Winter is certainly on the way and although the spate of recent mild temperatures may have lulled landlords into a false sense of security, properties are at risk of damage from cold temperatures and bad weather.
New research from Simple Landlords Insurance has found that, during 2016, burst pipes and storm damage are the top two causes for claims during winter as properties take a battering from the elements.
A simple leak could cost a landlord an average of £5,150, and may take up to 100 days to repair. On average the cost of repairs for damage caused by storms was approximately £1,770.
As the weather gets colder, around one in five UK households will also have at least one boiler breakdown – totaling over £750m, and around £270 per repair.
Flooding also features high on the list of claims, with the average claim for flood damage an eye watering £19,500.
Things only get worse as the winter goes on, with February the top month for winter claims. But claims do differ across the country with certain areas affected more than others. Birmingham came top of the leaderboard for winter claims last year, closely followed by Leeds, Liverpool and Hampshire. Fifth on the list was Leicester, where claims soared by 51% after the summer.
Andy Wynne-Jones, Senior Underwriting Manager at Simple Landlords Insurance, said: “Each year we get hundreds of claims between October and March, adding up to many thousands pounds. This causes discomfort for tenants and loss of income for landlords. In our experience, many of those claims could have been avoided.
With this winter predicted to be one of the coldest in many years, landlords need to take steps to get their properties and their insurance up-to-scratch. A well-maintained property is far more likely to be able to weather the winter weather.
Inspections are key, and now is the time to make sure your roof is secure, boiler healthy, pipes insulated, gardens cleared and maintained to prevent trees or objects being picked up by high winds. Also you need to ensure that tenants aren’t overloading sockets with Christmas lights or using any un-PAT-tested appliances.
Now is also a great time to check your insurance policy to make sure everything is up to date, and you’re covered if you should need to make a winter claim.”
Simple’s Top 10 Tips for Winter
1. Check your roof
Get a builder in to give your roof an inspection every year - they can make sure the tiles are in good shape, and that everything’s water tight. Get any cracked tiles or other issues fixed fast - it will save you money in the long run.
2. Keep warm
Check what insulation you have and what else you could do to keep your tenants warm, and chances of cold-related damage to a minimum. Bleed radiators and make sure your boiler is in good working order.
Your boiler is going to get a proper work out this Winter - get it serviced now by a Gas Safe engineer. They should check all gas appliances in the property, and provide certificates for your records.
3. Protect your pipes
You can also do all you can to protect your pipes. Make sure external pipes and pipes in the loft are insulated - checking everything is properly connected and there are no cracks or existing damage.
4. Unblock gutters and drains
Blocked gutters can cause a whole host of problems for your property, like rot, penetrating damp and damage to the foundation caused by water running down external walls. Make sure they’re clear of leaves, moss and other debris. When the snow melts, there’s going to be a lot of water around. Make sure your drains are ready to do their job!
5. Check the garden
Keep trees near to your property well trimmed and maintained. Check fence panels and put away garden furniture and children’s play equipment so it won’t get picked up by strong winds and damage your property.
6. Check your insurance policy
Make sure your policy is in order and up to date. If you live far away or are heading off on holiday, consider adding home emergency cover to your policy so things can get sorted out fast if you can’t get there.
7. Inspect for damage
It’s well worth checking your property after a storm, heavy snowfall or hail to check for damage to the roof, windows, external pipes and outbuildings. Look out for mould. During winter, damp and mould can get worse because of condensation caused by things like heated rooms with poor ventilation, or clothes being dried on radiators.
8. Talk to your tenants about winter!
Make sure your tenants keep the heating on low – even when they’re out for the day or going away on holiday. Freezing water in pipes can expand and crack them very quickly – and you’ll get a leak as soon as things warm up again. If your tenants do find a leak, make sure they know where the stop cock is to prevent further damage!
Ask tenants to shut curtains and keep internal doors open so the heat can circulate.
9. Stay safe
Make sure your tenants know who is responsible for clearing paths of snow and ice. You may wish to provide a snow shovel and salt to help. Remind tenants about fire safety – no unattended Christmas candles, put fairy lights on a timer so they’re not on overnight, no stockings or decorations on or above gas appliances, and no overloaded extension cables.
You should also check your smoke alarms, and other fire safety equipment in the run up to Christmas – or ask your tenants to do so. Make sure tenants are not using any extra heating appliances that haven’t been provided by you and PAT tested.
10. Check security
Remind tenants to close curtains so everything isn’t on display, and make sure they know that their possessions are not covered by your contents insurance. Install external lights and motion sensors, and check they’re working. Ask tenants to let you know if they’re going away, and provide light timers so they can set them when they’re away or going to be late home.
Check window and door locks for wear and tear, and to make sure they’re actually being used. If you’ve got an alarm, check that’s working (and being used) too.