As we head towards colder weather and freezing conditions, buy-to-let properties are vulnerable to potentially expensive winter damage and Imfuna, developer and provider of digital inventory app Imfuna Let is urging agents and landlords to protect their properties from burst pipes.
Burst pipes are a common problem over the winter period, particularly if a property is left unoccupied for any length of time in freezing conditions. Losses resulting from burst and leaking pipes - including damage to ceilings, walls and carpets - cost an average £4,500 to repair. (*Source: Simple Landlords Solution, April 2016).
A particular burst pipes case from the DPS shows how much damage this can cause to a property and the resulting costs. In this case, the tenant left the property for three weeks over the Christmas period to visit family. The tenant failed to turn off the stopcock for heaters in the property.
During the extreme weather, a pipe froze and then burst, flooding the property. The carpet and lino were extensively damaged and the washing machine was destroyed. Excess water had to be drained from the property, and the property had to be de-humidified. The washing machine had to be replaced.
Howard Lester, Director of Balgores Property Group comments: “Over the years tenancy agreements have become far more than a basic agreement between landlord and tenant with regards to rental payments, how long and when they are due. Nowadays a well-drafted tenancy agreement is essential to clarify many different points.
“Our tenancy agreement has many clauses designed to protect the landlord and one of the most important is indeed the clause which advises tenants of their responsibility to either leave heating on a constant setting at a minimum of 12C, or to have the system fully drained if the property is to be left unoccupied. Additionally, we advise any client with a vacant property that they should also ensure they leave heating on to avoid any possibility of freezing and burst pipes.”
Jax Kneppers, founder and CEO of Imfuna explains: “If landlords and agents take a few simple precautions, they can help protect their properties from burst pipes. For example, it’s a good move to provide the tenant with specific instructions about heating the property in cold periods. Landlords and agents should ensure the tenancy agreement contains a clause outlining the tenant’s obligations to shut off the heating system if the property is vacated in winter.
“It is important to instruct the tenant to inform the agent or landlord if they are vacating the property for more than 14 days in winter (this is also normally included in the tenancy agreement). A detailed check-in inventory with clear photos, signed by the tenant, will also protect landlords in the event of a deposit dispute over damage.
“If a property experiences water damage, landlords and agents should provide a detailed account of any damage caused by burst pipes, for instance by using one of Imfuna's property inspection apps, and keep invoices for any repairs done if the property is damaged. It is essential to take out landlord insurance as a precaution to help cover damages.”
Imfuna has put together some tips to help protect properties:
- Insulation: Ensure water pipes and the water tanks are lagged and insulated
- Heating – Advise tenants to keep their heating on at a minimum of 15C if they are going away. It’s sensible to open the loft hatch also, as this allows air to circulate and helps to prevent pipes freezing and bursting in the loft.
- Boiler servicing – Ensure that gas and oil boilers are serviced every 12 months.
- If the property is to be empty for an extended period it is sensible to have the heating/water system drained down by a qualified contractor.
Although burst pipes are an unfortunate circumstance for both landlords and tenants, a detailed record of a property's condition before and after the pipes burst will make the repair process as quick and pain free as possible. Imfuna's mobile apps, including Imfuna Let, offer an easy way to note a property's condition at the start of a tenancy, as well as a side-by-side comparison report to highlight places where damage has occurred. Simple yet powerful, concise yet comprehensive, embrace the power of digital with Imfuna. A free trial of Imfuna's property inspection apps is available at http://www.imfuna.com/.