Storm Emma: how to protect your tenants and homes
Winds of up to 90mph are wreaking havoc, with parts of the UK expecting up to 50cm of snow as Storm Emma sweeps through the country.
The Met Office has 11 live severe weather warnings for snow, ice and wind in place with the final warning remaining until 11.55pm on Monday.
So what can you do to protect your tenants?
Boilers and heating
Landlords must make sure that their tenants know how the boiler works, where the stopcock is and how to change the thermostat.
Tenants should be encouraged to leave the heating on a timer or a low setting if they are leaving the property empty for a few days, to ensure that pipes do not freeze.
It is also a good idea to give tenants a list of helpful contact numbers just in case of an emergency
British Gas has told customers it is prioritising ‘emergencies and vulnerable customers’ only and has advised people to only call in an emergency.
However one of the most common causes of boiler breakdown is a frozen condensate pipe.
In cold weather the pipe that takes waste water from the back of the condensing boiler – which isn’t there in a normal boiler – freezes solid, shutting down the system.
You can thaw out the pipe yourself quite simply, however you should be careful to start at the end closest to the drain.
British Gas advises you to:
- Hold a hot water bottle, or heat wrap, around the pipe.
- Pour hot, not boiling, water over the frozen end of the pipe with a watering can, jug or kettle.
- If you think the pipe is unfrozen, try switching on the boiler again. You might need to reset it.
- If the boiler fires up, it’s fixed. If it doesn’t then pour hot water on the pipe again.
- If your boiler pipes are still frozen, call an engineer.
Flying debris could lead to injuries or danger to life and buildings could be damaged as conditions worsen.
You should ideally visit the property to inspect it if you can, or contact the tenant to ask if there are any problems issues such as loose or missing tiles and broken guttering.
Dealing with these now may help avoid long term expensive repairs if the weather worsens.
Make sure wheelie bins and garden furniture – indeed anything that can blow around and cause damage – is either secured or packed away.
Cold weather can be a nightmare for vulnerable tenants – be it the elderly, those with health problems, the disabled and those on lower incomes who are worried about fuel bills.
As well as the general advice detailed above, it is also worth checking that tenants are claiming all the benefits they are entitled to. £100 and £300 tax-free is available to help elderly people pay heating bills if they were born on or before July 5, 1953.
It may also be worth asking a neighbour to keep an eye out for vulnerable tenants during the winter months.
If you are worried about an elderly tenant contact the Age UK helpline on 0800 1692081.
Any structural damage to properties will need to be paid for through home insurance claims.
Many firms will have 24-hour home emergency helplines that landlords and homeowners can call for advice on how to get repairs sorted as quickly as possible.
Landlords are advised to take photographs of the damage and note down the time it took place so that insurers can tally this up with weather reports.
Once the storm has passed it is a good idea to check up on all properties – including checks on guttering, roofs and fences for any structural damage that might put tenants at risk.
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