Saturday, 21 December 2013

Cold winter ahead could cause havoc with rental properties

Landlord & Buy-to-Let magazine have an article warning that Britain is braced for the 'worst winter in decades'. This is in their November 2013 edition and hopefully it will not be too true. However there has been a great deal of heavy wind and rain about in Britain and Ireland over the past few days.

The say that many tenants, will be hoping to save some money on heating if they go away over Christmas, New Year or further into winter. The risk here is that if there is a freeze up and a thaw then there can easily be burst pipe activity. 

Many agents will send out a warning letter to tenants suggesting if they are going away they must either keep the heating on low, or have the water system professionally drained down. That basically does not mean turning the water off at the stop cock as there will still be water in the tanks and pipes throughout the property. A lot of tenancy agreements now have clauses in them with the tenants to ensure that the property is properly heated in cold periods. 

I have in my career been into rental properties, that tenants have left without heat before Christmas when it was mild and there was a freeze just after Christmas and then the ceilings were on the floor after the thaw.

The AIIC - The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks is urging landlords and agents to be vigilant about checking properties to ensure they are safe from potential water and fire damage.

The Chair of the AIIC - Pat Barber says "Water damage from frozen pipes can be devastating to a property. For example an eight inch crack in a pipe can spew out 250 gallons of water in a day"

The AIIC has compiled some winter guidelines for rental property.

  • Chimneys - Ensure they are swept once a year by a professional chimney seep, ideally before the tenant starts using fires.
  • Smoke alarms - check that smoke alarms are fitted in all properties and they are all working properly (In the Republic of Ireland it is obligatory to have mains wired alarms when letting out a property).
  • Insulation - Ensure water pipes and water tanks are properly lagged and insulated.
  • Heating - Advise tenants to keep their heating on if they are going away - on a minimum of 15 degrees centigrade. It is sensible to open the loft hatch also as this allows air to circulate and helps to prevent pipes freezing and bursting in the loft.
  • Boiler servicing - Ensure that gas and oil boilers are serviced every 12 months (you will need to do this anyway under the Gas safety regulations in the UK)
  • Empty property -If the property is to be empty for an extended period of time, it is sensible to have the water system fully drained down (see earlier part of this article) by a qualified contractor. (Info based on AIIC guidelines)  
Finally make sure the property is properly covered by insurance - For Landlords, companies like HomeLet, Rentguard, Endsleigh, Andrew Copeland and Intasure have a great choice of insurance policies - Find out More Here.

For Tenants, your  possessions (including your personal furniture and furnishings) will not be covered by your landlord's insurance so find out more about insurance from HomeLet, Rentguard, Endsleigh and Intasure  Here

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