Property Management Priorities: Key Checks In The Colder Months

As the weather turns colder, property managers, agents and landlords in charge of their buildings’ upkeep will shift their focus to a winter maintenance checklist. The colder temperatures can often bring unique challenges that require attention and professional services.

Making sure managed properties are in good condition will go a long way to keeping tenants and residents safe and comfortable. Preventing any problems with heating or mould build-up, for example, will help you to avoid getting embroiled in a dispute with tenants or with anyone occupying a poorly kept building. From servicing boilers and bleeding radiators to fire-safety regulations and chimney sweeps, there are key tasks to consider before the freezing temperatures hit home.

This article will outline the main maintenance concerns to tick off to ensure managed properties stay in tip top condition throughout winter.

Organise a checklist and call in contractors

Staying on top of property maintenance during the coldest season of the year is important because freezing weather can create a unique set of issues, such as a propensity for mould, damp or cracks in wooden frames. Naturally the heating is ramped up and fires are lit, so it’s good to have a thorough checklist of issues and possible repairs to be aware of.

If you’re managing the property as a landlord or letting agent yourself, look out for the usual and not so common issues that can help to prevent needless work further down the line. This will save you money and hassle in the long term. If need be, you can contract the checks to a property management service who will draft in fitters, electricians and site supervisors to tackle essential repairs quickly and efficiently.

Inspect boilers, radiators and heaters

As colder weather moves in, optimised functioning heating systems are essential for keeping properties sustainable, sufficiently warm and preventing disruptive and costly breakdowns. Booking in your annual boiler service and giving any HVAC equipment the once over is a recommendation. Engineers can thoroughly inspect components for wear and efficiency, undertaking preventative repairs and adjustments to ensure reliable operation throughout winter.

During essential winter checks can be a good time to invest in renewable energies, taking advantage of the government’s zero tax incentives and Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). Consider upgrading to more energy-efficient heating equipment by switching from fossil-fuelled heating systems to low carbon solutions.

On a practical level, radiators prone to irregular heat distribution can be bled to eliminate trapped air restricting flow. Simply bleeding all radiator valves can also help improve circulation efficiency ahead of sub-zero temperatures. Likewise, inspecting exposed water pipes and tanks to confirm adequate insulation remains in place helps guard against freezing and burst pipes.

Testing thermostatic radiator valves and smart timers for accuracy is worth doing to optimise heating levels indoors. Engineers can recalibrate thermostats during your annual service appointment if particular rooms feel colder than the settings might suggest. During the current cost-of-living crisis, getting heating controls right in people’s properties will be a priority for everyone concerned.

Read up on regulations

Paying attention to winter property checks is a key part of your annual property-maintenance routine. Being conscientious is not only professional, it demonstrates your duty of care to anyone residing in the properties you manage.

Part of the UK Government's Fitness for Human Habitation (FFHH) standards state properties with tenants must be in a good condition. Maintaining even these standards are important so property managers, agents and landlords must evaluate and address some major points, including:

  • Properties must be well-maintained and not allowed to become dilapidated. Structural stability and freedom from dampness are also assessed.
  • The positioning of amenities and rooms must be safe for inhabitants.
  • Lighting and ventilation - Indoor spaces must have adequate natural light and air flow.
  • Adequate hot and cold water supplies must be provisioned and wastewater drainage via properly functioning pipes and sanitary conveniences.

Check windows and doors

Preventing heat loss through poorly insulated windows and doors is not eco-friendly and will not help residents keep their energy bills down when they most need to. It can make a significant difference in tenant comfort and energy efficiency. Carefully checking around all frames for gaps, cracks, or deterioration of existing sealant is advised. Ensure all entrance doors close and lock securely which is crucial for anyone who manages access to communal areas.

Doors or windows letting in draughts should have rubber seals replaced and gaps re-caulked to limit air infiltration. Applying supplementary insulation, especially to older timber framed windows lacking modern double or triple glazing will also help reduce condensation during very cold spells. For frequently used external doors, brush or draught excluder seals fitted along the bottom edge can hamper cold air entering whilst still enabling ease of access.

Prioritise fire safety

With fire safety being a priority in everyone’s homes, the risk of fires is statistically higher in the UK winter which is why extra caution is needed. According to government statistics, three fires a day are caused by heaters and an average 3,800 chimney fires occur every year. Therefore, you need to ensure your property has a robust set of fire safety safeguards in place this winter.

Make sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are correctly positioned and working well and that any fire extinguishers, both communal and within flats are ok. Emergency exits and stairwells should also be cleared. During the festive period reports of fires go up with the prevalence attributed to four main factors: Christmas decorations, candles, heating equipment and cooking, so being extra vigilant is key.

Sweep chimneys and improve ventilation

If the property you manage or let has a chimney, it’s a good idea to have it swept ahead of winter. Accumulated soot and debris poses a considerable fire hazard and risk of poisonous fumes entering living spaces. Be sure to employ a qualified chimney sweep to fully clean flues, spot any damage or nest obstructions. They can also service any wood burning stoves that have been out of use for a while.

Ventilation units will likewise need checking, especially extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms that might be prone to mould growth from poorly circulated air. Wall/ceiling vents should be cleared of dust and any broken covers or ducting repaired. Improving ventilation in a property during winter is a main method of preventing condensation. With the health hazard of mould in people’s living spaces making headlines in recent years, it’s vital to prevent mould growth early on for property managers and people renting or occupying your buildings.

As a property manager it can be hard to guarantee a problem-free winter, but with advanced preparation or professional management assistance, you can certainly help to minimise complaints from tenants, prevent potential health hazards and ward off costly emergencies.

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By Dakota Murphey
29th November 2023

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