Winter weather maintenance checklist for landlords
This year’s winter has got off to a relatively mild start, but before we start digging out the shorts, it’s worth remembering the coldest time of winter is yet to come, with forecasters predicting temperatures will plummet later this month.
For landlords and other homeowners, a cold snap can usher in more than a biting wind. During very cold weather, the risk of frozen and burst pipes increases; the winter of 2018 saw a record number of claims for faulty boilers, rising by 36% as the Beast from the East brought temperatures as low as −11°C to some parts of the UK.
And this wasn’t a one off; it capped a six year-on-year rise in the number of insurance claims for faulty boilers.
Frozen and burst pipes are common side effects of faulty boilers and can wreak havoc for landlords – and their tenants – during the colder months.
Prevention is, as always, better than a cure, and good boiler maintenance, regular checks and some simple loss mitigation measures can help you prevent winter damage. Here is a checklist on avoiding the worst of winter:
Keep the heating on low
A sudden drop in temperature can freeze a boiler’s external condensate pipe. The water in the pipes freezes and expands, which can lead to a build-up of pressure that can rupture a pipe. Keeping the heating at a constant temperature will ensure the pipes are kept insulated and the water should not get cold enough to freeze.
During periods where the house is unoccupied in winter it is recommended the heating is left on to at least 13C, especially during sub-zero temperatures.
If a property is occupied, add a clause into the tenancy agreement setting out any essential precautions the tenant needs to take to protect properties during cold weather. If a spell of freezing weather is imminent, remind tenants that if they are away for longer than 24 hours it is their responsibility to set the thermostat accordingly.
Provided the boiler is well-maintained and efficient, keeping the heating on low should have little impact on a tenant’s fuel bills, but if this is an issue, be open to discussing the cost with your tenant.
Bleed your radiators
If your tenant complains the property is not getting warm enough or the heating is not working, it might be a simple case of bleeding the radiators. Air gets trapped inside the heating system and releasing it from the system will help the heat flow through it. This is an easy job that falls under ‘behaving in a tenant-like manner’, so it’s a job that your tenants can do themselves – all they need is the right key or a spanner that can slot into the radiators bleed valve.
Keep your boiler maintained
As a landlord, you are legally required to have an annual boiler service and Gas Safety Inspection but you or your letting agent can also perform routine checks in between. Looking for any warning signs such as leaks, cracks or noises can mean identifying a problem before it escalates – saving you thousands of pounds in repairs and, potentially, lost revenue.
Consider boiler insurance
Boiler insurance can give you peace of mind over the winter months as it covers the cost of replacing or fixing it if it does breaks, minimising expense and inconvenience both to you and the tenant. It can often be added to your landlord insurance or taken out as separate cover.
Check windows and doors
It’s all very well having an efficient, reliable boiler and well-bleed radiators, but their potential won’t be fulfilled if the property is losing heat through badly insulated doors and windows.
Before a cold spell, inspect the seals around the windows and doors and make sure the caulk – the sealant used to fill cracks or gaps around windows and doors – isn’t damaged and there is no cold air coming in. If there are any problems, make the repairs as soon as possible or call in a pro to get the job done.