Helpful Tips Property Management

Snow: Dealing with burst pipes, broken boilers and other top tips for landlords

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

With weather warnings of snow and ice being issued by the Met Office this week and parts of the country being covered in a blanket of snow, we have put together some practical tips for landlords.

Cold weather can be a nightmare for vulnerable tenants, so it is also a good idea for landlords to check in with their tenants to make sure they’re ok.

Things you can do
  • Make sure that tenants know how the boiler works, the location of the stopcock and how to change the thermostat in their properties.
  • If tenants are heading away for a few days encourage them to leave the heating on a timer or a low setting. This is to ensure that pipes do not freeze and that
  • Give tenants a helpful list of emergency contact numbers, in case an emergency does occur
  • Those who are worried about an elderly tenant contact the Age UK helpline on 0800 009966.

What to do if the pipes freeze?

When temperatures plummet, the inevitable warnings regarding frozen pipes abound. But what do you do if the worst happens and your pipes freeze? Water company South Staffordshire Water gives this advice:

  1. If you have no water during a severe frost, check with your neighbours. If they have a supply, your pipes may be frozen.
  2. Be a good neighbour and check on elderly/less able neighbours and help if necessary.
  3. Check your pipes for signs of splitting. Remember that if your pipes are damaged, a burst will only become apparent when the frozen water in the pipes thaws and can escape.
  4. Shut off your internal stop tap and drain your system by flushing the toilet and opening cold taps over sinks/baths etc (Don’t turn on the hot taps as this may cause you further problems if the hot water system is also frozen.)
  5. Also, switch off the central heating and any water heating appliances (boiler, immersion heater, etc).
  6. If your pipes are intact, open the taps and thaw the pipes slowly with hot water bottles or heated cloths. Always start thawing the pipe at the end nearest the outlet tap. Never apply a direct flame.
  7. Once you’ve thawed your pipes and you’re satisfied that no damage is present, and no leakage is occurring, close the taps you have opened and slowly open the stop tap.
  8. Check your pipes again now that they’re under pressure and only when you’re happy switch on water heating appliances, boilers, immersion heaters etc. Do not do this until you are sure the system has thawed out – after freezing has occurred there is a risk of explosion if heat is suddenly applied.

Who is responsible for de-icing steps?

This is the responsibility of the tenant to do this. This is because it falls under what is called ‘acting in a tenant like manner’. Read more about this in a recent call of the week.

Broken boiler?

Broken down boilers and central heating systems are causing headaches for landlords as the sub-zero temperatures grip the country.

So what can you do if your tenants’ boiler breaks down?

If you have a condensing boiler in your property one of the first things to do would be to check the waste pipe.

In cold weather the pipe that takes waste water from the back of the condensing boiler – which isn’t there in a normal boiler – freezes solid, shutting down the system and in many cases causing permanent damage.

This can happen even if your tenants have been using the heating and hot water and even if the pipe is lagged.

British Gas says if you believe the ‘condensate pipe’ is frozen – there are a few steps you can take to thaw it out. You might need to repeat these steps a few times, but they should work eventually.

You might need to repeat these steps a few times, but they should work eventually.

  • Hold a hot water bottle, or heat wrap, around the pipe.
  • Pour hot, not boiling, water over the frozen end of the pipe with a watering can, jug or kettle.
  • If you think the pipe is unfrozen, try switching on the boiler again. You might need to reset it.
  • If the boiler fires up, it’s fixed. If it doesn’t then pour hot water on the pipe again.
  • If your boiler pipes are still frozen, call an engineer.

Learn more

About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.

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