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Seasonal risks: winter

Posted on 2016-12-02

As we enter the winter months, there are many risks facing your landlords’ properties. This can have a knock on effect on agents because you may have to send more contractors out to help fix any issues and your tenants may have less money to pay their rent.

In more serious cases, your tenants may have to evacuate, meaning your landlords could end up with empty properties whilst repairs are carried out.

There are even areas of cover that may suffer during the winter months that you may not have even thought about!

When it comes to property insurance, the following risks could apply:

  • burst pipes
  • theft
  • fire
  • inability to pay rent
  • festive parties

Let’s look at them all in a bit more detail.

Burst pipes

Cold weather can trigger water systems to freeze and lead to burst pipes, causing significant damage and water ingress; resulting in a major clean-up bill costing thousands of pounds.

This can be an issue when the property is occupied but even more so when unoccupied. Many property owners underestimate the catastrophic effect that water damage can have on a vacant property. When a heating system isn’t turned on and water isn’t being used regularly, the damage can be extensive. Not to mention how much worse this can get if the property isn’t checked periodically so the issue can’t be resolved.

Tips to share with tenants:

  • turn off the stopcock by rotating it clockwise until it’s completely closed
  • switch off your heating systems as soon as possible
  • drain excess water from the system. You do this by turning on all the taps and flushing toilets multiple times (after turning off the stopcock), until the water stops coming through
  • if anything electrical has been affected by the flood, turn off the mains electricity immediately before approaching the wet area. If the flooding’s near the mains switch, then seek professional assistance and don’t approach it
  • check for bulges in the ceilings of rooms beneath the burst pipe, indicating trapped water. Place a bucket underneath the bulge and puncture it to control the drain
  • if the pipes require defrosting, you should seek professional advice. Don’t attempt to thaw pipes with the central heating or a hairdryer as this can make things worse


Christmas, Halloween, Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve… there are lots of reasons to celebrate and lots of reasons to leave your house unattended during the winter months, which makes it an ideal time for burglars to break in to an unattended house!

Properties are also more likely to be left unoccupied during the festive period with students going home and tenants going to visit family.

Gifts bought for Christmas and other occasions can increase the sum of a tenant’s contents substantially and can be a magnet for burglars. Luckily, our Contents Insurance Incorporating Tenancy Liability product gives tenants an automatic 10% increase on their sum insured around special occasions and religious holidays – a definite selling point! It also gives £2,500 cover for overnight guests’ belongings, a great extra for the holiday season.

Tips to share with tenants:

  • try and keep window displays minimal and all presents under the tree out of view of the window
  • ensure all gift packaging is as unidentifiable as possible when thrown away – it’s like a big red arrow for burglars!
  • double-check home security before leaving the home for a Christmas or New Year party

Arson and fire

Unoccupied properties are more susceptible to malicious acts, including arson.

There are also a number of other fire hazards that present themselves around the festive season. Overworked cookers, overloaded Christmas trees and flammable decorations; to name but a few.

Tips to share with tenants:

  • never leave cooking unattended. The majority of fires start in the kitchen so this is a high risk area. Avoid cooking whilst drunk and always turn off kitchen appliances when you have finished cooking
  • check fairy lights, don’t overload sockets and switch them off when out of the house and in bed
  • don’t place the tree and decorations near candles or the fireplace
  • ensure all smoke alarms are working. A working alarm can give you the vital time needed to escape in a fire. Test your smoke alarms weekly and never remove batteries to power presents!
  • never leave candles unattended. Keep candles out of the reach of children, and away from decorations, cards and wrapping paper, fires, lights and heaters
  • don’t overload sockets - ensure only one plug per socket. Always turn off plugs when they aren’t in use, except those that are designed to be left on, like freezers
  • ensure you switch off fairy lights and unplug them before you go to bed, or leave the house. Check your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard (BS EN 60598)
  • make sure that everyone in your home knows what to do in a fire - get out, stay out and call 999

Loss of rent

Another factor that can see a rise in claims this time of year is the amount of money being spent on celebrations, which can result in the tenants not being able to pay their rent.

Councils in previous years have sent Christmas cards to social tenants reminding them to treat their rent as the most important expenditure over the holiday season.

Winter celebrations aren’t just expensive – but they can also result in too much merriment! Raucous parties can damage property and lead to disgruntled neighbours making noise complaints.

Tenants should be allowed to enjoy their time over the season but a pre-arranged inspection in the New Year could ensure they take extra care.

If you’re worried about your landlords losing rental income over the winter months, ask your account manager about our Rent Recovery Plus policy – designed to give you and your landlords peace of mind.

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