The National Landlords Association (NLA) is warning landlords about the huge repair bills they face if their tenants do not know what to do in a winter property emergency.
With almost three million households in the private-rented sector, and weather forecasters predicting a colder winter than last year, simple steps, such as ensuring that tenants know how to switch off the water, gas and electricity supplies, could save landlords thousands of pounds and, potentially, save lives.
Tenants are the first line of defence against problems in the properties they rent and need to be fully equipped to deal with all kinds of winter emergency situations. The NLA has compiled the following advice for landlords, detailing how to prevent winter emergencies getting out of hand.
Frozen pipes: Pipes at risk of freezing should be lagged, and making sure tenants know where to turn off the water supply will allow them to act quickly if a pipe bursts - potentially saving thousands of pounds in repairs and an insurance claim for water damage.
Problems with the heating: It is important that problems with the heating system are fixed quickly. Landlords should make sure their tenants know how to bleed a radiator and have the contact details of a trusted plumber. The heating system should also be checked regularly to avoid problems before they arise.
Frozen pathways: If pathways and driveways are not well drained they can become icy when the temperatures dip, potentially leading to accidents. Landlords can provide grit for their tenants to use on very cold days.
Power cuts: Strong winds and increased energy consumption mean that power cuts are a threat during the winter months. Landlords can make sure their tenants are fully prepared by providing contact details for an electrician and their electricity provider, as well as ensuring they have a good supply of candles and torches with batteries.
Leaks: Blocked guttering, cracks in the roof and missing roof tiles can cause big problems when it rains.
Landlords should make sure that repairs are carried out as early as possible, while guttering should be regularly cleared, especially after the autumn leaf fall.
Security: As the nights become longer, security becomes a larger issue for all households. Landlords can help to reduce the risks for their tenants by making sure there are plenty of spare bulbs for outside lights as well as fitting motion sensor lights to the back and the front of the house. If there is an alarm, ensuring it is serviced each year will prevent problems.
Insurance: Landlords cover buildings insurance but do tenants know they need their own contents cover? In the event of a problem, tenants could be left out of pocket if they don't get the right insurance.
For all winter property emergencies it is vital that tenants have clear guidance on who should be contacted, particularly if the landlord uses an agent. Landlords also need to make sure tenants know how to get in touch outside of working hours and who they should contact if the landlord is on holiday.
David Salusbury, Chairman, NLA, is calling on all landlords to make sure their tenants know what to do in a winter property emergency.
He said: "The winter months can throw up a number of serious problems for tenants from leaking roofs to burst water pipes, but landlords can ensure that damage and inconvenience is limited by giving their tenants the right information at the start of the tenancy.
"Asking how to switch off utility supplies is unlikely to be a top priority for most tenants moving into a property, so the onus is on the landlord to make sure they are aware. The cost of not doing so could be considerable.
"Landlords may save themselves thousands of pounds in repair bills, not to mention keeping their tenants safe, by preparing them for the worst well in advance of winter weather."
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