As the temperature dips and the weather becomes much frostier, it's vitally important that landlords protect their homes from harsher conditions – and work with their letting agents and tenants to make this so.
There are also security concerns to be aware of when winter hits, especially if your home is empty or your tenants have gone elsewhere during the festive period.
Here, we outline how landlords can keep their homes protected this winter.
Work closely with your tenants to identify faults
As outlined in our Landlord tips, there are several potential perils for your property during the winter, ranging from faulty boilers and blocked drains to leaky roofs. There is also a greater chance of damp, mould, frozen pipes and subsidence issues.
Fortunately, many of these problems can be nipped in the bud early if they are flagged, or you can take measures to prevent them from getting worse in the first place.
You must encourage your tenants to notify you or your agent if any red flags emerge concerning mould, damp or subsidence, as prevention is better than cure in these situations. When it comes to faulty boilers, there must be clear lines of communication between you and your tenants so you can resolve any issues as soon as possible.
The chances of frozen pipes can be lessened by asking your tenants to turn the heating on at intervals throughout the day when the weather turns. To prevent blocked drains and gutters, ensure that a build-up of leaves and other debris isn't allowed to collect over time. Speak to your tenants to ask if they can do this on your behalf, or you may visit the property occasionally to do this job (especially if your tenants are away for a period of time, as is more likely to be the case at Christmas).
You could also ask your letting agent to arrange for someone to visit the property and ensure clear drains and gutters. But, of course, you must discuss this with tenants beforehand to ensure they are happy with this arrangement.
If your rental property is currently empty and without tenants, it becomes even more important to visit regularly to ensure that the pipes don't freeze, the drains and gutters are clear, and there are no early signs of mould, damp or subsidence.
Tenant-landlord communication is the hallmark of any successful long-term tenancy, and that's never more the case than when it comes to protecting a home during winter. Make sure your tenants know who to contact in the case of an emergency – such as a broken boiler or a roof leak – so they don't waste time calling the wrong person.
You will also want to encourage them to keep you in the loop if they know they're going away for an extended period at Christmas. You'll need to arrange for the heating to come on at certain times to prevent the pipes from freezing and take precautionary steps against the emergence of mould and damp.
Beware of burglars
Stats suggest that burglaries can rise by as much as 20-25% during winter, as the nights draw in earlier and people may spend more time away from the house for days while visiting family.
A home left empty is inevitably more prone and vulnerable to break-ins, as is a home sitting on a street that isn't particularly well-lit.
Fortunately, there are steps that you and your tenants can take to keep your home safe this winter. This includes ensuring your doors and windows are secure, keeping your keys safe, and more advanced measures such as burglar alarms and security cameras (if you don't already have these).
A potentially less expensive measure is installing a Ring doorbell, which can record people as they approach your home or ring your doorbell. It also offers you real-time notifications of this type of activity, while the motion-sense cameras can help to send criminals packing – or at least make them think twice.
Keeping your front/back garden and driveway well-lit could also help to deter would-be burglars. Another prudent measure is to ask your tenants to notify you or your agent when they go away for more than a few nights. You could visit the home – with their permission, of course – to ensure everything looks in good order.
Alternatively, leaning on friendly neighbours to keep an eye out and take post and packages in can help deter thieves.
Plan and maintain
Whether you're worried about burglars, frozen pipes, mould or any other potential hazard that comes with the colder weather, prevention is always better than cure. The best chance you have of getting your property through winter without any issues is to ensure it is well maintained before the most extreme weather hits and to plan in advance around any events of the property being empty. Before the temperatures dip into the negatives, ensure any leaves are cleared out of the gutter, extractor fans in the property are cleaned and working, and the heating is scheduled to come on for at least an hour every day.