Freezing Pipes:

This time of year, as we head towards colder weather and freezing conditions, buy-to-let properties and indeed all rental properties are vulnerable to potentially expensive winter water damage

In this article digital inventory app developer Imfuna Let is urging agents and landlords to do more to protect their properties from burst pipes this winter.

Burst pipes are a common problem over the winter period, particularly if a property is left unoccupied for any length of time in freezing conditions. Losses resulting from burst and leaking pipes – including damage to ceilings, walls and carpets – cost on average £4,500 to repair, that’s according to figures produced by Simple Landlords Insurance.

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One particular burst pipes case from the DPS shows how much damage this can cause to a property and the resulting costs.  In this case, the tenant left the property for three weeks over the Christmas period to visit family. The tenant failed to take any precautions like leaving on a low level of heating, turning off the stopcock or having the system drained down.

During the extreme weather a pipe froze and then burst, flooding the property. The carpet and lino were extensively damaged and the washing machine was destroyed. Excess water had to be drained from the property, and the property had to be de-humidified. The washing machine had to be replaced.

Had this been an upper floor flat, that damage could have been even more extensive as other properties below would also have been flooded; and without keys to enter this would mean more lost time to turn the flood of water off and even more damage when the door is broken down to gain entry.

Jax Kneppers, founder and CEO of Imfuna says:

“If landlords and agents take a few simple precautions, they can help protect their properties from burst pipes.  For example, it’s a good move to provide the tenant with specific instructions about heating the property in cold periods.  Landlords and agents should ensure the tenancy agreement contains a clause outlining the tenant’s obligations…”

“It is important to instruct the tenant to inform the agent or landlord if they are vacating the property for more than 14 days in winter (this is also normally included in the tenancy agreement).  A detailed check-in inventory with clear photos, signed by the tenant, will also protect landlords in the event of a deposit dispute over damage.

“If a property experiences water damage, landlords and agents should provide a detailed account of any damage caused by burst pipes, for instance by using one of Imfuna’s property inspection apps, and keep invoices for any repairs done if the property is damaged.  It is essential to take out landlord insurance as a precaution to help cover damages.”

Howard Lester, Director of Balgores Property Group says:

“Over the years tenancy agreements have become far more than a basic agreement between landlord and tenant with regards to rental payments, how long and when they are due. Nowadays a well-drafted tenancy agreement is essential to clarify many different points.

“Our tenancy agreement has many clauses designed to protect the landlord and one of the most important is indeed the clause which advises tenants of their responsibility to either leave heating on a constant setting at a minimum of 12C, or to have the system fully drained if the property is to be left unoccupied. Additionally, we advise any client with a vacant property that they should also ensure they leave heating on to avoid any possibility of freezing and burst pipes.”

Here are some general tips to help protect properties:

  • Advice: send tenants a cold weather letter to remind them of the risks – many young occupiers have absolutely no conception of freezing risks or how to avoid them.
  • Insurance: make sure you have a really good landlord’s insurance policy in place to cover all risks and follow the terms and conditions to the letter.
  • Inform: tenants must be told to inform their landlord / agent if they are going away for an extended period. Most landlord insurance policies will say that they must be informed of a vacant property beyond 14 or 21 days.
  • Insulation: ensure water pipes and water tanks are lagged and insulated and away from cooling airflows.
  • Heating – advise tenants to keep their heating on at a minimum of 15C if they are going away.
  • For extended periods in winter the heating and water systems should be drained down and all stop cocks closed.
  • Boiler servicing – ensure that gas and oil boilers are serviced every 12 months before winter and where appropriate gas safety checks carried out.

If the property is to be empty for an extended period it is sensible to have the heating/water system drained down by a qualified contractor. This will need to be re-filled with the correct additives.

Imfuna Let says that although burst pipes are an unfortunate circumstance for both landlords and tenants, a detailed record of a property’s condition before and after the pipes burst will make the repair and claims process as quick and pain free as possible.  www.imfuna.com/

See here for a more detailed artiocle on how to Winter Proof Your Rental Properties

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