“Now is the perfect time to take a look at how well-prepared your property is for cold weather and, hence, to minimize the likelihood of you having to deal with a damaged property and irate tenants later in the season,” said Mark Burns, managing director of Hopwood House.
The property investment specialist offers the following tips to help you get ready for winter:
Double check anything connected to heating and lighting
Winter is the time when heating and lighting are likely to be most in use and therefore the time when any issues with them are most likely to be felt. Even though the domestic infrastructure relating to electricity and gas is generally the sort which only needs to be upgraded very occasionally, you’d prefer those occasions to be under your control and in the warmer part of the year.
If you have a gas boiler, then now is probably your last chance to get it serviced before winter really takes a grip and this chance could be well worth taking. If you have a property with any sort of solid fuel heating (even if it’s only a supplement to central heating), then ensure that the chimney is swept and that you have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted.
Review your insulation
Insulation doesn’t just lower your (tenants’) heating bills; it can also protect your property from the effects of cold weather. While a lot of insulation these days is intended to be largely “set and forget” at least for several years, there can often be small touches which can make a big difference. For example, if glass is even slightly loose in a frame it will not only compromise the insulation but could also make the window more vulnerable to breaking.
Clean out your gutters
Gutters can be a bit of a sticking point with landlords since you could make a case for arguing that cleaning them is part of the everyday maintenance which could reasonably be expected from tenants, but you can also make a case for arguing that the exterior of a property is 100% the landlord’s responsibility.
In practical terms, it’s probably easier, cheaper and generally less hassle to clean the gutters yourself. After all, it’s your property which stands to be damaged and if you try to take the money out of your tenants’ deposit, you may find yourself challenged and losing.
Show/remind your tenants where the stopcock is
It might even be worthwhile putting its location down on paper and leaving this paper somewhere really obvious. This could be a good opportunity to have a chat with your tenants to see if there is anything they think you should know and to remind them that winter is the time when condensation is most likely to occur and that you would appreciate them notifying you rather than putting in a complaint direct to their local council.
If you have vulnerable tenants, you might also want to drop a hint to the effect that they might want to check they are claiming all the benefits to which they are entitled, since having a bit of extra money might encourage them to use the heating more generously, which can be helpful for your property as a whole.
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