It’s still chilly…
Freezing temperatures bringing sleet and snow are a stark reminder that winter is coming, and stormy weather can make the new year challenging for landlords and renters.
Landlords must keep their rental homes well-maintained and winter-ready.
Here we look at some top tips for landlords that won’t break the bank and help keep rented homes warm, draught-free and dry.
Check the boiler and heating
It doesn’t matter if the boiler is gas, oil or solid fuel – the cold weather puts extra strain on the appliance, leading to a breakdown.
Landlords have a legal responsibility to repair broken boilers and heatings systems under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The Act clarifies landlords are responsible for maintaining the systems within a ‘reasonable time’.
Reasonable means within a month for non-urgent repairs and 24 hours in an emergency, like having no heating or hot water.
It’s a good idea to have a pre-winter service and maybe a call-out service insurance cover for emergencies.
Insulate pipes and roof spaces
Frozen pipes don’t leak, which means you won’t know there’s a problem until the weather thaws.
Most burst pipes are avoidable if they are adequately lagged. This is a relatively simple job for an agile landlord who can get into the roof space or in the back of cupboards or an odd-job tradesperson.
DIY stores stock lengths of ready-formed foam pipe lagging and bales of loft insulation. Fitting out a two-bedroomed rented house should cost less than £200-£250. Pile the insulation to a depth of at least 270 millimetres.
Don’t insulate to the roof’s edge as airspace between the walls and tiles allows for ventilation.
Wrap water cylinders or tanks in warm jackets, but take care to avoid insulating their bottoms as rising heat stops the water inside from freezing.
Don’t forget to protect outside taps.
If you can see daylight, you may
Leaves, moss and other debris build over time to clog gutters. This wet mass can swell in freezing weather, leading to broken gutters and downpipes. Blocked gutters can also overflow, leading to intrusive dampness.
Scooping out the debris is an easy task for DIY landlords who are happy working at height.
Fix the roof
Maintaining the roof is a job for a professional roofer. If you can see a slipped or broken tile or anything green growing from the tiles or chimney, you have a job that needs resolving
The gaps left by missing or broken tiles can let in the weather and considerable damage from ensuing leaks or wind damage.
One sign of a loose chimney pot or a stack that needs repointing is missing chunks of grout. Look for holes, cracks or plants growing from gaps in the pointing.
If you can’t see the condition, try a pair of binoculars or a camera with a long telephoto lens.
Get to grips with damp and mould
Many landlords have tales of damp-free homes that are somehow riddled with mould and damp a few months after a tenant moves in.
Damp is the most commonly reported complaint about rented homes.
The problem not only leads to property damage but, more seriously, is a health hazard that can lead to respiratory concerns.
Tell tenants to open windows to ventilate the kitchen, bathrooms and any rooms where clothes are dried.
Ensure extractor fans in these rooms work as part of any pre-winter property checks.
Uncover air bricks
Air bricks are an essential part of a building. They allow air to circulate beneath suspended floors, cutting the risk of damp.
Pick out any leaves covering air bricks outside. Don’t forget to check if anyone has clogged them from the inside.
Seal baths, showers and sinks
Seals around basins, baths and shower trays commonly leak and need stripping and resealing now and then.
Another source of drips are taps needing a new washer and the seals where waste pipes join.
Wintering a vacant home
If you have some time between tenants at a rented home, you should take some steps to reduce the risk of leaks from frozen pipes.
Don’t switch the boiler off. Most modern boilers have automatic frost protection that kicks in when the inside temperature drops to 12 Centigrade, but the program only stops water in the boiler from freezing.
To safeguard the rest of the house, set the central thermostat to heat the rest of the property.
If the home remains empty for a few weeks, drain the heating system. Building insurance probably calls for this as a condition of the policy.
Under the Landlord and Tenant Act, a landlord holds the ultimate responsibility for maintaining the structure of a rented home to an adequate standard.
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