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We’ve been warned to expect a severe winter this year so if landlords are to avoid problems like blocked drains and burst pipes it’s essential to:-

• properly insulate pipes and taps as well as tanks in unheated areas such as lofts, garages and outbuildings to prevent freezing;
• replace cracked roof tiles, clear gutters, drains and gulleys of leaves and repair leaks so that rainwater flows away properly;
• repair leaking taps or valves to keep frost at bay and save water;
• turn off the water supply at the stop cock if a pipe freezes and bursts;
• regularly service central heating boilers. An insurance policy including boiler replacement without an age, output or servicing restriction would be preferable;
• leave heating on at a low level if the property is empty for a short period but keep an eye on weather forecasts. If vacant for longer, turn off the water supply and drain down the system; use recommended and accredited tradespeople for necessary work

Private landlords are generally responsible for hot water and heating but need to retain proof of regular checks and give clear advice for tenants to maintain heating levels in cold weather.

It’s just as important to let warm air out as it is to stop cold air coming in otherwise condensation and/or damp on window sills, furniture and walls may be the outcome.
Leaving windows open may sound like wasting money and compromising security but, as long as the property is occupied, it will probably lead to savings in the long run – and not just in energy bills.

Stop draughts through letterboxes by fitting covers and applying sealant around frames. Rugs or mats on stripped floors will help too.

Double glazing can reduce heat loss though cheaper options such as secondary glazing or even polythene across  window frames and heavy duty curtains can make a difference.

Landlords and lettings agents should arrange buildings and contents insurance but clearly advise tenants what’s covered and what isn’t.

If insufficient precautions are taken inside and out, considerable damage, cost and lengthy disputes are likely to be the result!

Jeremy Leaf, a former RICS residential chairman & independent North London Estate Agency owner.
February 2019