Britain is braced for the ‘worst winter in decades’ with the first major snowfall expected in weeks. Forecasters have warned the entire country is set for a horror freeze which will bring brutal winds and fierce blizzards.
Many tenants will be hoping to save money on heating in the face of escalating energy bills, by turning off their heating when they go away for a few days to visit family or friends. The AIIC (The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks) is urging agents and landlords to be vigilant about checking their properties are safe from potential water and fire damage.
Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC comments: “The risk of property damage increases in the winter with flooding and fire. Water damage from frozen pipes can be devastating to a property. For example, an eight-inch crack in a pipe can spew up to 250 gallons of water in a day. It's not just the aggravation and cost of fixing the pipe itself, it is the damage the burst pipe does to the rest of a property. Walls, ceilings, floors and personal possessions stored in the basement or crawl space can all be ruined.
“Last winter a group of tenants went off on three week holiday over one of the coldest periods of the year. They turned off all the heating and hot water, not wanting to pay for wasted electricity bills while they were away. Unfortunately they didn’t think to tell their landlord or letting agent that the property was to be empty for such a long period, when they returned they found both the kitchen and lounge ceilings had come down and the ground floor of the house was flooded. Frozen pipes has burst with spectacular results. Negligence such as this can also negate the landlord’s insurance policy which will cost both landlord and tenants thousands of pounds.
“Fire risk is also greater in the winter with open fires, candles and Christmas lights. With the days growing darker and winter setting in, a few candles scattered round the room can lend a warm glow to an evening in or add some festive cheer to the season’s celebrations such as Guy Fawkes’ night, Eid and Christmas.
“However, the sad facts are that over fifty fires are started by candles every day and that that tenants are seven times more likely to have a fire in their home. It is essential that smoke alarms are fitted and are working properly.”
AIIC has put together some winter guidelines for agents and landlords to protect their property:
• Chimneys – Ensure they are swept once a year by a professional chimney sweep, ideally before the tenant starts using the fire
• Smoke Alarms – Check that smoke alarms are fitted in all properties and that they are all working properly. Replace batteries as necessary.
• Insulation: Ensure water pipes and the water tanks are lagged and insulated
• Heating – Advise tenants to keep their heating on if they are going away – on a minimum of 15 degrees. It’s sensible to open the loft hatch also, this allows air to circulate and helps to prevent pipes freezing and bursting in the loft.
• Boiler servicing – Ensure that gas and oil boilers are serviced every 12 months
• If the property is to be empty for an extended period it is sensible to have the heating/water system drained down by a qualified contractor.