With plummeting temperatures and shorter nights on the horizon, now is a great time for landlords to winter-proof a rental property. Our eight step checklist will help you achieve both an efficient home and happy tenants.

Staying ahead of the game is essential to a successful investment for landlords, with routine property checks just part and parcel of the bigger picture. As your property is most vulnerable during these cold months, this seasonal upkeep is particularly important and will also prevent you from facing any serious damage further down the line. Essentially, a well-maintained property will create an efficient home with happier tenants, making your job easier in the long run. 

Here are our top tips to help avoid any expensive repairs, and not to mention, the dreaded late night emergency calls.

Check the pipes

As temperatures can dip considerably over winter, the home is at greater risk of developing frozen pipes, which in effect can cause major damage to your property. Posing a higher risk of flooding, the prospect of burst pipes can be costly and extremely damaging to your property and furnishings, as well as to your tenant’s invaluable items. 

This is a fairly simple DIY job, with materials also being relatively cheap and easily available from DIY shops. All it requires is to check the pipes for any cracks and clad or insulate them as appropriate to minimise potential damage.  At the same time, it is equally important to remind tenants of the dangers of leaving the heating off for long periods, as this can also cause pipes to freeze.

Service the boiler

Landlords have a legal responsibility to maintain the boiler for tenants, to ensure they have a warm and comfortable home. For landlords, an efficient boiler will allow you to rest easy for endless reasons; from reducing the property’s EPC rating, to reducing the risk of major issues, such as frozen pipes.

Repair costs can mount up quickly with boilers, so it is always important to be prepared, as opposed to facing the pressure and costs of last minute repairs. While servicing the boiler frequently will be a fruitful venture, running a quick check before the cold months really kick in will give you time to fix issues before they arise, while also giving an added peace of mind. If you have recently replaced your boiler, it would be worth checking if a free service applies, along with the free warranty period, as they could save you a considerable amount of money. Now would also be a good time to bleed the radiators, another quick and free task that ensures the heating system is ticking away as it should.

Communicate with your tenants

Effective maintenance relies on effective communication with your tenants, and best of all it’s absolutely free! Tenants are the occupiers of the rental home and will be the first to know when an issue arises, or more importantly, is forthcoming. With this in mind, it is vital they know how to inform you, or your appointed letting agent, in a timely manner to prevent any serious issues from arising. Equipping your tenants with the essentials from the offset will open channels of communication throughout the tenancy.

Consider providing your tenants with an emergency toolkit, made up of contact numbers, emergency contacts, appliance manuals and the location of essential facilities, i.e. water mains. You could even throw in a small torch or bulbs for emergencies. This simple measure will also provide tenants with a greater onus to taking care of the home and content you have provided. Minor details can prove essential in emergencies, so ensuring your tenant knows whether you are away during the holiday period and vice versa, will allow you each to be prepared. As a landlord, this will give you an opportunity to gain reassurance that procedures have been put in place to maintain security and regulate heating while the tenant is away. At the same time, the tenant will be better prepared and act promptly in event of an emergency.

Making sure your tenant is well informed simply covers the basics and gives tenants a positive impression that they are being looked after, which could prove significant to gain a long term tenancy.

Insulate the home

Home insulation helps retain heat and maintain the property’s condition during the winter season. This will entail an initial outlay but could save you a substantial amount in the long run as you are creating a warmer, energy efficient and more comfortable home for tenants. What we often overlook are ‘entry points’, such as windows and doors, from where draught can penetrate through the home.

This is a simple fix, where all you require are insulation strips, sealants or draught excluders. You will need to spend time examining the home, but for minimal work, this is a highly cost-effective measure.

Check outdoor guttering

Blocked gutters can cause water to accumulate, which in turn can result in a whole range of structural issues, from damp to burst pipes. While checking the pipes, take a glance over the gutters, clearing them of leaves and other debris that can cause blockages.

Consider outdoor lighting

From security to safety, outdoor lighting can make things easier for both you and tenants during these darker days. Ensuring you have some lighting outdoors will provide safer access to the home for your tenants, preventing any accidents when it is dark and slippery. You might even want to consider leaving a spare bulb or a torch for the tenants, in use of emergencies.

Roof

From Brian to Ophelia, troublesome storms have become more and more frequent over the last few years, meaning we have to be better prepared. External features of your home are at greater risk of damage; check and secure unsteady fences, loose roof tiles and wobbly gates that are the most likely to get damaged as a result of stormy weather.

Alarms

With the nights only getting colder and seasonal parties in full swing, it may be worth ensuring alarms are in good working order. From smoke alarms to security systems, a working alarm can be of great reassurance during this busy festive season, when the fireplace, Christmas lights and candles will be excessively used to brighten our festive homes. Let’s not forget the endless dinner parties, which we are all only too aware can result in some kitchen disasters. With many being less alert during the festive period, burglars are more daring, so working alarms can provide both you and your tenant with added peace of mind.

 

These eight steps aim to minimise the potential risk and damage the winter season poses on your rental property. They may appear all too simple, but aim to help you stay ahead of the game, while saving you money in the long run. What’s more, they offer reassurances to both you and your tenants, the the home is comfortable and secure.

As part of our lettings management package, we offer routine property checks every quarter to ensure your property is well maintained, to save on costly repair bills. If you would like to know more about the service, or would like any further lettings advice, speak with our experienced team on 01252 514000 or email: lettings@mackenziesmith.co.uk.