Winter Weather Precautions
- Tenants don’t always take winter weather problems and precautions seriously.
- It’s a good policy on the part of the landlord to remind tenants what precautions they should take.
- Frost damage is perhaps the biggest risk – heating systems need to be on if the property is left vacant.
- Winter time is also likely to be when floods and storms might occur in some areas.
With the on-set of winter all property occupiers need to be aware of the various problems which can occur through cold weather.
Unfortunately tenants don’t always take winter weather problems and precautions quite as seriously as do most owner occupiers.
Also, many occupiers of rental properties are young and in-experienced in practical household maintenance, so they’re just not aware and don’t know what to do.
Because the property is not their own, tenants often take the view that any problems that arise are the landlord’s and therefore, why should I bother?
In fact, one of the big advantages of residential renting is the freedom from worry about maintenance and repairs, so you can’t blame tenants for this, but there are some minimum requirements, even of tenants.
The situation, of course, is different with commercial tenants, where they are almost always totally responsible anyway.
Residential tenants may think their landlords should be responsible, but any resulting problems from burst pipes etc will be very much their problem, and may even involve adjoining property as well, so there’s every reason to care.
It’s a good policy on the part of the landlord to remind tenants as the on-set of cold weather arrives as to what precautions they should take.
In the case of commercial (business) tenancies the tenant is, in effect, the “owner” of the property for the period of the lease and therefore totally responsible for any mishaps – even though many business tenants don’t see it that way!
However, in both residential and commercial situations the landlord needs to keep a close watch on the situation – especially if the landlord also owns adjoining property, like units below which could be flooded with a burst pipe.
Tenants sometimes leave their properties unoccupied during cold weather, particularly over the festive season when they may visit relatives, or businesses may be shut down for extended periods.
This is a time when the property is particularly at risk from freezing pipes and also from break-ins.
Ideally, heating boilers should be fitted with a frost thermostat so that they will automatically come on if there’s a frost.
Otherwise, boilers should be left on, or timed to come on at a low temperature during cold weather if the property is left unoccupied. Ideally, a neighbour should be tasked with checking the property daily.
If the property is to be left unoccupied for any length of time during cold weather the water and heating systems should be isolated and drained down.
Also, you should bear in mind that insurers will need to be notified if the property is to be left unoccupied beyond a normal holiday-break period.
Winter time is also likely to be when flood damage might occur in some affected areas.
- Send your tenants a friendly reminder letter as cold weather approaches about some of the precautions to take and what can happen if they don’t.
- Remind the tenants that heating boilers should be timed to come on in cold weather or left on at a low temperature if the property is to be left empty.
- Make sure the tenants are well aware of where the cut-off points are for water, gas, central heating oil and electricity.
- Warning notices placed at strategic points in the property are the best way of indicating cut-off points – instructions often get lost.
- Make sure that the tenants have been given copies of operating instructions for essential equipment supplied with the property, such as gas or oil boilers, refrigerators, cookers, freezers, dishwashers and washing machines etc.
- Where possible attach instructions to the equipment.
- Make sure the gas checks have been done when they should: these are a legal requirement and should be done annually.
- Make sure there are no obstructions to flues on the outside of the property and in particular make sure that freezing water cannot block flues.
- Make sure gutters and downspouts have been cleaned during the milder weather and that there’s no chance of freezing water causing a blockage.
- Make sure that roof tiles, ridge tiles and chimneys are in good order to withstand the rain, snow and high winds of winter.