6 ways to prepare your rental properties for winter


As winter sets in, landlords need to ensure that their rental properties are ready to stand up to the extreme weather conditions that can come with it. Wind, rain, snow and ice can cause all sorts of problems if you fail to prepare properties in the right way – as so many landlords have found out the hard way.

Nearly half of private landlords fail to put the work in to prepare their rental properties adequately for winter weather, according to a recent survey by online letting agent Upad. The fallout of this includes escalating problems, expensive repairs and unhappy tenants who are left to suffer from the lack of care and attention shown by their landlord.

Keeping on top of essential maintenance will not only help to ensure a more harmonious relationship with tenants, it will also prove a sound financial investment – preventing you having to spend out on a more expensive repair later down the line.

But what does a winter preparation actually involve? It’s not about taking a sticking-plaster approach – any fixes need to be done properly ahead of the harsh conditions, as temporary repairs are unlikely to last very long and could leave you with a sizable bill to have to pay at the end of it.

However, one of the first things to do is to make sure that you have suitable insurance cover in place. Here at Insurance Choice, our landlord policies – part of our commercial property insurance range – can give you the protection you need. Whatever type of property you have, we can arrange a suitable insurance plan that reflects your unique needs and requirements as a landlord, for a price that’s right.

With adequate insurance in place, you should now do all you can to prevent having to claim on it. By carrying out thorough maintenance checks ahead of time, you’ll be mitigating against expensive future repairs.

1.  Use a ladder to check your gutters, drains and roofs

Before we advise you to unfold your ladder, we must just remind you to have someone footing it to prevent the ladder giving way, which can cause serious injury. With the safety warning out the way, let’s get down to what exactly you need to do with your ladder…

First, pull it up to the gutters that line your roof, removing any debris such as mud and leaves to reduce the risk of water damage. This should be done every six months – make sure this coincides with the end of autumn/start of winter when the leaves have fallen off the trees. A leaf build-up can cause the drains to block, resulting in leaks and issues with sewerage inside the property.

Then, it’s time to extend the ladder a bit further to take a close look at the roof. Inspect it for loose or missing tiles, which can lead to leakages with heavy rain or melting snow – flat roofs are particularly prone to leaks as water and snow will sit for longer compared to pitch roofs.
A house's roof with a gutter on the side

2. Consider all the potential hazards outside the property

While you’re outside the property, take a look around for ailing trees. Dead or dying trees are susceptible to coming down in high winds. The last thing you want is a tree coming down on your property or taking out a power line. So, check trees in your vicinity for signs of weakness and arrange for a tree surgeon to come and inspect any you think look a bit suspect.

It’s not just trees that can cause problems in strong winds – rubbish bins, children’s play equipment and outdoor furniture can all go flying in the night wreaking damage. So, if your tenant has any outside equipment that could prove hazardous with a fair wind behind it, ask them to ensure that it is strapped down or suggest somewhere they could store it during the winter months. Perhaps you could provide a garden shed? 

Wet and cold weather leads to slippery drives and icy walkways. While there’s not a lot you can do about that, other than warn tenants about any areas you know are particularly dangerous, you should ensure that any cracks in the pathways on the property aren’t going to make matters worse.

Make pathways good where there is visible damage and remove any debris which could cause a slip or trip hazard – if nothing else, it shows your tenants you care about their safety.

Finally, do a sweeping check of the property’s exterior, inspecting for cracks, which could worsen over time. Get any cracks filled in as soon as possible – it’s a relatively quick and easy job and might save you a pretty penny later down the line. Obviously, any large cracks could be a sign of subsidence, so get these checked as a matter of urgency.

3. Ensure tenants will be kept warm by servicing the heating system

Boiler failure is a common issue during the winter. It’s no surprise really as the demand put upon boilers goes through the roof in the colder months. The most sensible thing to do is to have a boiler serviced at the end of October to ensure it’s going to be able to stand up to the increased demand. However, if you’ve missed this date, it’s always better late than never.

In general, landlords are pretty good at doing their boiler checks. Three-quarters of landlords who carry out winter maintenance on their properties check the boiler – but only half remember to do a health check on the pipes and radiators, too, according to the upad.co.uk survey.

A fairly quick and easy job is to bleed the radiators in the property. You might even be able to get your tenants to do it themselves. Explain to them that this will ensure that heat is being distributed to all the radiators in the house, helping to keep them warm.

It’s also a good chance to speak to them about how often they have the heating on to understand whether there are any risks of pipes freezing. Also, remind them that if they do go away for any period of time, to keep the heating on tick-over to prevent a burst pipe.

If you’d rather do the job of bleeding the radiators yourself, that’s fine. Just remember to arrange a time with tenants to come back and complete the work.

As a landlord, it’s good practice to keep up to date with what your legal responsibilities are when it comes to your rental properties. Check the government’s website regularly and look out for any updates in the law.

As gas and electrical safety come under your remit, it’s a good idea to make sure any appliances are in good working order before the colder months set in. After all, you don’t want a tenant ringing you at 6am to say there’s no hot water!

Remember you are entitled to go into the property to carry out inspections and repairs – just arrange a convenient time with your tenants first.

4. Explain to tenants the importance of airing the property

Who wants to crack a window open when temperatures are at freezing point? No one. However, allowing a bit of air into the property can prove crucial in guarding against condensation.

So, you should speak to and educate your tenants on the issue and advise them to open windows in particularly humid areas, such as the kitchen and bathroom. You can do your bit by ensuring extractor fans are working as they should in these areas – clearing any build up of dust and any other debris that might be preventing a fan from doing its job properly.

Failure to allow air to flow in and out of a property in the winter can lead to nasty damp patches on the walls – nobody wants to see that, especially tenants, which is why a quick conversation could prove worthwhile.
A skylight window opened on a house looking out to the winter weather

5.  Protect the safety and security of tenants with alarms

The rules stipulate that every habitable floor of a rental property must have a working smoke alarm. In addition to this, any room with a solid fuel appliance (for example, a working fireplace) should be furnished with a carbon monoxide detector. Alarms should be tested periodically to ensure that they’re working – you should make this your top priority as opposed to asking a tenant to do it for you.

Also, is there an argument for having an intruder alarm fitted in your rental property, complete with security lights? You might want to consider it if your house or flat is in an area of high crime or in an inner city with high footfall. It’s peace of mind for you more than anything else, knowing you’re protecting your property from opportunistic thieves. It’s also a good ‘selling’ point when it comes to renting the property out again.

You might also want to remind tenants about not leaving expensive items on show in the property, which could make them an easy target for criminals.

6. Speak with tenants regularly to learn about issues ahead of time

Perhaps the best advice we can give for preparing a rental property for winter is to just speak regularly with your tenants. Not all tenants are forthcoming when it comes to reporting issues – perhaps they don’t want to bother you or they don’t think that the problem is ‘big’ enough to make a fuss about.

However, it’s much better to know about any potential issues ahead of time before they develop into something worse. Ultimately, you’ll be picking up the bill for any repair issues.

Also, make sure they know everything they need to know about the property such as the location of the stopcock in case they need to switch off the water supply temporarily if there’s a leak.

It might sound excessive, but if heavy snow or local flooding is on the cards, talk to your tenants about an emergency plan, and provide them with your details in case they need help or assistance with anything. If they’re going away for Christmas, ask them if they’d like you to pop round to check on the property, which will also provide you with an opportunity to make sure that the heating is on tick-over in case of a dip in temperatures.

It’s all part and parcel of maintaining a good relationship with your tenants, which is half the battle as a landlord. If they know you’re accessible and have their needs front of mind, they’ll be more likely to help you keep your property in good condition, and let you know if anything’s wrong. It will also encourage them to stay in the property for longer, which is exactly what you want to happen.

If you need tenants to vacate the property while you carry out repairs, you should tell them in writing how long you think the work will take. They will also have a right to return to the property. You may wish to provide details of alternative accommodation while the work is being carried out rather than leaving them in the lurch.

Commercial insurance from Insurance Choice

If you let a property to tenants, then you need landlord insurance. But you shouldn’t rush and purchase the first policy you see, because each one varies in terms of quality and you need one that’s tailored to your individual needs.

You can rely on Insurance Choice to find great cover that’s tailored to you and your assets, for a price that’s right.

We’ll draw on our panel of carefully selected insurers who specialise in commercial insurance and provide cover for:

  • Buildings
  • Malicious damage
  • Property owner’s liability
  • Unoccupied properties pending let or sale
  • Accidental damage
  • Loss of rent

We’ve been arranging commercial insurance cover for landlords for more than 20 years, so you can trust us to set you up with the best policy. We also offer further support through things like flexible payment solutions, allowing you to spread the cost of cover by paying in monthly instalments.

Get a quick quote for commercial insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.