The landlords guide to protecting your property against snow and ice

When winter comes around, the action that needs to be taken to keep a home in working order can alter drastically and with the extremities of snowfall always changing, it is essential for any property owner to be one step ahead of the game.

It might be the case that experienced landlords are safe in the knowledge they have seen it all before and know all the protective measures available to them, but with ever-changing tenancy laws and the worry that an unprecedented level of snowfall could be just around the corner, there is no excuse for not keeping up to date.

Luckily, there is plenty of help out there to offer guidelines on how to keep your property safe and functional during times of extreme weather. With that in mind, below are some pointers on how best to deal with the weather once sub-zero temperatures arrive.

Combating frozen pipes

One of the biggest inconveniences during the coldest time of the year is frozen pipes. This prevents water from draining properly and backs up the whole of the building's utility system.

In the event that pipes freeze, the best course of action is to turn off the water supply at the premises. Protection against frozen pipes is something that is ultimately the responsibility of the homeowner, but in order to ensure that the correct steps are taken before it is too late, there needs to be a certain level of communication between landlords and tenants at rented properties.

To switch off the water at the mains when temperatures get cold, the tenant must be aware of where their stopcock is located and be given the appropriate guidance on how to fit and use it. This is the tap-like control that acts as a master switch for a property's water mains. Landlords themselves must be fully aware of how it is used, but in the event of an emergency it might not be possible for them to get to the premises before it is too late. In such a situation the tenant will have to solve the problem.

However, if they have not been taught how to use it or do not have the required equipment available to them, it is the landlord who is liable for any damage.

Check insulation

Even in the midst of the most extreme blizzard, if pipes have been kitted out with the right type of insulation, they should be able to make it through without freezing. This comes in the form of a foam or rubber tube that is placed around the pipe.

However, these need to be checked by the landlord on a regular basis and replaced if they are found to be substandard. It is common for insulation to gradually erode or rot after it has been fitted for a long time, so it is important to notice the signs at the earliest possible opportunity.

Don't ignore ice dams

Ice dams can be one of the biggest threats to a property's long-term state during times of snowfall. When a large amount of moisture falls onto a property's roof within a short space of time, it could freeze and create a large build-up.

This process will likely continue to gather pace as more snow falls onto the roof. However, when the temperature starts to rise again, it will no longer be cold enough for this build-up to stay stuck and eventually it will fall, possibly leaking through the roof. This can cause severe damage to the property and may also be a health risk, for example if asthmatics have trouble breathing when there is damp present.

Don't let snow build up on roofs

This poses a major health and safety risk both to the property's residents and anyone who might happen to be walking past.

If any of these parties sustain an injury because of ice or snow that falls from a roof and should have been removed, the landlord could face serious legal action. It should also be borne in mind that climbing to the roof of a property during cold weather could be a major safety risk, so if there is any doubt, it is best to hire a qualified contractor to rectify the problem.

Prepare early

The problem can often be that protection against the most extreme cold weather only comes to the mind of landlords once the risk has already arrived - and by this time it is very difficult to put an appropriate contingency in place.

Protection against snow and ice must be a philosophy that is implemented by property owners on an on-going basis, rather than an afterthought that is ignored outside of the winter months. This will ultimately involve regular checks every time you visit a property and detailed briefings with tenants to ensure that both parties are fully aware of the protocol if any problems do indeed arise.

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