Protect Your Rental Property This Winter

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Winter weather, particularly flooding, can cause real and structural damage to a property. Not only will your tenants be forced out of their home, but you will have to claim on your landlord insurance. You may find that if your actions or inactions caused the issue, you could be liable for some, or all, of the repairs.

If you know that your tenants will be away over the holiday season, it is vital that you protect your property to avoid any winter-related damage.

With this in mind, follow these tips and arrange an inspection with your tenants, before it’s too late!

  1. Check the lagging in your loft

Head up to the loft and check the lagging around the water pipes and cold water storage tank. Even small gaps could let in cold air and freeze the pipes, or even the water in the tank. If there are pipes in the attic, eaves and cupboards, they are typically more exposed and are prone to freezing.

  1. Leave the central heating on permanently

This is something that you should advise your tenants to do – leave the central heating on at a minimum temperature of 15°C to protect against damp and condensation. Fitting thermostatic valves to the radiators will allow you (and your tenants) to set the valves so that the radiator comes on when the temperature falls below a certain level. This enables the heating to be kept on low without having to heat the entire house all of the time.

  1. Lag the pipes

Alongside leaving the central heating on low permanently, lagging the pipes will prevent them freezing.

  1. Check the property when it is empty

If your tenants will be away over Christmas, check the property when they are out. The main cause of a burst pipe is if they have frozen, and if this isn’t noticed early enough, water damage to the fabric of the property could occur due to leaks, causing significant damage.

  1. Seal holes in walls

Wherever a cable or phone line comes through the exterior wall, check to ensure the hole is sufficiently sealed to stop cold air getting in or warm air escaping.

  1. Leave cold taps dripping

If the property will be unoccupied for a period of time, leave at least one cold tap dripping slightly on each floor. Even the slightest of drips can reduce the risk of water freezing significantly inside the pipes, but only leave taps on if you have a cold water storage tank and are not draining down the water system.

  1. Leave cupboard doors open

If the home is going to be empty, it is a good idea to leave any cabinet or cupboard doors open in the kitchen and bathroom, to allow warm air to reach any hidden pipes.

  1. Leave doors open

If your tenants are going away, suggest they leave the doors within the house open, to enable heat to circulate around the property. Also, leaving the loft hatch open will aid this.

  1. Drain the water system

If your tenants will be away for long periods, drain the water system. The water storage tanks (hot and cold) should be drained, as well as the radiators and central heating pipes.

  1. Insulate the overflow pipe from the boiler

Condensing boilers are known for their efficiency, but in the winter, there is a risk of their overflow pipes freezing and causing damage to the property. Avoid this by getting a boiler with a Siphon trap, which releases the water in one amount. Other ways to guard against a frozen overflow pipe is to insulate the pipe or simply shorten it, so there is not as much of the pipe exposed to the outsid.

  1. Check your insurance policy 

Ensure that your landlord insurance covers you for winter-related damage. If there is an emergency that must be repaired before causing further damage to the property, your policy must cover this so that work can be completed as soon as possible. If the home becomes uninhabitable, make sure your policy covers loss of rent so that you don’t miss out on payments.

Happy Christmas!! :):)

3 things to consider before becoming a landlord…

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With demand for rental property continuing to grow and showing no signs of slowing down, now is a great time to step into the world of lettings. But being a landlord isn’t right for everyone, and there are things you must consider before investing in the private rental sector.

If you are not dedicated to renting out property, you could find yourself losing money and gaining a considerable amount of stress. This is why we have put together a list of three key things you must consider before becoming a landlord:

How much experience do I have?

Those with previous experience in the lettings sector will be better equipped at renting out property. However, everyone has to start somewhere right?! All landlords need good communication skills and financial abilities.

What type of landlord do I want to be? 

The property market is extremely diverse, which means that you can choose to rent out whatever type of accommodation you wish. If you are purchasing your first rental property, it is a good ideal to choose a specialty and stick to it until you are ready to branch out into something new. You may decide that you want to let your property to student tenants, or maybe you’d prefer to cater to families with children. The best way to make the right choice is to look at the type of demand in the area you are thinking of investing in.

How can I be financially secure?

Most people who rent out property want to make some money from it. However, if you mismanage your portfolio, you could find yourself losing money or struggling to make ends meet. In order to ensure that you’re a successful landlord, you must budget very seriously and understand all of the outgoings that you must pay for on a regular basis. It is always important to protect your investment with Landlord Insurance, which will help if you have any issues with a tenancy or suffer property damage.

After considering these three things, you might be ready to enter the world of lettings – good luck!

Is condensation a landlord or tenant problem?

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As we head towards winter, condensation and mould caused in residential property can become a bone of contention between landlords & tenants.

In the UK, condensation and mould are a common problem. Rental properties are particularly vulnerable, as many of them are older properties with inadequate heating and ventilation. The problem can vary in severity from a small patch of mould or discoloured wallpaper behind a cupboard in the corner of a room to serious amounts of mould growth across walls, inside wardrobes and on furnishings, carpets and in basements.

Condensation in residential property is caused by warm, moist air generated in areas like kitchens and bathrooms penetrating colder parts of the building. When the air becomes cold, it is unable to hold the extra moisture produced by everyday activities, so some of this moisture appears as small droplets of water – most noticeable on windows or on places where there is little movement of air. If not properly dealt with, this extra ‘dampness’ can lead to mould growth on walls, furniture, window frames and even on clothes.

Condensation can lead to mould, a serious problem for both landlords and tenants because of the health risks associated with mould spores. Mould growth caused by building defects in the rental property are clearly the landlord’s responsibility. It is sometimes caused by inadequacies in the building, but very often the main cause of mould growth is the lifestyle of the occupants – the tenants.

The average tenant will produce condensation through cooking, washing, internal drying, etc. Landlords and agents need to be aware of the potential problems which excessive condensation and mould growth can cause and should take steps to minimise the risks.

We’ve put together some advice that landlords & agents should give tenants to try and keep condensation to a minimum:

  • Dry all windows, windowsills, and any other surfaces that have become wet. Ensure you wring out the cloth thoroughly, do not dry on the radiator!
  • Try to keep the interior temperature of the property at a reasonably constant level
  • If possible, always hang your washing outside. If this is not possible, hang it in the bathroom with the door closed and window slightly open for ventilation. Do not dry washing on radiators as this will add to moisture already in the air.
  • Ensure that all extractor fans are working efficiently. Noisy extractors will encourage tenants leave turned off. (If an extractor cannot hold a postcard to the vent when switched on it is not efficient enough.)
  • If you use a tumble dryer, ensure it is well ventilated to the outside, or that it is the new condensing type.
  • Try to ventilate your kitchen when in use, either by opening a window slightly or using the extractor fan. Try to ventilate both kitchens and bathrooms for at least twenty minutes after use.
  • If your property is prone to condensation then daily use of a de-humidifier unit can be very beneficial. These come in all shapes and sizes, cost very little to run and draw out the excess moisture from the air, helping to keep the condensation under control.

A guide to home security for landlords & tenants

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As a landlord you leave your rental property in the hands of tenants for long periods of time. As a tenant, you are responsible for making sure that your rental property is kept locked up and secure from day to day.

Both landlords and tenants can take simple steps to securing their rental property and we have set out a handy guide below:

1. Check that locks are fully secure 

Check the locks of your rental property to ensure that they’re safe and secure. AS a landlord, if you decide to install new locks, here are some options for you to consider:

  • Mortice locks – A mortice lock fits into the door itself. Five-lever mortice locks are recommended by Secured by Design, which is owned by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
  • Rim locks – These locks, sometimes known as Yale locks, are attached to the back of the door and lock automatically.
  • Multi-point locks – Multi-point locks are held closed by two or more hooks and bolds. They can be harder for burglars to manipulate.
  • Additional security bolts – These bolts make it difficult for doors to be forced open. They’re a popular choice for patio doors.

If the rental property has gates, a shed and a garage, you must also ensure that these have secure locks on them too, as they are prime targets for thieves.

2. Install an alarm

Alarm systems are very effective at deterring burglars. There are many different models available, but the Metropolitan Police recommends a system that meets British Standard 4737/BS EN 50131:

  • Audible only – These alarms set off a loud and unpleasant alarm, which is designed to scare burglars and notify your neighbours.
  • Automatic dialling alarms – An automatic dialling alarm sets of a noise and makes an automated call to the police.
  • Remote signalling alarms – This type of alarm sets off an alarm and sends a message to a monitoring office, which then contacts the police.

3. Fit security lights 

Motion-sensor security lights can also be very effective. A bright light makes it easy to see when someone approaches your property and can make burglars reconsider their break-in attempt. These lights are particularly useful in high-risk areas, such as:

  • Parts of the property that aren’t overlooked by neighbours or visible from the road.
  • Patio doors.
  • Flat roofs.
  • Back doors.

4. Keep keys out of sight

Tenants you need to make sure you keep your keys out of sight, as keys or other valuables can be very tempting to burglars when left by a door or window. Also,  don’t hide spare keys in common spots, such as under a doormat, as these are the first places a burglar will look.

5. Take protective steps when going on holiday 

Tenants, if you’re going away on holiday, liaise with your landlord as there are measures both of you can take to look after the rental property while it is empty. If you’re going away for more than a few days, try to arrange the following:

  • Have a car parked on the drive at all times;
  • Set up a timer for lights and the radio during the evenings.
  • If it’s summer, go to the property to cut the grass or have your tenants ask a neighbour.

Empty homes are a prime target for burglars, but you can deter theft by taking preventative measures and putting certain actions in place.

7 tips to prepare your rental property for the cold!

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As a landlord you should always stay ahead when it comes to property maintenance on your rental property. Adit’s the last bank holiday of the year, use this Monday to make sure that you prepare your property for the autumn to avoid any nasty surprises when the colder weather arrives.

Follow these tips to prepare your property now for the autumn season:

1.Check the heating system 

If your tenants haven’t been using the heating system over the summer months, it is worth ensuring it is in good working order before the weather worsens. Check the system is working by turning the heating on and the thermostat up & give it time to get going. Go around the property and check the radiators to make sure they are all heating as they should, and that there are no leaks or cold patches. You may need to bleed the radiators if there is air in the system. You may also like to book a service for your boiler.

2.Clear the pipes

Clear out your drainpipes and gutters to avoid potential damage. Check them regularly over the next few months to help avoid overflow. Remember that if water runs down the outside of your house, damp could build up inside.

3.Examine the roof 

Carefully examine your roof for any missing, broken or loose tiles. Any storms would make these issues worse, while heavy rain could cause expensive leaks. If there is any bad weather over the autumn, go back to the property to check that the roof is still okay – a loose tile may turn into a much more serious issue if it is not fixed as soon as possible.

4.Prepare the garden

While your tenants may have spent some time looking after the garden over the summer, it is likely that they won’t spend much time out there in the autumn months. Prepare the garden by clearing out any weeds, stray leaves and other debris that you find. It is also wise to move any potted plants, garden furniture or ornaments to safe places out of the wind to avoid chaos in the event of strong winds.

5.Review your property insurance

As a landlord, your rental property is a valuable asset that provides you with essential income. As such, it is vital that you protect it with the best cover available. Check your current landlord insurance – is your provider offering you this much cover?

6.Check your insulation 

Help your tenants save energy and money over the colder months by checking that the loft is adequately insulated and isn’t allowing heat to escape from the property. Ensuring that your tenants’ bills are as low as possible will encourage them to stay in your property for longer and prevent void periods for you. By putting measures in place now, you will not only prepare yourself for autumn.

7.Repair any cracks 

Check the property’s driveway for any cracks, as these are likely to worsen in the colder months and could lead to a tenant injury. Equally, if the property has a chimney, you should check the stack for any cracked cement or split pots. Storms may loosen these breaks and cause expensive damage.

Happy Bank Holiday!

Landlords Beware! We list the most common (and expensive!) insurance claims for buy to let properties…

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Simple Landlords Insurance recently analysed data from 100,000 policies to find the most frequent insurance claims in buy-to-let properties. The data is very insightful, so we thought it would be useful to summarise the most common reasons for rental claims:

1.Water Damage/Burst Pipes

The most common reason, which accounts for a fifth of all insurance claims by landlords!  The two main reason for the damage are someone left the tap running or poor plumbing from other adjacent properties. Frost damage is the main cause of burst during the winter months due to water expanding in pipes.

Average repair cost = £4,500

Average repair time = 66 days

2.Storm Damage

Also quite common is storm damage, with certain features such as conservatories and dormer windows making properties particularly vulnerable to storm damage

Average repair cost = £1,500

Average repair time = 68 days

3.Theft and Break-ins

Unfortunately, these are also common causes for rental claims. The damage caused by thieves forcing their way in was the third most likely reason for a landlord claim, as burglars often smash doors, damage frames, and break windows to gain entry into the property.

Average repair cost = £2,300

Average repair time = 62 days

4.Electrical Fires

Fires caused by electrical damage are the most expensive to repair due to strict regulations for electrical safety. If landlord fail to adhere to these rules, then they can face fines of up to £20,000 and even face the invalidation of their insurance policy. Electrical fires generate the most expensive claims by a country mile!

Average repair cost = £25,000

Average repair time = 141 days

5.Tenant Damage

Also a common claim, although it is often not covered by  landlord insurance. Landlords should find out if their normal policy covers this, or whether they have to take additional protection. Landlords have recently been hit by metal thefts costing over £8,000.

You can download a copy of the Risk Report prepared by Simple Landlords Insurance right here as it provides useful information for your landlords to consider when insuring their rental properties.