Insights and Opinions Sandy Bastin 30/11/2021

Winter warming tips to keep your property protected throughout the season

Head of TDS Adjudication Services, Sandy Bastin, shares some key pieces of advice when it comes to keeping properties protected throughout the season.

With temperatures dropping and the MET office predicting we can expect 'wintry conditions, especially across the north' in the next coming weeks, it looks like the cold weather has arrived. Taking care of our properties to ensure they're prepared for the weather change is essential for both landlords and tenants; our handy winter checklist here might be helpful. With cold weather in mind, TDS has put together four winter-related tips to help reduce the risk of damage to property as we enter the colder months.

Be clear on who is responsible for what

Whose job is it to remove leaves from the gutter? Or bleed the radiators? Covering off the maintenance of the fixtures and fittings in your rental property within the tenancy agreement is the first step to ensure all potential danger zones are being looked after. Check through the tenancy agreement again to familiarise yourself with whose obligations are whose before they get missed this winter. The property should have been handed over in a clean, safe condition with any issues already noted, and should your tenant not uphold their part of the contract, ensure there is a deposit use clause in the tenancy agreement that allows deductions to be made from the deposit.

Make a winter inspection (if the tenancy agreement allows)

Even in the most well-kept properties, the cooler temperatures can cause issues for landlords, so an inspection of the property around this time is the best approach to identify any areas of concern. We often see cases where problems have arisen that are not the responsibility of the tenant, however, they are still obligated to notify the landlord of these issues.  By carrying out an inspection, you may be alerted to issues that will enable repairs to be undertaken to avoid further damage, or avoid the problem altogether.  If you intend to carry out a check, it is important to ensure your tenancy agreement contains a clause that allows for periodic inspections to be carried out, providing appropriate notice is given. If you cannot do the inspection or checks yourself, you could ask your agent or contractor instead. Although you may have asked the tenant(s) to notify you of any problems, there may be certain issues that a tenant may not pick up on, but an agent or contractor may have more experience to spot these and prevent further maintenance needs.

Check the heating and insulation is robust

Landlords should check that properties are adequately insulated and heated; firstly, a regularly serviced boiler is more environmentally friendly, and far less costly than calling out an engineer at short notice for preventable reasons.  Help to keep the pipes frost-free by wrapping them in lagging, an inexpensive and easy way to prevent pipes from freezing as well as avoiding blockages and burst pipes.  Preventative measures such as emptying and draining the water from the external pipes and ensuring there is sufficient insulation for known problem areas. If you have a particularly cold property, check for draughts around the usual areas such as the letterbox, under doors, and window frames. Simply purchasing a draught excluder for doorways or a rug for the wooden floors can be beneficial in keeping the cold at bay. Tenants should be advised how to heat the home correctly, so that even if the property is left vacant, it should still be heated to keep the home protected. Finally, check the loft insulation. Is it effective? Does it need replacing? A record of a winter check (if made) and information provided to tenants advising on precautions to prevent any possible freeze-up issues will help tenants understand their responsibilities and keep the property safe over winter.

Don’t forget the outside space

With outside areas not being utilised as much – if at all – during the winter, gardens and outside areas can easily get forgotten and become neglected. However, it is important to check outside for areas of concern. Garden disputes are a regular cause of disagreement between parties at the end of the tenancy, so ensure your tenants are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to maintaining the garden.  In winter, gardens may encounter a gathering of fallen leaves that need to be cleared to avoid blocked drains. The outside space should be checked for overhanging branches that could cause damage to guttering, roofs or windows in the event of high winds or snowfall. If the property is vacant, landlords could consider replanting ready for the spring or cutting back unruly plants and cleaning up any leftover debris to prepare for reletting the property. Having a clear clause in the tenancy agreement setting out responsibilities, such as raking leaves, cutting grass, or trimming hedges will help reduce these disputes.

Advice for landlords

The running theme here is all about catching the problem before it starts. Capture a good level of detail at check-in and check-out and this will provide the evidence you need to support a dispute claim, should you need to claim for damages.

In fact, in many instances, the process of simply showing the tenant this evidence (before it comes to TDS) when you propose the initial deposit deduction, can be enough to avoid a dispute claim entirely. TDS recommends using the Deposit Deductions Template to demonstrate to the tenant the reasons for deduction.

Landlords can find further interesting case studies, tools and templates in the TDS Information Lounge, all designed to help reduce deposit disputes and make life for landlords easier. Visit the TDS Information Lounge

Some of these resources are only available to landlords who use the free deposit protection scheme at TDS Custodial or the insured scheme at TDS Insured. You can access all templates, tools and the full tenancy deposit management dashboard by joining TDS.

It’s quick and easy, and NRLA members receive extra discounts on TDS Insured too!

Join today

Sandy Bastin

Sandy Bastin Head of TDS Adjudication Services

Sandy Bastin is a qualified solicitor with many years’ experience practising and specialising in real estate, Sandy joined Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) in 2008 and is now Head of TDS Adjudication Services. Sandy is responsible for recruiting and training TDS adjudicators, providing continued support and mentoring to include quality assurance activity to ensure the high standards expected from TDS adjudication decisions are met.

See all articles by Sandy Bastin