As we prepare for the cold, wet, and windy weather, it’s important to make sure your home is prepared too.
Winter is prime time for maintenance issues to appear in properties which may have gone unnoticed during the warmer months. And unfortunately, property damage in the winter can occur from anything from severe storms, heavy rainfall, hail, to freezing temperatures.
Although you can’t control the weather, some proactive maintenance can help when preparing your home for winter to reduce the risk of your investment suffering.
So, grab a mug of hot chocolate, sit under your warmest blanket, and check off the steps of what you can do to make your rental snug this winter.
1. Make sure your rental is properly insulated
A great place to start when preparing your home for winter is by making sure your property is adequately insulated – and you can begin by checking the windows. You might be surprised to hear that up to 40% of heating can be lost through windows (and up to 87% of heat gained).
While insulating your property may be costly, it can help you secure a better weekly rent from tenants who’ll ultimately be saving on utility bills. You’ll also help prevent damp air from entering your property.
But don’t worry if your budget is limited - you can regain some of that lost heat and minimise drafts by replacing or adding worn weather stripping around all windows and doors.
By equipping your property with proper insulation, you’ll also enhance your tenants’ renting experience during those chillier months and be able to land yourself happy, long-term tenants.
Tip: Proper insulation around pipes will also help prevent them from freezing in those sub-zero temperatures.
2. Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Unfortunately, winter is the time when most house fires occur. And every year, there are more than 1000 house fires in Australia alone.
It’s the time of year we’re staying inside with the fire on, blasting the furnace, and keeping our electric blankets on - all things that can fault and start a fire.
Your tenants will need to be vigilant of course (like not leaving lit candles unattended), but there are a few things you can also do to help reduce the risk of a fire at your rental:
- Ensure an adequate number of smoke alarms are correctly positioned and installed throughout the property
- Always test the smoke alarms during inspections to make sure they are working, up to date, and have good batteries
- Service gas heaters every 2 years by a licenced gas fitter
- Check electric heaters for any damage such as rusted reflectors or power cord damage
- If you have a fireplace, make sure the chimney is clean and not blocked
3. Service your air conditioning units
Before your tenants move in and crank up the heating in your home this winter, you should make a point to have any air conditioning units serviced.
Generally, it is a time when they are not used as frequently which gives time for them to be professionally cleaned to remove the build-up of dust, mould, or allergens. It is also a good time to get your heating system checked to avoid having to wait for repairs in the middle of winter.
Air conditioning maintenance should cost between $125-$127 per hour, but you can refer to our property maintenance price list for a broader overview of what the most common repairs and services should cost.
4. Ensure your property has adequate ventilation
The next step when preparing your home for winter is to have adequate ventilation. It’s extremely important as the most common cause of indoor mould is moisture; and warm, damp rooms such as the bathroom or laundry are particularly prone to mould, especially in winter.
The best way to tackle this is to ensure there’s adequate ventilation available.
All rooms in your rental property should have openings to allow air flow to prevent the build up of moisture. And bathrooms and laundries can still have the correct ventilation without windows if they are fitted with an exhaust fan.
This is a crucial step because if your rental property does not have the appropriate amount of ventilation, you may be breaching minimum safety standards according to the Residential Tenancy Act 1997.
5. Declutter your gutters
When preparing home for winter, a part of the house we tend to forget is the outside.
But, as trees have now shed their last leaves, it is important to take some time to clear and clean your gutters before the skies open up and the storms begin.
There are multiple reasons why clogged gutters can be a safety hazard, for example:
- If there is a build-up of leaves, sticks, or debris, this can be a fire hazard
- Overflowing gutters are one of the four most common reasons for water entering homes during storms
- It can block rainwater from flowing properly
- It can cause internal leaking or flooding
- Long term damage can weaken structural foundations
Clearing your gutters can also help identify any leaks or holes in your pipes which will need to be replaced before the winter season.
6. Invest in landlord insurance
Even by taking every preventative measure, unfortunately, there is still a risk your rental property may not be fully prepared for winter or even suffer damage. In fact, 28% of owners we surveyed said that property damage was one of their biggest fears during leasing.
This is why it’s important to make sure you have the right landlord insurance in place to protect your property.
How can your tenants help?
Having a good relationship with your tenants can come as an advantage during the winter months where they can help keep your property in tip-top shape.
For example, if you need to claim insurance, your tenants will need to notify you (or your property manager) of any issues at the earliest opportunity. So, staying in regular contact is key.
In instances where there is a continuing leak or growing mould, if it isn’t quickly reported, it can dramatically increase the cost of the claim.
You can also ask your tenants for further help by making minor changes, such as:
- Closing the kitchen door when cooking to prevent steam from causing condensation/dampness in the property
- Turn dehumidifiers on in colder smaller rooms
- Advise them to keep the heating on
- Removing snow build up around the property
As previously mentioned, we can’t control the weather and unfortunately, damage can occur even with all precautionary measures taken.
And unfortunately, as a rental provider, you can be held liable for any damage or injury your tenant suffers as the result of negligence.
In other words, if mould continues to grow, or if water fails to drain due to a leaking roof, dripping taps, or unsealed tiles, you can be held responsible and made to pay compensation.
You can do a few things to prevent this, such as:
- Have heating appliances checked and serviced frequently
- Ensure hot water systems are working properly
- Have adequate plumbing and drainage
- Ensure you have adequate ventilation
- Only use qualified professionals to install or repair appliances and systems
A final word: if your property does suffer damage due to the colder weather, you have a legal obligation to make repairs in a timely manner. But don’t worry, using the above steps as a guide will help you outrun the risk of safety issues, non-compliance with laws, and unhappy tenants in your property during those chillier months.
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