It’s safe to say 2016 has been unpredictable. The UK surprised the world with its decision to leave the European Union, leading to uncertainty for the UK property market, and now with yet another twist, the USA has elected Donald Trump as their new President. So for those of you sat there thinking “what next?”, don’t give the seasonal weather a chance to take its toll on your property. Each year, icy temperatures lead to millions of pounds in claims for damage to cars, homes and businesses. Here at Living in London, we’ve come up with 10 tips to prepare your property for winter, to help you sail through the rest of 2016 with no nasty surprises or unexpected costs. We’re even offering free winter inspections so you can feel safe in the knowledge that your property is taken care of.
1. Don’t let the pipes freeze
Frosty the snowman and pals have it in for your pipes. The icy weather can cause pipes – especially those close to external walls - to freeze, which can then burst and flood your home when they thaw. The best way to prevent this is to constantly have the heating on low during cold spells. Another thing you can do to keep your pipes toasty is to invest in lagging, which is a foam that coats the pipes, reducing heat loss and insulating them to stop freezing. Keep an eye out for any new damp spots and make sure your tenants know where the stopcock is so the water can be turned off in a hurry if necessary.
2. Clear the gutters
Now in the midst of Autumn, it’s only a matter of time before fallen tree leaves start forming blockages in your gutters. It’s important at this time of year to ensure guttering is completely free of debris to prevent a build-up of foliage. This may not sound like something to worry about now but it can become a massive problem if left unattended by causing water to back up and leak into the roof and walls of the house. Another precaution you can take, is making sure that any trees near the property are thoroughly trimmed back.
3. Crack down on damp
When internal walls become wet, they are a breeding ground for damp and mould. Unsightly, odorous and potentially harmful to the health of residents if left to spread; it’s vital that any sign of damp is tackled as early as possible. This means checking your property regularly and asking tenants to report any issues as soon as they are spotted. If you do notice damp, dry the affected area with dehumidifiers to stop condensation, as too much moisture can damage the paintwork and lead to black mould. There are also a few preventative measures you can take, including advising tenants not to hang-drying washing in any ‘at risk’ rooms, regularly airing the property out, and not letting the property get too cold. Providing tenants with a tumble dryer will also mean they’re less likely to hang-dry washing in the property.
4. Sweep the chimney
If your property has a chimney, clear a path for Father Christmas – nobody wants a sooty beard! Apart from helping out old Saint Nick, getting your chimney swept by a certified chimney sweep will prevent build ups of debris which can be potential fire hazards when bad weather strikes.
5. Insulation is key
Now we’ve talked briefly about insulating pipes to prevent water freezing but don’t stop there. Double glazing, wall insulation and loft insulation are pretty common place in homes these days, so if your property doesn’t have these, you may find yourself with a poor EPC score and struggle to place tenants. You may find it even harder to retain tenants in an unnecessarily cold property with subsequently high heating bills. About a quarter of heat is lost through the roof so make sure loft insulation is extra thick.
6. Bleed the radiators
If your radiators are warmer at the bottom than the top, you may have trapped air. Don’t worry, this is an easy fix. Use a radiator key to ‘bleed’ the radiators, letting any excess air escape through the valve. This will cause heating to spread more efficiently in the property and save money on energy bills.
7. Deal with draughts
“Through every nook and every cranny, the wind blew in on poor old granny.” Poet Spike Milligan must’ve known all about horrible draughts when he wrote ‘Granny’. If your property has draughts around windows and doors, you might want to seal these with self-adhesive draught strips or something similar. Apart from saving on the bills, a warm home is a happy home.
8. Check the boiler
If there’s one thing you and your tenants don’t need, it’s a broken down boiler in winter – especially during the Christmas period. A poorly maintained boiler runs the risk of breaking down but also, wasting energy and costing more. By law, under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, it's your responsibility to get a Gas Safety Certificate every year, but it’s also advisable to get boilers professionally serviced at least once a year to prevent things like this from happening. If your boiler is particularly old, investing in a new unit could save you money in the long run and give you peace of mind.
9. Talk to your tenants
Having a good relationship with your tenants is essential when letting a property. You want your property to be well looked after and you want to keep the tenants happy so they renew the tenancy. Talking to them about any issues they notice and getting these fixed as quickly as possible is the best way of doing this. It’s especially important over the winter period as any issues are more likely to lead to greater damage. If your tenants are away over the winter period, make sure they know to leave the heating on low to prevent frozen pipes and damp forming.
10. Play it safe
If you’re unsure of the state of your property, get it professionally checked. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. At Living in London, we’re offering free winter health inspections by way of schedule of condition, complete with a detailed report. To see if you qualify for a free inspection click here.
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