Risk management: protecting your properties during a cold snap

Keep your properties on the up and up even if the temperature goes down

Landlord Advice

29 March 2017

With freezing temperatures, high winds and storms, winter can be a worrying time of year for landlords. However, there’s plenty you can do to prepare for a big freeze.

Here are a few tips for preventing property problems when the temperature drops.

Be prepared

Lag or insulate your pipes. Insulation can be bought at DIY shops and easily installed. Don’t forget pipes in little-visited areas like the loft, as these are the most vulnerable to cold.

Boilers must be serviced annually by a gas safe registered engineer. Ideally, have it serviced in plenty of time to arrange for any repairs before the cold weather hits.

Clear out the gutters – it’s amazing how many dead leaves and other debris can gather, causing water to pool and soak into the walls. Look up at the roof: are there any broken or missing tiles? Be storm-ready by getting those fixed now, and checking that outside taps aren’t leaking.

Control airflow and reduce draughts

Air circulation is essential for a healthy building, so discourage your tenants from blocking up ventilation holes or closing vents, however chilly the weather gets.

A draught is less welcome – but is also easy to fix. Fitting brushes to the bottom of doors and inside letterboxes and adding rubber strips around windows are quick, inexpensive ways of reducing draughts. Even a metal disc that drops over the keyhole can make a surprising difference when the wind is whistling through any nook and cranny. If you’re losing heat through an unused chimney, fit a temporary chimney draught excluder.

Prevent condensation

In colder weather, we’re less inclined to open windows – and the resulting humid atmosphere causes condensation, leading to damp. Check that your bathroom and kitchen extraction is up to the job. Encourage residents to let the fresh air in, even on the chilliest days.

Make sure your tenants have efficient ways to dry laundry during cold or wet weather, to reduce the temptation of draping wet washing on radiators. If there’s a tumble dryer, it needs to be correctly vented.

Protect empty properties

The best thing you can do to look after an empty property is to keep it warm. A gentle heat, around 13ºC, will prevent the pipes freezing and protect against other cold-related problems. Avoid damp by ensuring air can circulate. Leave doors (including cupboards) and loft hatches open, and keep any window trickle vents open too. Moving furniture away from the walls also helps airflow.

Arrange for someone to visit the house every few days until it’s occupied again. A warm home that feels lived in is far more appealing for prospective tenants than one that is obviously mothballed.

Communicate with tenants

If your property is let this winter, brief your tenants or write a fact sheet for them. This should include who to contact in emergencies (for example your contracted plumber), and essential basic information, such as where to find the stopcock.

All being well, these straightforward actions could help prevent damage this winter, though you should also make sure your properties are covered with our residential landlord insurance.