Frozen Pipe Prevention – How to Keep Your Pipes From Freezing
By Sarah Mundy
The winter months can be a worrying time for landlords. As the temperature starts to dip thoughts of damage caused by weather related flooding in rented properties particularly caused by frozen pipes bursting can all to often become a reality.
Burst pipes can become a big financial burden that could have been avoided if both the tenant and landlord had taken some simple precautions to winter proof the property. Damages can and often do run into the thousands. These expenses can be for things such as pipe repair work, collapsed ceilings, soggy carpets, damaged appliances and arranging alternative accommodation for tenants.
The landlord could prevent the risk of burst pipes and flooding by ensuring all pipes are adequately insulated. As well as preventing heat loss, lagging of hot water pipes and tanks can prevent pipes from freezing. Don’t forget to check that overflow pipes are connected correctly and not blocked. Blockages can result in major build ups which can cause burst pipes. Should the tenant wish to leave the property unoccupied for a period of time, they will be expected to keep the heating on low. This maybe a cause of financial concern for a tenant. If you have done all you can to make the property as energy efficient as possible, the tenant is maybe more inclined to follow these instructions as the heat will be kept in the property.
Improvements you may think about would include better insulation. This will keep the property warm and dry, importantly keeping bills low for the tenant and making the property more attractive to let in the future. Lofts should ideally be insulated to a minimum depth of 270mm to prevent heat loss through the roof. Cavity wall and floor insulation should be installed to keep heat inside. Draft proofing the property is also excellent. This can be done by ensuring all gaps between the skirting boards and floorboards are filled and that the windows are double glazed.
Once the landlord has done all they can to ensure the property is winter proof it is essential to remind the tenants of required precautions to be taken to protect the property from the results of freezing. It can be pointed out to the tenants that these precautions could save them from possible costly damage. In a recent case, where adequate precautions were not taken, there was a resultant damage in excess of �20,000 in a property where pipes had frozen and then burst causing extensive flooding. Over the holiday period, many tenants will wish to go away and visit relatives and friends. Should tenants intend to be away from the property for longer than 24 hours during the winter period (December to April), it would be prudent to ask them to observe some simple precautions. For most properties it will be necessary to:
Keep the central heating on a low or normal setting to maintain a temperature of between 55/60 degrees F and leave the trap door to the roof space open; OR
Turn off the water supply, and shut down and drain any central heating boiler and associated pipework. To do this, you will need to ensure the tenants knows how to turn off the water supply at the main stopcock. They would then need to open all taps, hot and cold, to drain water from roof storage tank and pipes. Circulating water central heating systems will also need to be drained (and refilled on return before re-starting).
Should the worst happen and damage is caused to the property, the issue of who will be liable for the cost of repair will become paramount. Should the landlord try to claim that it was the tenants inactions that caused the pipes to burst, they will need to be able to comprehensively show that they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure the tenant knew their responsibilities and that they had received instructions on how to reasonably carry out the precautions required. For instance the tenant should have been shown where the water stop cock is located and how to turn it off. Be given manuals detailing how the heating system works to enable them to control the temperature. It would also be wise for the tenancy agreement to contain a clause obliging the tenant to ensure the heating is left on in the property during cold weather or if the property is left unoccupied for the prevention of burst pipes. The tenant would have a duty to take reasonable care to safeguard the property from damage. It would also be sensible to give notices to the tenant instructing them what to do if they leave the property unoccupied. It maybe wise to send the notice several weeks prior to the winter months and again at the start of the colder period. The notice could also be sent in more than one format, such as a copy in the post and one via e-mail. This will make it harder for the tenant to claim non receipt should a situation arise.
The landlord would also need to have proof of the condition of the property prior to any damage caused. This should preferably be in the form of a professional inventory and schedule of condition, to include clear photographs. The inventory and schedule of condition should be signed and dated by the tenant as proof that they accept that the inventory records a true relection of the condition of the property and its contents.
A further precaution could be taken in the form of landlords insurance. This would hopefully cover the cost of damages in the event of a claim. Whilst you cannot force a tenant to take out insurance it would be prudent to suggest that they look into this option to protect themselves in the event of a claim.
If a claim is made or should a dispute arise over the cost of damage incurred you will need to keep all invoices for works done to repair the property. It would be wise to obtain more than one quote for any repairs. If items need replacing again like for like quotes should be provided.
Cheltenham Lettings Agent for Flats, Houses and Apartments to rent in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
Visit our web site at http://www.brookeshall.co.uk