With the mercury falling it is important for landlords to ensure they are properly prepared, and their tenants and properties protected. Insurance companies often see a spike in claims over the winter months. Here RLA insurers Renguard share their advice on what to do ahead of the cold weather.
Despite the potential risks, nearly half of private landlords fail to carry out routine maintenance checks on their properties before the winter weather sets in, according to a 2017 survey of 4,000 landlords.
While winter may bring extreme weather that no amount of maintenance could prepare for, there are some simple loss mitigation measures you can take to prevent winter damage and make sure you are covered if the worst happens.
A landlord or agent’s first step is to ensure the current home insurance is up-to-date and gives adequate protection. Here’s a quick checklist of points to consider.
A broken boiler during cold weather is miserable for your tenants and a financial burden on you. Boiler insurance covers the cost of replacing or fixing it, if it does break – minimising cost and inconvenience both to you and the tenant.
It can often be added to your landlord insurance or taken out as separate cover.
A boiler insurance policy should include an annual boiler service and Gas Safety Inspection, which you are legally required to have each year.
If the boiler in the property or properties you rent out is more than seven years old you may have trouble getting cover for it.
If this is the case, you may want to consider replacing the boiler altogether, before the winter really sets in.
Despite the substantial monetary outlay, it could be more cost effective in the long-term, not least because cold tenants are not happy ones and disgruntled tenants are far more likely to move elsewhere leaving you with a property that is not only cold, but empty.
Do any of your properties have a flat roof? Flat roofs are vulnerable to water damage caused by rain and snow and as a result, are often not covered by insurers as a matter of course, so you will need to take out a policy that specifically covers leaks from a flat roof.
According to research by the Association of British Insurers, nearly one in five claims made on buildings and contents insurance is for damage caused by escape of water, costing as much as £2 million a day.
This can be particularly bad in winter when pipes are susceptible to bursting due to freezing temperatures, followed by a rapid thaw.
During the winter months leave the heating on – or set it to come on – ideally between 10C and 15C in untenanted properties or second or holiday homes.
If the property is likely to be empty for a while over a period of cold weather, turn off the stopcock and drain the water systems. It’s a good idea to provide the tenant with written instructions about heating the property during cold snaps and consider including a clause in the tenancy agreement outlining the tenant’s cold weather obligations.
Check that your policy includes a clause that obligates the tenant to tell the landlord or agency that a property will be empty for 14 days or more – for example over Christmas, if so include this as a gentle reminder in a letter to tenants.
Automatic leak detection devices are available for commercial and domestic properties, that alert you, and in some cases shut off the water supply – when a leak is detected. Basic ones start at under a £100 ,but naturally the more sophisticated, the bigger the price tag.
- Christmas comes, not only in the depths of winter, but also at a time when tenants can often be away for long periods of time, visiting family and friends or on holiday. The RLA would advise you to remind your tenants of their obligations, such as always leaving the heating on at a low temperature and has a winter letter to the tenants to help you do just that.
- For more information on RLA insurance contact 0333 000 0169. The RLA runs a repairs course on landlords’ obligations regarding repairs to their properties and the relevant legislation. Visit www.rla.org.uk/training