It is February, and it is time for winter care for landlords here in the UK.
Winter brings festivities, along with that comes winter perils for Landlords, unfortunately.
A Winter care checklist will help landlords and the tenants who want to enjoy their festivities with families.
Have you been in a situation as a landlord who got a call for boiler, fence, or mould issues on one of those DARK, cold winter days?
If you are a proactive landlord, you could spend less time and money and ensure you and the tenant have quality time during those cold days of the year.
With adequate winter care, you can help keep the property safe from the storms, cold and icy conditions on winter days.
We all know:
Happy tenant + great asset(property) = great cashflow 😊.
In this post, we wanted to share our winter care checklist based on our experiences and challenges in our property portfolio.
Cleaning Gutters Is Number One On Our Winter Care Checklist
You may ask why?
Well, when you see COLD rainwater coming through the window of your property, and the tenant sends you a video of that, it is not a video you want to watch, on a Friday night 😊.
How could that happen?
When gutters are not clean, filled with moss, soil and plants, water gets blocked and flows straight on the walls.
What is the result?
As you see in the picture below, water can flow inside the property if there is a window. If water flows on walls, a crack in rendering can cause water to seep into the property.
- In the case of terraced properties, one can spend days and weeks negotiating with the neighbours to clean their part of the gutter or pay an additional £50 for your peace of mind.
Bleed Your Radiators Is Second On The Winter Care Checklist
Needless to say that in cold weather, if radiators didn’t work, that would result in nightmare situations for both the tenant and the property.
Cold property in winter could result in damp and mould.
The issue of low heating in radiators could be resolved simply by bleeding the radiators in the property.
Following is a helpful video from British Gas on how to bleed radiators.
Ensure The Roof Is In Good Repair
There are few good reasons to ensure that roof is in a good state.
Quite a few storms usually happen in winter due to low pressure. Strong winds result in loose tiles flying off or moving. It opens property to air and water damage.
Flying Loose tiles is not good for the property, the tenant or the public passing by.
Cold icy conditions will not allow roofers to fix the issues with the roof, either.
Any issues with the chimney, like cracks or rendering, can also cause water leaking into the property.
Just before the winter hits, it is helpful to get a roofer to check the roof and chimney’s health.
Broken Fence High In Winter Care List
A broken fence is high on the winter care list as well.
Issues with the fence is a post in its own right.
For this post, I will limit to the fact that many gardeners/builders would be busy fixing fence posts and panels.
The stock for the fence posts may be limited, even if you wanted to buy.
Storms will blow away the weak fence panels.
What can you do as a proactive landlord?
- Try investing in the concrete posts so that the maintenance is low.
- Just before winter, check the fence panels and do any fixes required.
Boiler And Frozen Pipes
Did you ever have to change the boiler over Christmas for a tenant with a young family?
We had to, and it was not a pleasant experience for two main reasons:
- It is hard to get a gas engineer to help with boiler issues during winter.
- It is not safe for the tenant to be in a property with no heating or cold water during winter.
What can we do to take care of boiler and plumbing issues?
- Get gas safety done every year.
- Get your boiler regularly serviced to help keep the system clean.
- Look for any visible leaks, especially around the radiators.
- Leak leads to low boiler pressure. Low boiler pressure is a common cause of central heating problems. It is easy to fix low boiler pressure issues.
- Insulate your pipes. Insulation lagging is available in any suitable hardware shop. Check the size of your pipes before purchasing the lag.
- Bleed your radiators as mentioned in the previous section.
A Good Relationship With Tenants And Neighbours
It is so apparent, but most landlords ignore this simple trick of maintaining a good relationship with the tenant and the neighbours.
Think of what you could do to prepare your tenants for the winter?
- Offer advice on staying warm in the winter to the tenants.
- Check if the tenants get any mini draught through doors, windows, keyholes or even letterboxes, so that you could take remedial action.
- If the tenant is elderly, you could mention the winter fuel payment
- Provide insurance and emergency contact details.
- Show tenants where the stopcock is.
Maintaining good communication with the tenant keeps the tenant happy and also helps good maintenance of the property.
One of my property was getting flooded due to the clogged gutters. The good relationship that I had with the tenant resulted in the tenant taking care of the property until I fixed it.
Condensation damp occurs when hot moist air comes into contact with a colder surface like a wall or window.
It is particularly more problematic in winter.
This damp leads to mould growth.
Both condensation damp and mould growth can lead to respiratory problems, allergies, and asthma.
Please check this post “The Ultimate Guide That Explains Damp In A Property” for a detailed understanding of damp issues in a property.
Simple things that you could check:
- Is there rising damp in the property? If yes, please invest in fixing the issue straight away before it becomes a bigger problem. Ideally, if you use the damp meter at the time of purchase and refurbishment, you would save a lot of money, by fixing the dampness issues. Please read this post “Top 5 Tools for Property Viewing While Buying A House” for complete details.
- Inform the tenant to keep the ventilators open. Most of the double glazed windows have ventilators installed.
- Most of our properties have Positive Input Ventilation(PIV) systems installed to help remove the mould growth and dampness.
Trimming Trees And Garden Maintenance
Most trees growing close to the property are not dangerous.
Insurers do ask if you have a tree within 5 meters of the property. Insurance premium may not be affected at the first instance, but as soon as damage is reported to the property due to the tree, premiums may go up.
Storms that occur during those winter months can result in trees causing damage to the property.
Following are a few of those issues:
- Falling or broken branches can damage the property
- Roots can grow through foundations and drainage, causing drains to collapse.
- Trees close to the property could cause subsidence. Trees could absorb water from the soil and result in the earth dry faster, leading to subsidence.
- Removing a tree could cause ‘heave’, resulting in structural damage.
Simple things that you could do:
- Check if there is a Tree Preservation Order on a tree.
- Engage a qualified tree surgeon to prune the branches.
Tree Preservation Order(TPO)
Tree Preservation Order(TPO) covers trees of outstanding worth or beauty. TPO restricts how much you could prune without permission from your local planning authority.
Be Wary Of Theft
As the daylight saving time comes at the last weekend of October, the nights get longer.
It only means people are working out and about, leaving our properties empty for long hours.
As a proactive landlord, what could we do?
- Check that the doors both front and back doors are good quality UPVC doors.
- Provide motion-sensitive lights outside the property can be a good deterrent.
- Ensure there is the right insurance cover for the property
- Providing security alarms and camera’s if needed
Additional Checks That Can Help
Few additional checks that will help reduce challenges during winter
- Arrange boiler service just before winter.
- Coordinate with the Letting agent to perform bi-annual checks during this period of the year.
- Clean fireplace and chimney. Ensure carbon monoxide(CO) detectors are there in all places where solid fuel is used.
- Inform tenant regarding keeping the property ventilators, as simple as keeping the ventilators
- Inform the tenant of any insurance details to contact the insurers directly to get the issues resolved.
- If tenants are going on holiday, ensure that they keep the property warm so that any pipes are not burst flood the property.