Get winter ready - everything you need to protect your property

Winter can be hard on our homes – whether we’re living in them or renting them out. In fact, our claims data shows that claims increase significantly over the winter months.

While this can be worrying for landlords there are a number of preventive measures you can take to secure your property during the harsh winter weather.

Cold or stormy weather can lead to flooding, roof damage and burst pipes, all of which are not ideal for a rental property. There is also an increased risk of fire damage during these months as we begin to light fires and use heaters to warm up our homes.

And the risk of burglary increases, as the long nights embolden would-be thieves, making it easier for them to spot empty properties and enticing them with the opportunity to swipe a few Christmas presents along the way.

To make life easier for you, we’ve rounded up all of our tips and best practice advice to help landlords keep their properties well looked after each winter.

We’ll be looking at how you can protect your property from the unforgiving winter weather as well as how you can improve fire safety in your property, ward off burglars and reduce the risk of burst pipes.

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Get winter ready | everything you need to know to protect your property

 

The importance of securing your property over the festive season

For many people, landlords included, winter and Christmas go hand-in-hand, which is why it’s known colloquially (and fondly) as the ‘festive season’. It is a time where we can snuggle up by the fireplace, spend time with our families and let our guard down a little bit. And thieves know that better than most.

Indeed, whilst you might assume that home break-ins would be at their highest point in the summer, when our windows and doors are typically left open and we’re away for the holidays, our data has found that break-ins peak during the festive period. There was a peak in claims between September 2014 and February 2015, with 11.5 per cent of those claims being for home break-ins. Burglaries typically spike by a third after the clocks go back. This is a time of year, after all, when the average home is packed full of presents and the cover of night starts to descend before many have even got home from work.

The average break-in claim from Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance is over £2,000. Break-ins not only result in damage to your property and the loss of your belongings, but, particularly at this time of year, emotional turmoil and distress that could ruin your Christmas.

That’s why, during the winter, it’s absolutely vital that you secure your property thoroughly for your own safety and peace of mind. But what steps should you be taking to prevent your property and your tenants from falling victim to a break-in, and what tips should you be following yourself and sharing with them when it comes to protecting your property this winter?

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Think like the thief

The vast majority of burglaries that take place over the festive season will be premeditated. If caught, a thief faces a prison sentence of up to 14 years, so it’s not a decision they will take lightly.

Indeed, you are much more likely to be the victim of a ‘career criminal’ than a chancer. And career criminals know what they’re doing.

So, the first thing you’ll want to do when securing your property is to look at it from the point of view of a professional thief.

Judge your property on a ‘risk/reward’ basis and do everything within your power to make your property seem as high-risk as possible to help protect your property from burglary over the festive season. This can be achieved by putting various security measures in place and making the property generally less accessible; it could include installing burglar alarms and automatic lights.

For a more in-depth look into the concept of thinking like a thief to protect your property, check out our guide to securing your property this winter.

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Protecting your property

Of course, while deterrence is important, the other is protection and prevention and that’s where you need to stop thinking like a thief and start thinking like a landlord who is looking after the safety and security of their tenants. You should start by directing your tenants towards our tips for keeping your home safe this festive season and also make sure they are aware of the following:

 

Possessions

Instruct tenants that all of their Christmas presents should be kept out of sight at all times, not only to keep the kids from finding them but also to avoid attracting burglars.  Advise tenants to avoid displaying valuable items in windows and consider providing them with a safe to store their smaller and more valuable possessions (such as jewellery and electronics).

Online shopping has increased in popularity in recent years, which has led to many opportunistic thieves waiting for deliveries to be left outside front doors and in front gardens. Remind tenants that packages outside the property could not only indicate that no one is home, but also present an open invitation to opportunist burglars looking to steal a delivery. Also, remind your tenants that landlord insurance doesn’t cover a tenant’s personal items and that includes Christmas presents! For that, they will need to purchase their own contents insurance.

 

Locks

It should go without saying that all doors and windows should be secured with high-quality locks. Whilst windows are far less likely to be open for long periods of time in the winter, if they are not properly secured then they still represent a problem, with 23 per cent of burglars opting for the window as their preferred point of entry. External properties (sheds, garages and summer houses) should also be secured, as they can be used either to store valuable items or to access the rest of the home. Landlords should always consider changing the locks before a new tenant moves into the property, as previous tenants can often hold on to old keys, which poses a serious security risk. Locks should also be changed if the tenants lose their keys as a security precaution.

Read here for more tips to keeping your property secure this winter.

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Education

When it comes to tenant education, it’s important to strike a balance between being helpful and being a meddling landlord. Be transparent with your tenants and be there for them should they have any questions, also remembering to inform them directly of the security risks posed by the winter. The video below is a perfect introduction to the topic that you should share with all of your tenants in the lead up to the season.

 

 

You should also ensure that your tenants are capable of operating the security and alarm systems installed on your property. Lack of familiarity with equipment can lead to false alarms, cameras being switched off or mishandled and potential security breaches. You should also inform them to keep an eye on the condition of the equipment and let you know if they notice any faults or degradation. We have rounded up top tips to provide your tenants in our advice sheet, ‘How to protect your home from burglary’. For more guidance, view and download our previous advice sheets on our dedicated tenant page.

 

A secure tenant is a happy tenant

Ultimately, securing your property is all about making that property a more daunting prospect for thieves and a safer environment for your tenants. Of course, even if you take the greatest precautions to protect your property from burglary over the festive period, it will never be 100 per cent safe. The more precautions you take, however, the greater the chance you and your tenants will have of experiencing a happy and incident-free Christmas.

No matter how secure your property is, you’ll still need insurance in case the worst should happen. Contact us today for a no-obligation quote.

Landlord FAQs

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Escape of water

Landlord insurance claims have decreased steadily in recent years, but escape of water claims continue to exceed all others year after year. Our 10 Years of Property Claims report revealed that 34 per cent of all claims paid out since 2008 have been for escape of water situations.

Escape of water is the term used by the insurance sector to describe a leak in the home. It is defined as “When water has entered the property by the mains water supply and caused damage” and is comfortably one of the most common home insurance claims

Indeed, there are two and a half times more claims than for the next most common claim – storm damage. This is because even the smallest leak can lead to significant property damage if not spotted and taken care of in due course.

Get winter ready - everything you need to protect your property | Burst pipes

 

Burst pipes

More than three quarters of escape of water claims filed in 2016 related to a burst pipe. This represents a quarter of all claims received by Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance and whilst escape of water has been a stable trend in recent years, with fewer claims every year since 2017, burst pipe claims are still common. 

Burst pipe claims are so common because even a small fracture can release major volumes of water and result in surprisingly heavy claims, with water damage and repair bills that have been known to clock in at over £100,000!

Burst pipes can lead to:-

  • Structural and cosmetic damage to your rental property and neighbouring properties
  • Damage to furniture, fixtures, fittings and appliances
  • Expense and hassle of repair/restoration work and relocation of tenants
  • Stress and inconvenience for landlords, tenants and neighbours
  • Loss of rental income due to a vacant property while repairs are carried out

In the event of a burst pipe, in order to reduce the spread of the damage and the size of the claim, aside from ensuring that tenants know what to do and whom to contact, landlords should also ensure that:-

  1. The water and electricity are shut off and that tenants and guests know how to do so
  2. The building is properly surveyed for potential water damage
  3. Water is contained and furniture and belongings are removed from affected areas
  4. A dehumidifier is used to remove any resultant dampness from the property
  5. Emergency plumbers have been contacted to locate and fix the leak
  6. Evidence of water damage has been collected

Ultimately, the main enemy you’ll be fighting is pipe contraction, which will weaken your pipes and could eventually lead to a rupture. Direct your tenants towards this tenant advice sheet for a quick fix, but for more exhaustive information, check our winter tenant advice page.

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Frozen pipes

In winter, when the temperature drops, there is an increased risk of frozen pipes, which can cause leaks and flooding in your rental property. A burst pipe can be catastrophic, leading to thousands of pounds worth of damage and major inconvenience for you and your tenants.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid frozen pipes in your rental property, lowering the risk of a burst pipe and the devastation that can cause:-

  • Minimise draughts from outdoors by keeping doors and windows closed
  • Insulate pipes and water tanks
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing
  • Inspect your pipes regularly
  • Keep the pipes running regularly, several hours a day
  • Seal and identify any air leaks
  • Advise tenants to keep the heating on for at least 20 minutes every other day during winter

Thawing frozen pipes

If your pipes are frozen, it’s imperative that you’re careful as if a pipe has already burst you could start a flood in your home.

To thaw a frozen pipe, first turn the water off at the stop cock and check to see if any pipes have burst. 

If you have been lucky, turn the faucet on gently to allow a trickle of water to run through the pipes and begin applying heat to the affected section using electric heating pads, space heaters or even hair dryers.

Continue applying heat until the water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area or it is not easily accessible, it’s always a good idea to call in a professional plumber.

Avoiding burst pipes should be your top priority when preparing for winter. To underline this fact and help landlords to stand on their own feet without relying too heavily on their handymen, the video below illustrates how best to avoid burst pipes.