Have you prepared your home for winter?

According to research 40% of householders have not taken any action to prepare their home for the onset of freezing conditions this winter.

Tenants leaving their rented accommodation empty over the festive season need to be aware of their obligations when it comes to taking care of their rented property.

Long-range predictions have suggested that the UK is set to experience another harsh winter. The extreme winter weather between  October 2010 and February 2011 caused damage to over 3 million UK homes according to Churchill insurance.

Research warns that not all householders have learned the lessons of the last two winters and many people could see more damage to their properties this year if 'the big freeze' returns.

The damage to most effect households included: damaged roof (35%); frozen or burst pipes (33%); damage to fencing / garden wall 27%; central heating failed 16%; boiler failed (15%); interruption to power supply (14%); damage to external walls (12%); damage to external paving (12%); damage to external windows (9%); and other damage (13%).

For homeowners, best practices include:

  • have your boiler serviced once a year;
  • clear gutters of leaves and other debris;
  • prune back trees and branches that could cause damage to property;
  • lag pipes; check that loft insulation is thick enough;
  • and stock up on candles and torches in preparation for any power cuts.

ARLA has released a list containing a few sensible steps that tenants leaving their property empty over the winter period should follow. They include:

  • find out what your tenancy agreement requires you to do when leaving a property vacant as this can make a difference to your liability. Most agreements will reference a tenant requirement to take adequate measures to protect the property from issues like frozen pipes in colder weather;
  • most deposit repayments will be shared evenly at the end of a rental term, so it is well worth ensuring everyone you live with knows what needs to be done. This will reduce the chance of deposits being held due to a lack of preparedness. Duties may include defrosting the freezer and ensuring electrical appliances are turned off;
  • remember to leave the heating on at a low level. This will ensure pipes do not freeze and will help prevent internal damp spreading within the property. If you have a loft, leave the loft door open to allow some warmer air to circulate around the tank. If you decide not to leave the heating on you may be well advised to turn off the water and drain the system, which is likely to require the skills of a qualified tradesperson;
  • it may be worthwhile to share an emergency contact phone number with a neighbour should something go wrong; either your number, or that of the property's managing agent, if there is one. This will speed up access to the property in the event of something like a pipe leak and is particularly important in flatted properties, where an issue in one flat could rapidly cause problems for other homes in the block;
  • secure your property. Simple measures such as ensuring all windows and doors are locked will deter opportunist thieves, while setting a light on a timer within the property can be an effective additional security measure.

Phil Lawton, director at Sutton Kersh comments “Last Winter was particularly severe and whilst we are not expecting a repeat of those extreme weather conditions this year, tenants can help to keep their properties safe by following the advice given. Tenants should make sure that they have the emergency repairs telephone numbers provided by their letting agent to hand.”


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