The UK’s best-organised private sector landlords should be thinking about Christmas around now – and not just the joy, but also the dangers.
The season of good cheer can be one of the most threatening times of the year for tenants, properties and belongings – warns the country’s largest property franchise, Belvoir.
“It’s a time of year when people are generally at their most relaxed but for professional landlords it can be a time to exercise the greatest caution,” says Adam Rastall, who owns the Belvoir office in West Derby Liverpool.
“The main seasonal problems are weather and crime. But it’s not just tenants and landlords that are affected. The warnings apply right across the board to any home owner or occupier.”
Belvoir’s hazard checklist covers tips for crime prevention as well as coping with the weather.
If any occupier is planning to be away during the Christmas and New Year break there should be a good standard of security in place to protect the empty property. It’s a prime time for opportunist thieves.
According to seasonal crime research the number of thefts rises by 25 per cent in December with police warning not to leave Christmas presents where they are visible from windows and avoid discussing holiday plans on internet social networking sites. Burglar alarms, window locks and any other security features should be in good working order. Interior lamps, with timers, are a good idea too – to make the home look ‘lived in’.
Empty properties are also at risk from the weather at this time of the year, when temperatures fall and the risk of damp increases.
Freezing pipes can cause expensive bursts and severe water damage to the property itself as well as tenant possessions. An average household claim for damage caused by a burst water pipe reaches around £7,000. Damage can be much more extensive if there’s no one at home to raise a fast alarm.
Take precautions by making sure all pipes are adequately insulated and that heating timers are set to come on and off during the day.
In addition, flood damage from storms last December and over the New Year, cost the British insurance industry £1.3 billion with emergency payments of nearly £24 million. The average pay-out for a domestic flooding claim is £50,000. But damage can often be minimized if a friend or landlord is keeping an eye on your home.
Fire can be a higher risk at Christmas, too. Christmas lights, even battery-operated ones, should be switched off or unplugged when there’s no one in a property. And, if fire does break out, all internal doors should be closed to slow down the spread of flames while waiting for firefighters to arrive.
A wise move would be for tenants to inform landlords if they are going to be away and to, perhaps, agree to occasional safety visits.
The time is also good to inspect the property for damage, defects or anything that needs maintenance – especially the roof, windows and guttering. Leaks can be very expensive.
Check the plumbing. Bathrooms and kitchens should be in a good condition. And badly maintained boilers, especially, can be expensive to repair.
Take a look at the electrical wiring too and upgrade it if necessary.
It’s also a sensible time for everyone to check that a proper level of buildings and contents insurance is in place.
And maybe the time is right, too, for landlords to take a good look and see whether the property could benefit from improvement next year. A lick of paint? A visit from the gardener? New furnishings? A new bathroom suite or kitchen perhaps? Or even a moderate extension?
“The autumn run-up to Christmas and New Year is a prime time for solid teamwork by landlords and tenants,” adds Dorian Gonsalves, Managing Director of the 170-branch Belvoir network. “Both have a lot to lose if they are hit by the effects of weather or crime.
“It’s a great time of year but, unfortunately, it’s also a time when most people are busy enjoying themselves and their guards are down. So there’s a lot to gain by landlords flagging up the dangers and working together with tenants to make sure we can escape – or at least minimise – any damage or loss.”
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