Weather related challenges

28th January 2019 12 min read

During the winter months you may face numerous weather-related challenges at your property, so you need to be aware of your responsibilities as a landlord should these issues arise. This will ensure that you are prepared and can be proactive in helping your tenants solve any problems, which will assist you in maintaining good relations with them.

Recognising and preventing hazards

The winter months mean more than just cold weather and shorter days; winter storms bring snow and ice, and rainfall. Whilst this may be a winter wonderland for some, as a landlord, the build-up of snow and ice at your property poses a real hazard, with the potential for costly liability. Therefore, you need to ensure that you know, and understand, the terms of your tenancy agreement. As a landlord, you could be held responsible for the effects of cold and wet weather at your property. It is also important that both you and your tenants are vigilant in the removal of snow and ice, and proactive in monitoring any flood risk.

To make sure responsibility is clearly established in this situation, your tenancy agreement should include a provision citing the tenants as responsible for any snow and/or ice removal. It is important to be as specific as possible to avoid any unnecessary liability issues or disputes after heavy storms. Slips and falls are by far the
most common injury associated with winter weather conditions.

Remove snow quickly after snowfall, and grit regularly to prevent ice from building up. Winter hazards can also come from above, in the form of icicles or other accumulations of frozen or heavy snow above passageways and property entrances. These can cause
serious injury if they fall on those below, and so need to be removed as soon as possible.

Performing preventative maintenance in the autumn can also ensure that your property is fully prepared. Make sure eaves are properly installed, and check that drainpipes are aimed away from tenant’s access to and from the property. If eaves leak or drainpipes direct water onto pathways or doorsteps, snow or ice that melts in the heat of the day has the potential to freeze and can create a hazard with cooler night-time temperatures.

Reducing your risks

Here are our recommendations for how to appropriately manage flood risk at your property:

  • Complete a flood risk assessment; Miles Smith, in conjunction with Aviva, can provide this flood risk assessment which we suggest you complete annually.
    Click here to access the flood risk assessment

  • Identify high-risk areas in your property, such as bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room etc.; ensure that tenants are aware to keep a close eye on these areas

  • Check your flood defences to ensure they are adequate, and consider upgrading them if necessary. Defences may include:
    – air-brick covers or water guards for openings
    – flood skirts around the building’s perimeter wall
    – flood-proof doors and floorboards

Managing your flood risks

The Environment Agency (EA) estimates that almost 5 million properties in England and Wales are at risk of flooding. In Scotland the number of at-risk properties is around 125,000 and 65,000 in Northern Ireland, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Northern Ireland’s Rivers Agency (RA). These numbers include properties at risk from surface water, rivers and sea. If your property is in an area prone to flooding, make sure you have appropriate insurance and flood defences in place.

The Met Office provides upto-date weather advisories and warns the public of severe or hazardous weather through its National Severe Weather Warning Service. Warnings are colour coded (green, yellow, amber or red) based on the combination of both the likelihood of the severe weather event occurring and the impact the weather conditions may have. If your property is in England, Scotland or Wales, you can also register for free, advanced flood warnings through Floodline Warning Direct at or at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk or at http://www.floodlinescotland.org.uk

Protect your pipes

The heating in your house is vital when the cold winter months strike. Work with your tenants to follow these precautions, and make it through the winter months with ease.

If you have a frozen pipe:

If you suspect one of your pipes might be frozen, turn off your inside stop tap. It might be under the kitchen sink, in an airing cupboard or under floorboards near the front door. It’s best to thaw out pipes slowly by using a hairdryer on its lowest setting, hot water bottles or towels soaked in warm water. Do not use direct heat as this may cause permanent damage to the pipes and could also lead to a fire in the home. Turn on nearby cold taps (keep the stop tap turned off); this will relieve pressure on the frozen pipe.

If you have a burst pipe:

Sometimes pipes freezing and thawing can cause them to burst. If this happens, turn off the mains water supply immediately by using the stop tap. This will stop any more water getting into the water pipes. If the burst pipe is on the main water system the rush of water will stop after a short while. If the rush does not stop or there is still a constant run of water, the problem is probably on the cold-water storage tank which is usually located in the roof space.

To find an accredited and trusted plumber qualified to work with water supplies in your area visit http://www.watersafe.org.uk or call 0333 207 9039.

Cold weather protection checklist

  • Cold weather protection checklist
  • Check your property’s exterior during storms and cold temperature days
  • Remove snow and ice around the building premises, including the pavements, driveway and roof as soon as possible
  • Decide responsibilities for cold weather duties between landlord and tenants. Devise a system of checks to ensure the property is safeguarded from cold weather
  • Ensure outdoor equipment such as barbecues, fire pits, outdoor furniture etc. are put away during winter months as severe weather could damage them

General recommendations for your heating system

  • Check for any damaged piping insulation
  • As temperatures cool, or snow falls, clear ice and snow away from outdoor vents
  • Ensure that you have a back-up heating device
  • Allow warm air into the roof space by keeping the loft hatch open
  • Keep the cupboard door under the sink open. This lets warm air move around the pipes

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