With the cold weather upon us, it is time to consider how to protect your buy to let investment against weather damage.
If your property has a tenant in situ, you can begin by arranging a mutually convenient time to visit, and make checks both internally and externally.
Pipes and tanks in the loft should be adequately insulated. Overflow pipes should be connected and not blocked (remember that with tenants moving in/out more frequently than home owners, things in the loft have more chance of being bumped or dislodged).
Outside taps should be fitted with an insulated jacket, turned off at the internal shut off valve, and if possible, drained down. All external pipe work should be lagged.
You should ensure that gutters and downpipes are clear, have no cracks and that all supporting brackets are functioning well. Check the roof to ensure that there are no broken or missing tiles. If you have any flat roofs at the property, check that they are intact. Remember that ice and snow are heavy, so will put lots of weight on roofs, gutters etc.
It is worth giving the tenant advice regarding steps they should take during periods of cold weather. In fact, this could be stated expressly in the contract, if you so wished. You should ensure that tenants leave the heating on a low setting if they are away during the winter, even if only for a couple of days. If there are areas of the property which are not heated, doors between heated and non-heated areas should be left open to allow warm air to circulate. In empty properties, you could consider leaving the loft hatch open to allow warm air to circulate in the loft.
It is important to remind your tenants how to switch off the water supply, showing them where the stopcock is, and any isolation valves, in case the water needs to be turned off. It is also worth checking (before an emergency arises) that these valves are in working order.
It may also be advisable to remind them where the consumer unit (fuse box) is, and how to turn the electricity back on.
In order for your tenants to have a more comfortable home during the cold weather, check that they know how, and when, to bleed a radiator. Ensure that you supply them with a bleed key.
You should check that your landlord insurance covers you fully for damage caused by bad weather, and that your tenants have appropriate contents insurance.
Finally, make sure that your tenants have the contact details for plumbers, electricians etc in case an emergency arises, ensuring that they offer an out of hours service. You may have a managed tenancy, where emergency calls are taken 24/7. If so, make sure your tenants have their contact details.