Landlords, are you ready for the big freeze?

The colder months are approaching, which is a cue for landlords to carry out a range of checks to make sure their properties steer clear of any winter catastrophes.
Carry out these nine steps today to reduce the chances of something going wrong with your rental property this winter.
1. Clear out your gutters                        
Falling autumn leaves may give the landscape a picturesque glow and look harmless, but they can prove to be a costly nuisance for landlords if left to pile up.
In particular, they can collect in gutters and drains, causing blockages. So it’s worthwhile clearing them out as regularly as you can to avoid any overflows and resulting water damage.
2. Keep an eye on void periods
Leaving your rental property without tenants living in it may not seem like much of an issue, but a lot can go wrong when a property is left unattended.
From an insurer’s point of view, things like water leaks, fire and burglary are more likely to happen the longer a property’s unoccupied. That’s why they require you to let them know immediately about any vacant periods – especially if they last longer than you originally stated.
Policy conditions around void periods can vary depending on your insurer, so make sure you understand your obligations, otherwise you may discover too late that you’re not fully covered. Contact your insurer if you’re not sure.
It’s good practice to visit as regularly as possible to ensure it’s kept in good order anyway. This includes opening the windows to air the property, as well as checking the boiler.
If your rental property is near your home, this might be quite easy to do. If it’s not, you may want to consider getting someone else, such as a letting agent, to check in for you.
3. Be wary of theft
Even if you have tenants in the property, there may still be periods where it’s empty due to the occupants going away for a while – for example, around Christmas.
You might want to consider chatting to your tenants to make sure they don’t leave expensive items on display, as this could attract thieves.
It’s also worth looking into investing in theft deterrents such as alarms, which are visible from the outside of the property, and motion sensors for the interior.
4. Turn off the supply to outside water pipes
We all know pipes can freeze in the winter, but it’s easy to forget about them – and before you know it, there’s a cold snap and you’re dealing with the repair bill for split pipes.
If your property is going to be empty for a while, you can reduce the risk of this happening by turning off the stop valve inside the property and opening the tap on the outside of the property.
This releases water in the pipe and allows any remaining water space to expand if it freezes, without splitting the pipe.
5. Bleed your radiators
It may seem simple, but one reason a property may be cold is because the radiators don’t work properly. This is often because they need to be ‘bled’.
The process involves releasing any trapped air from the system, allowing hot water to fill every part of the radiator and warm the property more efficiently.
6. Get a boiler service
It’s good practice to get your boiler serviced once a year – this should highlight any issues that may have gone undetected when the heating hasn’t been needed during the warmer months.
7. Make sure your roof is in good repair
Winter is also a good time to check the roof of your rental property, looking out for broken tiles, issues with pointing and rendering, and cracks in the chimney, if you have one.
If you spot anything wrong you’ll need to get it fixed, as otherwise water may come in during heavy rains, or weak spots in the roof could buckle under heavy snow. You may need a roofer to help you identify and fix issues.
8. Check your insurance policy
A standard landlord insurance policy may not cover things like maintenance callouts, so it could be worth considering a review of your policy to add covers like landlord home emergency or landlord boiler breakdown.
9. Talk to your tenants
Maintaining a good relationship with your tenants means they’ll be more likely to help you keep your property in good condition, and let you know if anything’s wrong.
Make sure they have all the details they need about the property, including the location of the stopcock in case they need to turn the water supply off if there’s a leak.
If heavy snow or local flooding looks likely, talk to your tenants about an emergency plan, and make sure they’ve got several ways to contact you. Also tell them about any security or maintenance steps you’d like them to take if they’re going away for a while.