Jeremy Leaf's top bad weather tips for landlords – Don't get caught out this winter!
A cosy tenant is a happy tenant but landlords can miss obvious ways of maintaining good relations especially in winter when dealing with damp, condensation and mould issues.
Moisture rising from the ground could be caused by a defective damp course or crumbling mortar joints. Penetrating damp is often the result of defective roof tiles, blocked gutters or drains. Condensation might be due to lack of heat and/or ventilation so can mean peeling wallpaper, damp patches and harmful mould on walls, window sills and ceiling. Mould is a type of fungus that may cause structural damage and pose a health risk if the air is humid so should only be removed with specialist treatment.
Servicing boilers annually as well as bleeding radiators, insulating lofts, pipes and water tanks to reduce the risk of bursts is a very good idea especially as landlords tend to be responsible for boiler maintenance!
Plumbing could be weakened in freezing conditions so tenants should be just as vigilant as landlords or agents by regularly checking for blockages and leaks.
Water supply might have to be turned off and the system drained if there’s a leak or frozen pipes thaw out so make sure you and your tenant know the location of the stopcock.
Check your insurance policy pays out if damage occurs in poor weather. Consider adding home emergency cover which will probably only apply if the property has been ‘reasonably’ well maintained.
On security, ensure locks are fitted to windows, doors and gates as well as external lighting with movement sensors and burglar alarms are in working order.
Pre-empting problems usually saves time and money so tenants are likely to stay longer and pay more rent. Trying to arrange emergency or other call-outs when engineers or tradespeople are at their busiest is never a good plan!
Here’s 10 top tips to reduce the risk of problems: -
• Maintain heating at low levels for longer when temperatures fall or are at close to freezing to keep air temperature constant especially if the property is empty;
• Tumble dryers should have adequate ventilation so dry clothes outside where possible as moisture from wet clothes can settle on walls accelerating the growth of mould;
• Keep windows open– especially during the day preferably - and seal draughts but allow moisture to escape rather than settle on walls or furnishings;
• Uncover grilles and air bricks but bear in mind extractor fans help to reduce damp and mould especially in rooms without windows as even insulated spaces need ventilation;
• Put lids on cooking pans to stop steam escaping when cooking which improves heat retention;
• Don’t leave kettles boiling unnecessarily so less moist air circulates;
• A dehumidifier will draw water from the air and may be especially useful in wardrobes or behind cupboards where mould is often found. Don’t forget if a monitor records over 60% humidity, you could be encouraging bacteria, viruses and dust mites!
• Wipe windows and sills with a dry cloth to remove moisture;
• Leave internal doors open so air is able to circulate at an even temperature and maintain a gap between furniture and walls; and
• Professionally steam clean mouldy soft furnishings, clothes and toys to kill spores as cleaning in washing machines risks contaminating other belongings especially if the water is not hot enough.
NB Landlords (or their agents) are legally obliged to fit carbon monoxide alarms in every room with fixed appliances such as gas boilers or fires, test the alarms on the first day of the tenancy as well as replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once advised of faults.
The threat is greater as more households seem to enjoy open fires and naked flames in cold weather especially as sensors can be disabled if exposed to temperatures below freezing.
Hard-wired are more reliable than battery-operated smoke detectors and cannot be disabled but should be checked at least every year.
Whether it is advice on the existing 158 rules and regulations covering private lettings or ensuring how to gain best possible returns and trouble-free renting, there’s no substitute for the unrivalled local knowledge and 30+ years’ experience of a qualified lettings and managing agent like Jeremy Leaf!
Self-managing landlords who think they don’t have the same responsibilities as letting agents may be in for a nasty and expensive surprise!
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