Winter can pose a problem for rental properties especially where tenants are planning to be away for the holiday period. Landlords are therefore advised to ensure that they consider some simple steps to ensure to avoid potentially costly repairs.
Exterior of the property
Checking the exterior of the property ideally in the Summer or Autumn period is always recommended. Cracks in brickwork could potentially allow water into a property and cause damp which will only be exacerbated in the winter months.
Pipes should also be checked for breaks, leaks and blockages. Properties in leafy areas are especially prone to pipe blockages because of falling leaves. Damaged pipes can freeze and potentially burst in the winter which could make the property uninhabitable. An uninhabitable property in the winter months is difficult to repair because many professionals are on their annual seasonal holiday. Furthermore, if the property is situated in an area which is busy during the holiday season rehousing the tenant while the repairs are undertaken could be expensive and difficult.
An annual gas certificate is mandatory for all rental properties. However, in addition to this annual check landlords are also advised to ensure that boilers are regularly serviced. A serviced boiler is less likely to break down or cease working and could help identify problems which can be addressed prior to any complete break down.
Tenants and Heating
It is never a good idea to assume that tenants know what to do during the winter months. Ideally tenants should be told where for example the stop cock is, how to operate the boiler, what the boiler error codes mean etc. An information pack including any applicable manuals is recommended.
Tenants should also be advised about their obligations if they are going to be away during the holiday season. This includes the heating being set to ensure the pipes do not freeze and burst. Tenants should also take reasonable steps to ensure that the property is secured appropriately. Tenants should also be advised about any property insurance conditions which may apply during the holiday period including how many days the property can be left empty.
It is important to note that if the tenant has complied with their obligations in respect of the property during the winter and the pipes, for example, burst because they have not been sufficiently insulated, the repair will be the responsibility of the landlord not tenant.
Void periods and insurance
Where landlords will have void periods over the holiday season, they are advised to ensure that they arrange for someone to inspect the property regularly. Ensuring windows are opened and the heating is set is paramount to ensure that they property is maintained and kept safe.
Many landlord insurance policies also have conditions relating to void periods. It is essential to maintain cover that landlords comply with such conditions. Where landlords fear that they may not be in a position to comply, they should contact the insurance company to discuss alternative options.
Parties should note that serving notices during the holiday period can become slightly complicated. More time will need to be given for the service of notices due to the bank holidays and possible delays to the postal system. Where possible it is advisable to obtain at the very least, proof of posting of any notice whether the tenancy clause requires it or not.
The above highlight some of the possible issues that may arise over the winter period. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and other matters could certainly crop up. A good relationship between the parties is also imperative to ensure that any possible issues are addressed sooner rather than later. Where landlords are concerned about any possible issues over winter they should seek legal advice as soon as possible.