Well, winter is officially here. The log burner is on and the daily chore of de-icing your car has started. Winter can be a tough time for everyone – but more so for landlords.
The next few months present potential risks to your rental properties, which could lead to costly problems. BUT, if you take some time now to check your properties, it will most likely help with unexpected costs and help ease you through a disaster-free winter.
Void periods are a major threat during the cold months. We’ve all been there and got the T-shirt. You jet set off to catch the last of the winter sun and on your return home, the boiler decides it doesn’t want to work!
If you know that your rental property is likely to be empty over the winter, you need to make extra plans to ensure the upkeep. Make sure that you visit the property regularly, crack open windows to get a bit of air circulating, and fire up the boiler to make sure it’s still working ok. My friend who’s in the US told me quite a lot of tips on how to take care of the boiler. He told me how it’s necessary to ensure that there’s enough heating oil (Learn more here) to fuel up the process. If you can’t do this yourself, make sure that you arrange for someone else to visit. However, if you do decide to go down this route of using heating over winter to keep your property in good condition, then you may want to read some online resources on fuel, and how to correctly use these types of fuels, such as propane safety tips and how to replace heating oil, for example. It is important to understand how to properly use this type of heating.
If your property is likely to be unoccupied over the Christmas period (maybe your tenants are lucky enough to be taking a long holiday) think about taking the following precautions as expensive items on display are an easy target for thieves.
Invest in theft deterrents such as alarms (visible from the exterior of the property) and motion sensors. Ensure that the locking mechanisms meet the insurance policy requirements (usually 5 lever mortise locks but this may vary from policy to policy).
It’s also worth checking if there are any neighbourhood watch groups operating in the area and advise them of any void periods over the festive season.
If you are not covered by a guarantee or warranty it will probably cost more to get stuff fixed at Christmas time (and even if you do have a warranty it will take longer.) So, if the boiler is making a wheezing noise or the washing machine is clanking, have it checked out now.
Well-informed tenants are the best protection against winter property damage. Don’t assume that your tenants know how to deal with the cold weather; many won’t. Similarly, you should remember that it is your responsibility as a landlord to make sure they have the information they need.
With any full management package, we put together a ‘welcome pack’, which details the basics; location of stopcocks, boiler manual location etc. Consider putting something like this together for your tenants so that they are well informed (this will also help them settle in).
Remind tenants to periodically turn the heating on (using the timer system if one is available) if they go away over Christmas, in order to ensure that pipes don’t freeze.
Another great way to warm up your property is to bleed the radiators. This releases any trapped air, allowing hot water to fill every part of your radiator and warm the property more efficiently. It may be worth dropping off some radiator keys to your properties and showing your tenants how to use them. If tenants did struggle with this then it may be worth looking for companies similar to One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning and other local heating specialists, or plumbers to see if there is a possibility of maintenance assistance in these cold winter months.
Make sure they know where the fuse box is and that they know how to turn off the gas. Tell them to keep a note of the number 0800 111 999 – they should call this if they smell gas.
Ask friends for names and phone numbers of good plumbers, specialist heating companies like No Problem Heating and Cooling, and other tradespeople that will be able to lend a helping hand. Have some portable electric fan heaters you can use to give your tenants to keep them warm if the heating conks out and no one can come out and fix it promptly.
Getting the Work Done
Only use properly qualified tradesmen who are member of a national body of association. Check what membership of the body gives you and check they really are members by asking for ID. For example, all gas engineers should be listed on http://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/(the new name for Corgi)
If you are a landlord who may have a void property over winter, then feel free to get in touch and let us at QT Homes provide you with a fully reference checked and credit checked tenant in your property before the weather gets even colder, to ensure your asset is protected.
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 02477 674545. If you are in the area, feel free to pop into our office by the train station – Unit 1, The Courtyard, 17 Bond Street CV11 4BX. There is free parking and the kettle is always on.