Landlord property maintenance: getting your properties ready for spring

Winter is easily the most trying season for landlords, with the harsh temperatures and unpredictable weather causing more problems than at any other time of year. Our landlord insurance claims team sees more claims in December than any other month. By a landslide.

Burst pipes, loose roof tiles, cracked windows and rotten wood are all problems that can reveal themselves over the winter months, and spring is the perfect time to rectify them before they take root and small problems become more serious.

Spring is always a great time to check a property over. Winter weather may have damaged the property, gutters may be blocked with leaves, paths and decking may be slippery, fences may have fallen down – a myriad of small things that need attention, otherwise, the problems can escalate and become that much more expensive to resolve
– Vanessa Warwick, co-founder of Propertytribes.com

Alongside Vanessa, we spoke with a number of property experts to gain their insights into the key issues affecting properties in the spring. We reached out to Policy and Public Affairs Officer at the National Landlords Association, Jake McKey; CEO of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, Kevin Wellman; and verified Watersafe plumber, Colin Stainer, to find out more about the problems and opportunities that spring throws up, and how landlords can get their properties in shape to avoid future issues.

 

Post-winter checks

Once the last remnants of winter have made way for spring, the damage left behind by the season’s storms, frosts and heavy rain may not be immediately obvious. As you set about making sure your home is ready for the spring, a little post-winter check-up should be the first thing on your mind.

 

Check the general condition of the house

The best place to start is with a general inspection of the property. Inspections should be carried out not only before a new tenant’s arrival, but at least every six months. Spring provides the perfect excuse for a decent bi-annual checkup to ensure that everything is in order and that the tenant is looking after your property. Some landlord insurance policies – including our own – will decline to pay out on certain claims if it can’t be proven that the property has been regularly inspected.

An inspection of the general condition includes everything from the security and safety of fixtures and fittings to the functioning of smoke alarms and appliances, and even more superficial things like the overall cleanliness of the property. Dirty windows might not seem like a serious problem, but they do tend to draw the eye, distracting from the kerb appeal of your property, and could be a sign of a more serious issue such as damp in the property. Grime can do lasting damage and affect the performance of your doors and windows, so it is important to take the time to dust the frames and vacuum regularly to reduce potential problems further down the line.

small things like regrouting a bathroom, getting the windows and UPVC fixtures and fittings cleaned, refreshing and redecorating, and doing a garden tidy can set the tenant up nicely for the year ahead, while at the same time ensuring the asset value of the property is maintained
– Vanessa Warwick, co-founder of Propertytribes.com

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Inspect the roof and guttering

Winter brings with it strong winds which can badly affect your roof, exposing tiles and cladding or causing more severe damage. This can lead to leaks, which might cause problems in your attic and could even drip down to the floors below, doing untold damage to your soft furnishings. Without attention, damaged roofing can set the stage for damp problems further down the line and can even lead to mould in first-floor rooms between the wall and the ceiling. So, the roof should be one of your first ports of call during a post-winter inspection.

While you’re up on the roof, don’t forget to inspect the guttering. Strong winds can dislodge even the sturdiest of gutters, and there’s also the chance that debris might have built up, causing a blockage that could result in complications when the April showers begin. If leaves and other debris are left and allowed to dry out in the spring and summer sun, they could even pose a fire risk; dried leaves are the perfect kindling for a rogue spark, after all. Cleaning out the guttering simply involves getting your hands dirty and removing the offending waste, though we would advise caution, particularly if you don’t have a head for heights.

 

Once winter is over, the NLA advises inspecting the roof and guttering, as leaf-laden gutters are one of the main reasons ice dams, icicles and damp form. These can create extra weight for the roof to support and can also melt to form pools of standing water that can cause leaks
– Jake McKey, Policy and Public Affairs Officer at the National Landlords Association

Inspect the wood and watch the cracks

The ravages of winter and the gradual increase in temperatures brought on by spring provide ideal conditions for wood rot. Search the property for areas where any protective paints or seals have come away and treat those areas before they get any worse.

Dampness and mould can also be an issue, particularly in properties close to a body of water or those with basement dwellings. If left unchecked, mould can not only be detrimental to the health of your tenants but can result in serious structural issues.

Cold weather can also result in cracks, particularly on the patio and driveway areas which are more exposed to the elements.

Small hairline cracks are easily treatable with the help of some masonry filler and a caulking gun, and doing so will prevent them from widening into larger problematic crevices.

Finally, check for cracks in the walls, ceilings and brickwork for signs of subsidence. According to our claims data from the last ten years, subsidence has been on the rise, and while dealing with it might be daunting and costly, it’s always better to identify any problems sooner rather than later, before more serious issues involving the foundations of the property emerge.