With a series of storms raining chaos down on the whole of the UK, it is fair to say that this winter has been one that we are all keen to see the back of.
With heavy rain and high winds tearing through the country, there are very few properties that have escaped entirely unscathed – with some unfortunate homes being hit not once, but twice with severe flood damage.
As we cross our fingers that Storms Ciara and Dennis are beating a retreat, is there anything we should be doing to brace our properties against the worst of the weather?
Is dealing with storm damage my problem as a landlord?
Yes. As a landlord, under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, you have a responsibility for the repair and maintenance of your properties structure and interior.
Unless you have been unlucky enough to have been in the worst-effected areas and been victim of severe flooding, it is likely that the majority of the weather-related damage will be to the exterior of your property. You have a responsibility to ensure that the property is safe and secure for your tenants, and that includes the maintenance of:
- External walls
- Drains and exterior pipes
- Guttering and water collection
If the wintery weather has caused damage that is not causing an immediate risk to your tenant, rather it is of a cosmetic nature, you do not have to repair immediately, however, do bear in mind that some issues can be worse than they first appear…
For example, if blustery winds have dislodged some tiles from a porch, there is unlikely to be an immediate risk to your tenant, but the subsequent risk to the property if left unattended can be internal leaks and troublesome mould. It is usually in your best interest to manage maintenance issues like this as soon as they arise.
It can be tempting, when looking at the weather forecast and seeing storm after storm rolling in to leave maintenance until the weather is brighter, but do look at the bigger picture – don’t let a small job turn in to a costly and time-consuming repair!
Do my tenants have any responsibilities?
When your tenant moves into a property, the property becomes their home, and they have a right to live in it undisturbed. However, you own the bricks and mortar and must maintain them, so they have a responsibility to keep you informed of any issues that arise in order for you to do this.
Your tenants are the only people who can give you a clear overview of exactly when is going on inside your property during bad weather, so it is a good idea to touch base with them and make sure everything is as it should be. A quick text or email checking all is well can be enough to prompt them to mention a broken fence or slipped tile, and allow you to action maintenance as quickly as possible – the faster you catch a problem, the easier it is to solve!
Which areas should I be keeping an eye on in the terrible weather?
Whilst it is certainly tempting to hide inside and curl up with a cuppa, braving the elements (only if it is safe to do so) and having a walk around your property to see how it is weathering the storm, can be a very useful exercise.
There are certain areas that are far more susceptible to weather damage than others, so it is worth keeping a close eye on them if the weather gets particularly unpleasant.
If caught early, roofing issues needn’t send your budget sky high. If you or your tenant notice any bowing/misshaping of the top of the roof line, or slipping/movement of tiles, it is a good idea to get a professional in to check out the roof and loft joists. Long term leaks caused by tiles slipping in high winds can weaken the joists in your roof, and if left un-treated end up causing a pricey problem.
With high winds and lashing rain, exterior walls really take a battering in bad weather. If your property has any cracks or damage to brickwork, water can find its way in easily, which can lead to a whole host of damp and mould related issues – you can read more here.
Whilst you’re unlikely to want to be carrying out any major exterior works whilst the weather is still bad, it is wise to be aware of any potential problems so you can be on top of your maintenance as soon as the sun starts shining again (soon, hopefully)!
One of the key culprits for causing water ingress in walls, and damp problems internally, is dodgy guttering. It’s fair to say that with the amount of rain we’ve experienced, our gutters have been working overtime recently. With leaves and debris flying around in windy conditions, it doesn’t take much to block a guttering system, and once blocked, even the lightest rainfall can cause a soggy overflow.
A flapping fence can be a real hazard, and if your fence has taken the brunt of a gale it is important to get it fixed, for the safety of your tenants and their neighbours. This may not be safe to do whilst the weather is still bad, but it is wise to secure the damaged section, or remove it completely (speak to the neighbours about this first) so that there is no risk that a ‘drunk’ panel can cause damage to property, or cause injury.
How can I prepare my property for the winter weather?
Whilst we can’t change the weather, there is plenty you can do to make sure your property is as well prepared as possible to stay safe in a storm. There are a few simple tasks you can ask your tenants to carry out too, so between you, all bases should be covered.
- Check for loose roof tiles/bowing and repair
- Ensure drains and gutters are free of blockages
- Repair wobbly fences
- Check walls for cracks or holes and repair where necessary
- Prune trees/vegetation near to the property
- Secure windows and doors
- Park cars away from trees – ideally in a garage wherever possible
- Move outside furniture or movable objects into a garden shed or inside
What do I do if my property suffers damage that I can’t fix?
Should the worst happen, the first thing to ascertain is that your tenants are safe, and if they can remain in the property. Their safety is paramount, and you need to make sure that there is no danger to them. If they cannot remain in the property, it is a good idea to work with them to come to an alternative arrangement. Most insurance policies will cover you for alternative accommodation for your tenants if the property is not habitable, check your individual policy – however don’t be surprised if your tenant would prefer to stay with friends or family than in a hotel!
Once this has been clarified, you will need to contact your insurance company and let them know about the incident straight away – do be aware that there is likely to be a bit of a wait for this, you probably will not be the only person in the area trying to make contact after a big storm!
You may need to arrange to have emergency repairs carried out straight away. If this is the case, make sure you keep detailed records of everything that is done and spent by you and your tenant, including quotes and receipts, which you will need if you need to make an insurance claim.
Managing damage to your property can be a real headache, and when the storm is raging on, it can be the last thing you feel like tackling. The alternative is to explore Howsy Protect, a management plan that offers full protection for you and your tenants.
From just £90 a month, the Howsy Protect team are on hand to swoop into action should disaster strike. We are always available to manage a home emergency, from roof damage due to a fallen tree, to complete failure of the gas, electric or heating system, and we’ll even cover the cost of alternative accommodation for your tenants if your property is deemed unsafe.