Tips on preparing a rental property for winter

With research showing property owners are paying out millions of pounds on damage to real estate due to winter weather, buy to let investors may need to prepare for the colder months to save them having to claim on rented property insurance.

 

With research showing property owners are paying out millions of pounds on damage to real estate due to winter weather, buy to let investors may need to prepare for the colder months to save them having to claim on rented property insurance.

Research by Axa recently showed one in a thousand Britons have been the victim of burst water pipes in the last two years, which has racked up a bill of around £1 billion.

In a similar study, M&S Money found the total cost of damages to UK abodes has climbed above £600 million per annum, while home insurance claims have surged by 200 per cent since 2008.

Although rental yields are strong at the moment, having to pay out for repairs to houses could leave a dent in landlords profits so as well as making sure they are signed up to a good cover product, it may also be wise to make some preparations before winter hits.

Tynedale-based John Redden of lettings specialist Belvoir advised lagging pipes and leaving the central heating on a low setting, while checking plumbing, guttering and fences for any damage.

In vacant houses, it may be wise to fit an isolator to stop cocks on outside taps, ensure all lightbulbs are in working order and prevent the gas and electricity from running out by topping-up credit on meters and getting an annual service on boilers, he said.

Belvoir warned buy to let investors to regularly visit properties that are currently void to make sure there are no problems that need to be fixed, explaining people could save money in the long term if they get their abodes into good shape now.

Peter Johnson at the estate agents commented: “When maintenance issues arise, act quickly. Dripping taps can cause frozen waste pipes, so ensure these are dealt with promptly. A leaking pipe under the bath may cost a landlord £20 to fix, but if left unattended can develop into an expensive problem.”

Other parts of the building buy to let investors need to check include fascias, slates and eaves, as well as ensuring external decorating is finished before the weather deteriorates, the agency added.

Elsewhere, customer service manager at Discountletting.co.uk Julie Blakeman stressed getting heating systems checked by an expert is even more important in the run up to winter than it is at other times of the year.

“Landlords can easily purchase insurance for their boilers and heating systems, which gives the landlord and tenant peace of mind, knowing that should the heating or boiler break down during a cold period, everything is covered and faults will be fixed quickly,” she said.

Another way of protecting real estate against the cold is by fitting insulation.

Mike Crompton, corporate communications officer for the Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors, described this measure as “the best thing any person with a property can do to prepare for the winter”.

While there are costs attached to fitting insulation, the charges landlords will face if something goes wrong in the home as a result of low temperatures can be a lot higher, he warned.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the private rented sector has the highest proportion of homes that are not very energy efficient, with 5.8 per cent of leased accommodation achieving a G rating on their Energy Performance Certificates (EPA) compared with 3.4 per cent of owner-occupied domiciles.

For this reason, landlords are being urged to retrofit their real estate and the government is attempting to provide incentives for them to do so.

Mr Crompton noted it may only cost £90 to have a loft insulated for life and there are schemes to provide grants and allowances to help investors pay for such improvements.

Furthermore, from October 2012 the governments new Green Deal will come into effect, potentially offering new opportunities for landlords to improve the energy efficiency of their properties without breaking the bank.

The initiative will mean real estate owners do not need to pay the upfront costs involved in retrofitting, with the DECC explaining the expense will be repaid by tenants through their energy bill savings.

It will be compulsory for landlords to make certain improvements and all private rental houses must achieve an E rating on EPAs by 2018, with those who do not meet this requirement facing penalties of up to £5,000.

Ms Blakeman noted many buy to let investors are not aware of the Green Deal and how it works, saying it will not be effective unless better information is offered to the private rented sector, while its success also depends on it being financially viable.

However, Mr Crompton was more optimistic about the plans, saying it is a programme that could work well for both landlords and tenants.

Written by Julie Hanson

Julie is passionate about property – development, investment and portfolio planning. Along with husband Alec, Julie is actively building a property portfolio while helping others to do the same.

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