When it comes to rental properties there are five common problems that are more prevalent in winter due to cold and wet weather: boiler breakdowns, burst pipes, leaking roofs, clogged gutters and mould growth. In all these instances there is preventative action that can be taken to lower the chance of more expensive issues developing.


Landlord responsibilities for heating

One important facet of a landlord’s obligations is to provide some means of heating in every occupied room. This can be achieved by providing a fixed electric or gas heater, central heating via a traditional central heating system, or other acceptable more eco-friendly heating systems. The property must be able to maintain a temperature of at least 18°C in sleeping rooms and 21°C in living rooms when the temperature outside is minus 1°C. Usually, a loss of heating, hot water or gas supply should be fixed within one working day.

Here are four preventative measures for landlords to take:

1. Give the radiators some attention

Bleeding a radiator is a simple but effective way to keep your property warm this winter. A good way to check if your heating system needs bleeding is to see if your radiators have cold patches at the top but are warm at the bottom. If so, you need to bleed them to let the trapped air escape so the hot water can circulate freely. Simply release any excess air with a radiator bleeding key and an old towel.

2. Seal any draughty areas

If your tenants are feeling the chill from draughts around the edges of window frames, gaps under doors, and around the letterbox, sealing them is a quick, simple way to keep the property warm and save on heating bills. Draught excluders, which will block draughts from underneath doors, are a simple fix. Louvre blade windows are particularly wasteful in terms of heat loss as well as being an added security risk.

3. Regularly check the boiler pressure

Boilers can fail when the condensate pipe that typically runs outside the property to expel moisture created in the system freezes. Wrap these in extra pipe insulation for an added layer of protection. Another issue is low water pressure in your boiler. Generally, boiler pressure should be between one and two bars. If the pressure drops too low, it can lead to several issues including:

  • Poor hot water supply
  • Inadequate central heating
  • Noisy operation
  • Increased energy bills
  • Damage to the heating system

4. Monitor internal pipework

Frozen pipes can cause massive damage to rental properties in winter. Not only can they affect the heating and hot water supply, they can also burst because water expands when it freezes, causing leaks, or even flooding. Prevent frozen pipes in your rental property by:

  • Ensuring pipework in cold areas, such as the loft or garage, is properly insulated with foam
  • Checking pipework for signs of damage
  • Keeping the heating on low when the property is empty
  • Turning off the stopcock to cut the water supply if your property will be empty for a long time

If you do find your rental property’s pipes have frozen, or your tenant reports the issue, it’s important to thaw them out correctly. Show your tenant where the stopcock is so that if a pipe bursts or tap breaks, they can switch the mains water off until a plumber arrives. Their quick action will reduce the damage.

The problem of mould

Kylie Wilford, one of VA Central’s Virtual Assistants, who works as a UK-based Property Manager says, I’m finding that with the price of heating increasing dramatically, tenants are not ventilating the property properly. They don’t want to open curtains and windows. They want to keep in the heat. This causes condensation that leads to mould.”

The internal condensation that develops from a of ventilation is the most common cause of recurring mould. Landlords can educate their tenants on the steps they should take to prevent mould from forming. These are:

  • open windows regularly
  • cover pans when cooking
  • dry clothes outdoors or in a dryer
  • close internal doors when you cook or shower
  • leave a gap between furniture and external walls
  • wipe condensation from windowsills each morning

VA Central’s Virtual Property Manager, Michelle Erasmus recommends this to her UK landlords, “Installing an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom can help enormously – so can a simple internal louvre window in the bathroom to let out steam. Prevention is better than having to pay a contractor repeatedly to get rid of mould.”


1. Clogged gutters

The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 states that in regard to the repair obligations in short leases, it is the landlord’s responsibility to keep in good repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling (including drains, gutters and external pipes). Before winter weather sets in, clear the

gutters so that water runs off efficiently. If the gutters are clogged with dead leaves, water will flow down the sides of the exterior walls, causing penetrating damp.

2. Leaking roofs

There are a whole host of issues that can arise due to a damaged roof, some of which can lead to severe problems. One of the most common roofing problems involves broken, damaged or missing roof tiles. Although the tenant has the responsibility to report any issues to their landlord it is not their duty to fix the problem, this is the landlord’s responsibility. Landlords should be informed as soon as possible and should be given a reasonable amount of time to make the necessary repairs.

Winter weather can cause damage. Proactively preparing your investment property for winter is vital for the wellbeing of your tenants and your property’s maintenance – and it can save you money in the long run. For busy UK Estate Agents who can have between 200 – 400 rental properties on their books, taking on a Virtual Assistant to focus on handling their Property Management portfolio makes sense in terms of being efficient on landlord’s and tenant’s behalf. They have the knowledge and contractor contacts to be able to deal quickly and efficiently with building issues. They can also advise their landlords on proactive action that will save money.