in terms of legislation changes and you have earnt yourself a rest this festive season too.