Worried winter might cause problems for your tenants? Take these steps to reduce the chances of anything bad happening.
The colder months come with a lot of extreme weather, and you should definitely make sure everything is in good nick if you want to avoid a late-night call from a stressed-out tenant.
Cracked or missing tiles, cracks in the chimney (if you have one), pointing and rendering faults and other wear and tear issues are good things to look for. Snow can wreak havoc on a weak roof, and it’s better to pay a small fee to a roofer now than to pay a massive one during an emergency. It may even be worth getting a roofer in just to have a specialist set of eyes to look it over, as you may miss something.
Are your tenants complaining about the radiators (which are in good condition) not working, but the boiler is working just fine? A simple reason is that they may need to be bled. This releases all of the blockages from inside the radiator and allows the water to move more freely around it. This makes the house both warmer, and cheaper to warm up.
There are simple YouTube tutorials on how to bleed a radiator, one of which you can view here.
Gutter blockages start out small, and can be stopped by simply picking dead leaves out occasionally. Neglect this, and soon enough you’ll be paying a huge fee to sort out the mass amounts of water damage inflicted on your property. It creeps up, and being proactive really helps save you and your tenant from a disastrous winter.
An empty property might save you some tenant problems, but there are more disadvantages than just no rent payments. Insurers can tell you this, as they know that unoccupied houses are more likely to be broken into (we’ll talk about this next), and that the longer a house is unused, the more things are left to die of old age. Things like water pipes, boilers, radiators and a lot of other things in the house get more and more inefficient and faulty as they’re left lying around.
Make sure to inform your insurer of any gaps throughout the winter especially, as pipes don’t fare as well in cold weather, especially when there isn’t any hot water running through it for months at a time.
This does benefit you too, as it’ll let you know whether you’re covered. Some policies are a little touch and go during void periods, so learning what is expected of you will come in handy if the unthinkable happens.
It’s good practice to visit the empty property as regularly as possible to do small checks, especially the things we’ve mentioned above. If you can’t do this due to distance or for another reason, getting a friend, or more professionally, a letting agent to do it will get the same result.
As we mentioned before, empty houses attract thieves.
If you don’t have tenants over the winter, make yourself active while doing your regular checks. Knowing that there’s somebody there often may help to fend off burglars, but this isn’t an absolute sure-fire way to prevent it. A better bet would be to invest in highly visible alarms, as they do a brilliant job at keeping thieves at bay.
If you do have tenants, a quick reminder that valuables should be kept out of sight should suffice.
It’s good practice to get your property’s boiler serviced yearly before winter, as it lets you know how it fared throughout the spring and summer of being left mostly unused.
Also, boilers are much more likely to faulter throughout the country because of this sudden jump in gas consumption, so heating engineers will be inundated with calls all winter and it may take you a while to see the problem solved. The sooner, the better.
As we mentioned before, getting in touch with your insurer should be a priority. A normal landlord’s insurance policy may miss out certain things, so make sure to upgrade to a more expensive plan that covers more if you’re worried. Emergency maintenance callouts are regularly omitted from standard plans, so it could be worth considering a change of policy to cover things like home emergencies or boiler breakdown.
Forget the pipes through winter at your own peril. There’s a quite simple solution to save you from being handed a sizeable split pipes repair fee, and it’s to turn off the stop valve inside, and open the tap outside.
This releases water in the pipe, letting any remaining water expand if it freezes without breaking the pipe.
Draught coming through windows and doors can make heating bills a nightmare for your tenant, something which will cause nothing but stress to the both of you. To remedy this, we recommend checking the door and windows for gaps that let out heat.
Look around each frame for any visible holes or old caulk that’s coming apart. Look for any loose or faulty weather stripping. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to replace it yourself, but paying a professional will guarantee a good job.
Common communication with tenants does a world of good. If you have a good relationship, everything will run so much more smoothly- you’ll be informed of problems faster, the property will be in better condition generally as they see you as someone they won’t want to upset, and if either of you need anything from the other, there won’t be any hesitation either way.
As this has to be mutual, we recommend being as accommodating as possible. Make sure the tenant(s) are told of all the details they need about the property, including where the stop valve is, and how to contact you in more ways than one. This is a good chance to let them know they should hide valuables when no one’s home, and ask them to let you know whenever they plan to go away for an extended period of time, so you can check up on the property.
You don’t have to do most of these steps if you’re on our Rent to Buy scheme. We:
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