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Buy to let property inspections – winter checklist

Winter, as Sean Bean so moodily proclaimed in the first episode of Game of Thrones, is coming – and it’s only a matter of time before the traditional shut-down of the entire UK. But before you don your cleats and grit your teeth for yet another three months of the media pretending that a few centimetres of snow is news-worthy, spare a thought for your buy to let property during the cold season.

We know that regular property checks are important at any time of year, but the winter can be particularly brutal, and wear and tear can suddenly become more common and severe. Here we detail a few of the problems that you and your tenant might face this winter, and how best to deal them.

Fuel bills

Fuel companies like to ramp up their charges in the run-up to winter, and 2013 has been no exception, with the ‘Big Six’ (British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE) hitting customers with an average 8% increase for their gas and electricity.

Fuel bills are usually only a direct problem for a landlord if his or her buy to let property is empty, but it’s best to make sure that your property is as energy efficient as possible. For one, it will increase the value of your property. It will also increase its appeal to new tenants – trying to let an empty property during winter can be a nightmare, and the fuel bills are one of the first things a tenant will ask about. (Remember also that your marketing must, by law, include your EPC rating.)

Read this article for ideas on how to make your property more energy efficient.

Damp and mould

If it’s cold, your tenants are rightly going to want to close the windows and put the heating on. This can cause a lot of condensation, however, which can in turn lead to damp and mould problems.

The best way a landlord and tenant can avoid mould is to work as a team. As the landlord, you can ensure that your property’s damp proof course is in good repair and that the property is well-ventilated by extractor fans and window vents (so that the tenants can keep the windows closed). Many of the measures you can take to improve energy efficiency, such as installing insulation and double-glazed windows, also have the added bonus of helping to prevent damp and condensation.

In addition, provide your tenants with an information pack that details measures they can take to prevent mould, such as ventilating the bathroom after a shower and the kitchen during cooking. Dehumidifiers are a worthwhile investment, as is the Kärcher ‘Window Vac’.

For more information on tackling mould problems, give this article a read.


Repairs will crop up at any time of year, but when the mercury is falling to sub-zero levels a broken boiler or a burst pipe becomes a more urgent issue. Your heating and gas appliances should have been checked and serviced as part of your most recent annual gas safety check, but still keep an eye on these during your inspection and ask your tenant if he or she has had any trouble. Also check if any of the radiators need bleeding.

Any repairs that are reported should be dealt with as soon as possible before they worsen, though your tenant should be aware that winter is a busy time of year for handymen and that this, coupled with the added difficulties of ordering parts or making journeys during bad weather, can add a natural delay to any job. Remember that some tenants are reluctant to report repairs for fear of stonewalling or retaliatory eviction, so be sure to make yourself approachable where such issues are concerned.

Storm damage

Whilst the St Jude storm, which hit our shores in late October, might seem small next to some of the meteorological events the rest of the world experiences, it still caused quite a lot of damage in many areas of the UK. As the winds pick up, be sure to check the exterior and the structure of your buy to let property. Loose fencing, guttering and roof tiles, damaged chimneys, blocked drains, even cracked or broken windows – all are problems you will want to address as soon as possible.

For more advice on managing your buy to let property, visit our landlord advice centre.

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Amelia Vargo is an online marketing executive for CT Capital. Amelia writes for Turnkey Mortgages, Turnkey Landlords, TurnKey Bridging, TurnKey Life and Commercial Trust.