Biting cold, howling winds and snowy landscapes – for many of us, winter is our least favourite season. Just like we often add padding and put on an extra layer to keep warm, your property will benefit from keeping well insulated this winter.
At Total Landlord Insurance, winter is our busiest time of year as landlords call up to make a claim. Our #GetWinterReady campaign aims to help landlords avoid a claim this winter. Check out our dedicated winter page, where we will be releasing factsheets on a number of causes for damage weekly in the run up to Christmas.
Most of the calls we receive are down to a burst pipe because of the cold. In fact, this so-called ‘escape of water’ claim is the most common one throughout the year, not only for us but across the industry. In 2010, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) reported, insurers spent £730m on such claims alone. Escape of water can be caused by a number of things during winter, but by far the most common – and the most preventable – are frozen pipes.
Landlords can get caught out by a sudden cold spell, often after a mild period as last November, and when external pipes have not been drained or insulated, the water freezes in colder weather. Now this potentially not only causes leaks and consequently a flooded lounge or bedroom – as, even if the pipe is an external one, it connects into the property as well. But the leak could potentially go unnoticed, damp and mould could spread and thus cause damage of a different nature to the building.
Internally, if the tenants are away, the property can also fall victim to the cold temperatures and burst pipes are often the end of it. And there is so much plumbing generally that could cause trouble: washing machines, dishwashers, central heating and so on. With no one around, damage again can go unnoticed until the tenants come back – and by then, your property could be, well, a right mess.
And think of all the contents of your property that can also be affected: laminated floors, kitchen units, white goods. That can be very costly to repair. Your tenants might even need to find somewhere else to live for the interim while the property is not fit to be lived in.
This really need not happen and at Total Landlord Insurance we find ourselves giving landlords the same advice each year, the gold standard for preventing damage so to speak. A number of preventative measures a landlord can undertake are: lagging and insulating pipes, draining down pipes ahead of tenants going away, say for the Christmas holidays. Asking tenants to leave the heating on while they’re out to make sure internal pipes do not freeze up and cause a nasty surprise when they return would be another useful tip.
Our team are experts on winter damage, and have recently answered a few of the most commonly asked questions landlords have every year in a number of short videos as part of our #GetWinterReady campaign. These can be found on our website www.totallandlordinsurance.co.uk/winter-2015 and on our YouTube account.
But escape of water is by no way the only damage than can occur in the winter. Do you remember the winter floods of 2013/14 and the images of helplessly watching homeowners, tenants and landlords, surrounded by masses of sluggish water? According to figures released by ABI, the UK insurance industry paid £451m for flood claims and £640m for storm claims that winter. £71m were paid out for alternative accommodation for flooded homeowners and tenants. While there is little you can do to save your property from a flood caused by excessive rain, you need to make sure you are aware of emergency advice and that your insurance policy covers you for such an event. In fact, in such situations, your insurance policy should be one of the documents you keep in a safe place to be able to refer to it as quickly as possible if necessary.
Another danger that landlords are often unaware of during the winter months is the increase in the number of burglaries that occur. It gets darker earlier in the day and it’s more obvious for a criminally minded person whether tenants are at home or not. With the festive period increasing the amount of valuable goods kept at home in the form of presents, ready to be given away or as newly unwrapped gifts, it also becomes more worthwhile to attempt a burglary.
The obvious answer how to prevent such an event is to make the property look like it’s being lived in. Don’t let the mail pile up, get a timer switch for the lights, and get someone to look after the place while no one’s there. Also, tell your tenants not to advertise their belongings to potential burglars lurking in the shadows and to draw the curtains. They shouldn’t turn the windows into a shopping display really.
In the end, the better prepared you are for winter, the more you get out of your property investment. Check out our dedicated our dedicated winter page www.totallandlordinsurance.co.uk/winter-2015. Topics of the weekly factsheets include how to prevent damage caused by floods, cold, snow, storm and rain as well as professional tips on how best to prevent a burglary, how to ensure your property remains safe over Christmas and more. We are celebrating our 20th company anniversary next year, so we’ve been through a number of bad winters with our clients. We hope your property is safe this winter. If you follow our advice, you have really done all you can to make sure it is.