How to protect your property against severe winter weather

It’s no surprise that our 10 years of property claims report found that claims are more likely in winter than summer – colder months are harder on homes than warmer ones.

Protecting your rental property against severe weather conditions is about preparedness – taking steps to manage or reduce the likelihood of damage. This will become increasingly important in the future, as the effects of climate change make our weather even more unpredictable and more prone to risks such as floods, storms, heatwaves and heavy snow. 

In this guide, we’ll look at simple steps landlords can take to prevent severe winter weather such as storms, snowstorms, hail and heavy rainfall from causing serious damage to your rental properties. 

 

Storms and hurricanes

The UK’s storms may not be quite as dramatic as those found in ‘hotspots’ like America’s Tornado Alley or the Caribbean. But heavy rainfall and high winds can still cause unwanted damage. In fact, 15.5 per cent of all claims reported between January 2014 and January 2019 were for storm damage. 

The most common hazards associated with storms are roof tiles cracking or breaking, trees falling, flooding and fences collapsing. In fact, 64 per cent of all storm claims made between January 2014 and January 2019 were as a result of roof damage. The average claim value for storm-related roof damage is £2,310.

As a landlord, it is in your best interest to take precautions to protect your property against stormsRoutinely following the steps below once or twice a year will reduce the likelihood of storms causing damage to your property.

  • Clear your gutters, downspouts and drains of leaves, moss and twigs that could create blockages and lead to leaks or overflow into the property
  • Inspect the condition of the roof, replacing any loose, cracked or broken tiles
  • Inspect your chimney for cracks or loose brickwork and make sure it’s fitted with a storm collar, which is a metal ring fitted to the chimney just above the point where it meets the roof to prevent water leaking into your loft
  • Make sure fence panels are secure and garden gates are in good working order and kept closed – though fence panels are usually excluded from coverage. 
  • Consider cutting back low-hanging or loose tree branches which could cause damage in high winds, particularly if they are close to the property or overhanging areas where people may be walking
  • In the event of a storm, advise your tenants to tie outdoor items down and bring loose garden equipment such as picnic tables and lawn furniture indoors

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Cold, snow and ice

Icy or snowy conditions can put an added strain on the roof of your home. Snow can build up as it falls, leading to sagging or structural damage to the roof. As snow melts and refreezes, it can form ice dams at the roof’s edge and in your guttering. Ice dams can prevent water-runoff and lead to water backing up into the house or into the walls, where it can refreeze, causing further damage.

There are a number of steps landlords can take to protect their property against snow and prevent damage from happening:

  • Have a trusted roofing contractor take a look at the roof of your property once a year, if possible. Roofs in good condition should be able to handle snowy or icy weather, whereas roofs in poor condition are more likely to suffer. 
  • Clean out your guttering to ensure that meltwater can flow away 
  • Keep the area around gutters as free from snow as possible to prevent ice dams from forming
  • Encourage tenants to let you know if an abnormal amount of snow builds up on the roof.

Paths and driveways can become icy during cold spells. To prevent your tenants from falling and injuring themselves, you can provide de-icer such as magnesium chloride or rock salt.

Tenants who are provided with an ice shovel may be more likely to keep paths and driveways clear of snow and ice. We recommend providing your tenants with our advice on severe weather, which includes the helpful steps they can take, to reduce the likelihood of damage in the event of severe winter weather.

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Hail

Hail in the UK is rarely large enough to be dangerous. However, our claims data suggests that it is large enough to cause damage to your home. With only 2.8 per cent of our storm claims relating to hail damage, it’s fairly infrequent, but it is the second most expensive claim type. The average claim value for hail related claims is £2,713. 

The key areas of concern for hail are roofs and windows. Investing in quality roof tiles and keeping your roof in good condition should prevent tiles from being knocked loose or cracked by hailstones.

We recommend that you get the roof inspected on an annual basis to help identify these issues.

Similarly, cheap or old windows are more likely to crack by falling hailstones. It’s best to fit your property is fitted with modern, high quality, double glazed windows. In areas where hail storms are more intense, such as the US, homeowners are encouraged to buy impact-resistant windows and keep curtains closed during hailstorms, to prevent smashed glass from blowing into the house. Thankfully, in the UK, our climate is a little less intense.

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Heavy rainfall

Flooding as a result of heavy rainfall, can cause serious damage to a property and its contents. And the government has warned that climate change is likely to lead to increased flooding across the UK in the years to come. 

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to completely protect your property from flooding, especially if you live on a flood plain or in a flood-prone area. But there are steps that landlords can take to reduce the likelihood of water getting in, or the damage that it can cause once inside:

  • Waterproof air brick covers can be fitted over your air bricks to prevent water from getting into your walls from street level
  • ‘Check valves’ or non-return valves can be fitted in your plumbing to prevent water from backing up into the home when groundwater levels rise
  • Raising electrical sockets can prevent floodwater from short-circuiting your power supply
  • Plastic, waterproof or varnished doors and skirting boards are less likely to need replacing in the event of flooding
  • Tiled or plastic flooring with rugs that are easy to roll up and store is preferable to fitted carpets or wooden floorboards
  • Shelving and wall-mounts for appliances such as TVs can reduce the risk of belongings getting damaged by floodwater

It may sound extreme, but we advise that you provide tenants renting a property in areas that regularly flood, with a supply of sandbags to help prevent water entering through the front or back door.

Every property is different and no one knows your property better than you do. We suggest that you provide your tenants with guidance on the steps they can take to prevent damage to the property in the event of severe weather. 

 

Can you think of anything that we’ve missed?

How do you stop your property falling foul of winter weather? If you’ve got any tips that we’ve not mentioned, we’d love to hear them

Make sure you’re covered for any winter-related incidents with our landlord insurance.

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Download your free copy of our 'How to protect your property against severe winter weather' guide