It’s getting further into the year and the weather is changing quickly. Shorter days are with us and we are waking up to frosty mornings. The arctic breeze and icy weather are coming, and all of us need to be prepared. Winter weather brings potential hazards that could impact the property you are managing or if you’re a resident leaseholder, ensuring you are doing as much in your power to keep safe and warm within your home too. Freezing pipes cause mayhem, black ice is a disaster waiting to happen, and when it comes to feeling safe, the lighting when it’s dark needs to be considered and managed.
It is important to prepare and make sure the property is winter proof before the worst of it comes. LMP Law advises that checks should be done every year for maximum protection. We’ve outlined some things that you need to consider helping protect the property through the winter weather.
PROPERTY MANAGERS’ CHECKLIST FOR WINTER WEATHER:
Last year’s winter, when it came to managing and maintaining homes, was definitely a tricky one because of Covid19. We all know it was tough on PMs to try and get contractors out whilst looking after tenants and their needs too. It was a really stressful time for everyone.
This winter, we’ve seen a big change in just a year and although we need to be vigilant about Covid, we are all in a much better place.
I’m going to jump straight into our top tips for managing tenants and for tenants to equally manage themselves. Preparation is often key, because it’s when there’s no thought or strategy put in place the team and I here at LMP Law tend to see the disputes rolling, or worries over Major Works and lack of Reserve Funds etc. We literally are on the end of a phone, so please call us 0115 7841614 – this is our area of expertise.
The list we will go through below are:
- Roofs and guttering
- Pipe maintenance
- Door locks
- Black ice and walkways
- Lighting (external, internal and emergency)
- Boiler checks
- Pest control
- Major works and Reserve Funds
- Emergency Contacts
ROOFS AND GUTTERING
Wind, storms and rain cause havoc don’t they? Having loose tiles on the roof is highly dangerous, especially in the colder weather as strong wind could blow them off or you could face leaking that can affect your interiors. Top flats often get hit first and those in the eaves are often challenged! It’s best if you get any loose tiles checked out before it gets too late and into the depths of winter.
Checking your gutter can prevent water damage so this is an essential task to complete. Having a blocked gutter can be caused by the left-over autumn leaves that have settled in your gutter and are now causing water damage. Moss is often overlooked, but when it gets waterlogged, this then has an impact on the roof retaining water, the frost then causes further damage. Getting your gutter cleaned may be all you need to do to make sure that you are free from this risk.
Ultimately, when it comes to roof and guttering care, always be wary of water damage and in the case of snow, we all know that extra pressure is put on roofs which is when loose tiles are at their worst.
If you are working towards Major Works on the roof, we would always say unsafe roofs can cause expensive structural damage, and although we know roofs are rarely neglected, when they are it can cause huge expense, so please check your reserve funds before a nightmare Christmas Eve fiasco!
One of the most common issues with winter weather is the pipes freezing. When the water freezes it can cause the pipes to expand and then in some cases burst which can be difficult to fix.
To prevent this from happening check the pipes and make sure that they are well insulated, and that the boiler is serviced. If there are any cracks in the pipes then these need to be fixed before the weather gets cold and it turns into an emergency.
It goes without saying that regular maintenance water systems will hopefully ensure that any problems are lessened. As our parents did, insulate all water tanks and pipes in unheated areas like lofts, roof spaces and basements! Do check with your contractors that they are checking everything when it comes to pipes, leaks and water supplies.
Not many property managers take into consideration the locks that can freeze when it turns cold. Obviously, this can be a huge problem for your tenants who can get locked out of the property. To prevent this there are sprays available to buy that prevent sticking. It might be worth getting your hands on some of these sprays to avoid any late-night calls from your tenants complaining that they are locked out of their property in the freezing cold!
BLACK ICE AND WALKWAYS
As you know black ice is really treacherous and almost impossible to see, especially in the dark! It can cause serious injuries when walking plus if your block of flats has parking, then black ice can be extremely dangerous if driven over. Preparation is key, so being vigilant with the forecast and ensuring grit and salt is to hand.
When the temperature drops, have plenty of salt or sand on hand to spread on the area where the ice is, and you can also shovel it with an ice pick to remove it off the ground. Sounds crazy, but cat litter is great! If your lease allows cats of course…!
As a PM ensure you send an email to your tenants warning of the dip in conditions about to come, put cones and/or tape out so residents have full warning that there is dangerous ice they need to avoid. You may have a grit bank, so do make sure it’s full in preparation.
During the winter months there is hardly any daylight which can make any of us feel vulnerable. Looking for ways to improve the lighting around the property that you are managing will help to protect your residents and make the area more secure, which in turn is great for overall pricing of your block of flats and the better the management, the more the service charges.
Is there a car park? How old is the building? How are the lights controlled? If you have a checklist, and know if you are managing new developments, then the lighting systems are probably under the new systems (normally external lighting is controlled via light level sensors), but older builds often have external lighting controlled by a timer clock located within the electricity cupboard in the communal areas. With the UK clock changes in March and October you must attend these clocks to ensure they are aligned.
INTERNAL COMMUNAL LIGHTING
Property Management, as a general rule of thumb, has a high turnover of staff, because the demands and regulations are intense, but the job is also extremely rewarding. There is so much to be aware of however when starting out managing blocks of flats, including the vast ways of understanding how internal lights work! Quite old builds can be hard-wired and lighting is on 24 hours a day! Ask questions all the time and meet up with your contractors and communicate regularly with all parties.
Has your block got “movement activated light switches”? Sold as energy saving when it comes to consumption, which is great for the environment, however because of wear and tear they seem to be non-cost-effective as they require early replacements. Something that needs checking quite a lot, and especially in the darker months.
Maybe your block has movement sensors whereby an infrared light switch is located in various spots such as passageways and staircases. Find out and don’t get caught out, especially when it’s the holidays and your colleagues are off and contractors don’t answer their phones.
Your apartment block will have back up lighting in the event of a power cut. Do you know where the generators or back up are, and when they kick in and how often the battery is charged and maintained? If you are a resident and are unsure of how you could check, why not ask your management company, they are there to not only manage your block but to advise you too.
You don’t want your tenant’s heating system to fail in the peak of winter, so you need to check it is in good working condition before it’s too late. If the weather drops dramatically then their boiler is at risk of freezing leaving your tenants with no heating or hot water.
There are some ways that you can avoid this:
Why not ask your tenants to run their heating on a low heat regularly so it is constantly staying warm. It is worth setting the heating to come on at certain times in the day or run it constantly so that it prevents damp and keeps the boiler healthy. There are many of us still working from home and the heating bills were high last year! Some of us are back to the office or place of work, but others are still at home. It’s the homes that will be empty during the day that might need the “constant” low heating on.
Maybe do an email to all your residents asking them if their boilers are up to date with their services, and if they aren’t sure maybe give them a few trusted professional boiler service numbers in the local area.
Does their lease say that their boilers must be serviced once a year by a registered engineer?
The cold weather can attract unwanted pests like rats and mice who are looking for a nice warm place to stay until the cold passes. These unwanted visitors can be stopped by looking for any cracks or holes around the exterior of the property that they can sneak into. If there are any holes then these need to be fixed as soon as possible keeping them properly sealed.
If there are any holes that your tenants have mentioned inside the property then these need to be sealed too, in case of any pests hiding out in them.
MAJOR WORKS AND RESERVE FUNDS
If you are involved in block management, LMP Law would advise you to ensure you have your reserve funds intact. Nothing like a Christmas Eve property disaster to throw management into a frenzy, so we’d urge you to get in touch with us so that we can help with forward planning and understanding how to recover costs.
What happens if your reserve fund is empty and you know that you cannot ask your leaseholders for more money? Does the lease allow more borrowing? Whilst we’re on the subject of Major Works, please don’t forget Section 20 Notice!
Provide your tenants with a list of emergency contacts just in case there are issues that you haven’t considered. Include contact information of plumbers, electrician, locksmith, tree surgeon and your contact information if they need to let you know of an emergency.
This also shows your tenants that you are taking their safety seriously and putting in extra measures to keep them safe through the colder months.
These are a few ways in which you can manage a property in the winter weather. It takes a bit of work to keep everything safe and protected from the weather but it’s worth it.
If you have any questions or want some more advice about how you can manage a property in winter then feel free to get in touch with any questions, or to discuss the matter of reserve funds and major works the team and I at LMP Law are very approachable and down to earth!