5 things to check before autumn and winter hit
As the weather worsens after the summer (or a bit before!), the risk of damage to property increases. Wind can blow trees and debris onto the building, lift roof tiles and rip off TV aerials, satellite dishes and other loose fittings. Higher levels of rainfall mean you’ll soon find out if there are any spaces where water can get in, then, when the frost comes, you run the risk of pipes freezing and bursting if they’re not insulated properly. At the other end of winter, when we have melting snow as well as rain, the waterlogged ground can’t absorb any more and flooding becomes a very real danger. On top of all that, boilers can break because they’re being used far more than during the rest of the year and it can be quite a challenge to get hold of a plumber!
As such, it’s important – in addition to your regular maintenance and periodical checks – that you schedule an annual ‘full service’ for your property before weather conditions turn. This will ensure your tenants are kept safe and happy and the risk of your property suffering any damage over the autumn and winter months is kept to an absolute minimum.
Here are the top five things that should be checked over the next couple of months, to make sure they’re working properly*:
Not only will tenants use the heating pretty constantly through the winter, meaning the boiler’s working harder than during the rest of the year, but also colder weather can sometimes cause the pressure to drop. If tenants start fiddling with the mechanics and don’t know what they’re doing, there’s a distinct chance that the boiler will stop working and you’ll get a panicked phone call. It’s hard enough to get hold of a good plumber at any time but, if something goes wrong over the winter, it’s almost impossible because they’re overloaded with call outs. As prevention is usually the best cure, book an appointment now, well ahead of time, to have your annual gas safety check carried out in the early autumn and make sure your tenants know exactly how to re-pressurise the boiler the correct way.
It’s also worth making sure you visit the property if you don’t use agents for full management to ensure tenants know how to use the system properly and are keeping the property warm enough to avoid damp.
Although there is currently no legal requirement to have electrics checked annually, as there is with gas systems, there is an obligation on you to ensure the system is safe. I would suggest you engage a Part-P qualified electrician to carry out an annual PAT on all portable electrical appliances, such as fridges and washing machines, and recommend having a full domestic electrical installation check every three years to obtain a certificate that confirms the system meets safety standards. As with your gas safety check, try to book this in each year around September/October, so that it’s up to date ahead of the bad weather.
Fire safety systems
Storms and flooding can cause electrics to fuse and spark, which may lead to fire breaking out in your property so it’s essential that you double-check your fire safety systems. That means putting fresh batteries in smoke alarms and heat sensors, testing interlinked and hard-wired systems and checking fire door closures are working properly. It’s also a good idea to ensure your tenants are clear on the procedure in case of a fire and remind them not to prop open fire doors or block any exits.
Door and window seals and closures
Heavy rain will find any hole or gap in your property and if the seals on your doors and windows have failed or are missing, your tenants are likely to find water coming in. At the same time, strong winds will easily catch a window or door that isn’t closed properly and either damage it or rip it off completely – this is a particular danger with windows. So ask your agent to make the appropriate checks when doing their periodic visits or go round and check that they can all be shut tightly and securely and replace any seals that look to be failing, to ensure the property is wind and watertight and your tenants will stay dry and draught-free.
If the rainwater and melting snow can’t get away and builds up around your property, it can permeate and cause damp on the inside and, in the worse cases, pooling and flooding. That, in turn, will damage furnishings and possessions and can affect the electrical system, so it’s vital you do all you can to ensure the building stays dry and watertight. Have all the drains, downpipes and guttering cleared of leaves and other build-up and make sure the joints are intact so that water isn’t running down the building itself. This is something that should be done at least twice a year, so book a local contractor to carry out the work in time for regular periodical visits.
Finally, check your buildings insurance policy to make sure you’ve complied with all your obligations to minimise potential hazards, so that if the worst happens and you need to make a claim, you can be confident you’re fully covered.
If you're concerned about what you need to do to maintain a property from a lenders and insurers perspective, do contact your local managing agent or Mortgage Advice Bureau.
*Please be aware these are based on the laws in England, Wales, Scotland and NI may well be different
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