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Maintaining your rental property through the cold snap!

With the recent cold, wet weather – here are some prevalent tips on maintaining your rental property, preventing any unexpected maintenance bills and keeping your tenants happy!

As well as the exterior of your property being affected, you should never forget the inner workings and the critical appliances that make your property a home. Focus your expenditure at this time on keeping the appliances, hot water and heating up to scratch to keep costs down in the future.

Preventing burst pipes

  • Advise your tenants that during any freezing weather conditions they’ll need to have their heating on all the time; not necessarily on high, but hot enough so that the pipes don’t freeze and to prevent internal damp spreading within the property; this should be a minimum of 12 degrees, 24 hours a day.
  • As well as keeping the pipe temperature constant ensure any exposed plumbing pipes are insulated to prevent external freezing.
  • If tenants leave the property empty at all they should either leave the heating on as per the instructions above or if they don’t want to pay for the gas bill whilst they are not there then they will need to fully drain the system, which will require the expertise of a plumber.

Gas and gas appliances

  • With most boilers not being run excessively through the summer months, the winter is when it’s worth double checking your boiler and gas appliances are all in order and serviced.
  • Landlords are responsible for the maintenance and repair of all gas appliances and pipes and must annually hold a CP12 gas safety certificate. It is worth considering though, that if your last certificate was issued 6 months ago in the summer months, then a brief service of the system by a ‘Gas Safe’ engineer will ensure the system is ready for the heavy usage brought by the colder weather.

Bleeding of radiators

  • If your tenants start experiencing cold spots on the radiators or ‘knocking’ noises when they turn their heating on, this is more than likely due to air being trapped in the system. Most tenants don’t know that this can be resolved from simply bleeding their radiators and letting out the trapped air.
  • Most tenants will expect the Landlord to maintain the central heating system but bleeding radiators is a very simple maintenance task that can be routinely carried out by tenants if they are shown how. A handy guide left in the property will help the tenants to recognise this issue, save on expensive call outs and maintain the heating system in full working order.

Flush through your heating system periodically

Over time your central heating system will start to build up sediment which will settle at the bottom of the radiators. After bleeding your radiators if you still find the bottom of the radiators feeling cold then its likely that this build-up is present and a flushing of the system is advised. This should be carried out by a qualified plumber and should be done periodically to prevent excessive build ups in the system. Your annual gas safety inspection will be a good point to check for this and flush the system if required.

Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Of course this is something that should be considered at all times of the year, but during the winter months is an ideal time to double check all alarms are in good working order.

Bathroom leaks

It’s also a good idea to spend a few pounds resealing baths and showers regularly, as well as checking shower screens aren’t leaking and removing bath panels to check underneath excess water. The last thing you want when its wet outside is a long-standing leak inside the property. A leak in an upstairs bathroom could cause major work downstairs and cause extensive structural damage to the buildings fabric.

Damp and condensation

  • Around this time of year is when damp and condensation reports are at their peak and these should be resolved as quickly as possible.
  • A regular review of gutters is a good idea as this can be a main cause of damp if not cleared out, especially if trees are in close proximity to the property. When it’s raining it’s a good time to look at the outside of your property to spot leaking gutters, joints and down pipes.
  • If you have a floored attic it could be some time before you notice a roof leaking into the living accommodation, so make sure you inspect this area thoroughly.
  • Tide-marks and wet patches appearing on ceilings or around windows are important signs too.
  • Treat any signs of damp and condensation quickly and ensure tenants are educated on managing condensation themselves. Simple tips like not having furniture right up against external walls allowing air to flow around will help prevent condensation taking hold.

Ventilation

Closely linked to damp and condensation above, is the requirement for tenants to adequately ventilate their property throughout any periods of bad weather. This often goes against the way tenants think, as they will do anything to not have to open a window and let any heat out of the property, particularly bearing in mind utility bills. It must be explained to them though that the property must be ventilated to allow changes of air and air flow around the property. This helps prevent condensation and keeps a healthy moisture level within the air. Airbricks, that are typically found in older properties have been installed exactly for those reason and should therefore never be blocked.

Respond quickly
Any maintenance call outs regarding the above points should always be handled quickly. Educating the tenants firstly with the above knowledge will prevent any unnecessary calls. The quicker the response the less damage coursed to the property.

Talk to your tenants
You know it’s important to do periodic maintenance and upkeep on your property between tenants, but don’t take long-term tenants for granted. If they’ve lived under your roof for a number of years, ask periodically if everything is alright. Things wear out and show signs of use, and your tenants are the best people to identify these. This also gives them the chance to let you know of any concerns and potential maintenance issues they can see coming. This insight will give you the opportunity to plan maintenance in the future as opposed to being reactive all the time and ultimately keep maintenance costs lower. Even if your tenant says everything’s fine, they will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Moreover, it will be remembered.

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