This article has been written in response to a landlord’s query: “I want to send my contractor to my rental property to carry out a winter inspection. How can I ensure my property is winter ready?”

The winter period can be challenging for landlords as there are many problems that can occur due to the cold weather. The best course of action is to carry out a winter inspection to ensure your property is ready for the winter season. If you cannot do the inspection or checks yourself, you could ask your agent or instruct a contractor instead. Although you may have asked the tenant(s) to notify you of any problems, there may be certain issues that a tenant may not pick up on but an agent or contractor may have more experienced to spot these to prevent further maintenance requirements.

If you intend to carry out these checks, it is important to ensure your tenancy agreement contains a clause that allows for periodic inspections to be carried out as well as allowing contractors or landlords/agents access to the property to attend to/inspect maintenance issues; providing appropriate notice is given.

To ensure your property is winter ready, there are a number of areas that should be checked both inside and outside the property.

It is important to check all external drains for any blockages and to ensure your tenant is keeping the area around them clear as during autumn an onslaught of leaves can lead to blocked drains. You should also ensure all exposed pipes are suitably insulated to avoid them freezing and bursting in colder weather and that the boiler has been recently serviced.

Another important check is for any areas of mould, damp or condensation; these problems are common in the private rental sector and it is easier to treat if it is picked up early. Your tenant may not notice the earlier signs however an agent or contractor may be more vigilant or aware of the indications. If damp or mould is noticed, it is important to feed this back to your tenant so they can monitor the situation and take action to prevent the condition worsening.

Gardens should be checked for overhanging branches that could blow off in high winds and damage guttering, roofs or windows as well as becoming a hazard in the event of heavy snow. If you are letting your property in the summer season, the garden may well be in a different state now due to seasonal changes.

If the tenancy agreement states that the tenant should maintain the garden, it is important to outline the tenant’s responsibilities in relation to this, such as raking leaves, cutting grass or trimming hedges. Be specific about the action required, a tenant may think that to ‘maintain’ a hedge simply means chop it down so ensure you are explicit with instructions. It is also important to consider what equipment is required to properly maintain the external areas and which of these will be provided to the tenant, as part of the tenancy.  This is a regular cause of disagreement between parties at the end of the tenancy and a clear clause in the tenancy agreement will help reduce these disputes.

If your property has a fireplace or chimney, you should ensure you have agreed with your tenant who is responsible for taking care of this and how this should be maintained – see our previous #AskTDS.

Checking your property regularly allows you to inspect it for any maintenance issues, ensure your tenants are abiding by their responsibilities and also enables you to take measures to keep your property structurally safe for your tenant.

Following any inspection of a property, potential issues should be fed back to the tenant by email to ensure that you have an evidence trail in the event the condition worsens due to any negligence by the tenant. You should keep a record of all correspondence and issues highlighted so that if there is a dispute over the return of the deposit at the end of the tenancy, there is clear evidence to highlight any loss you may have suffered.

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; we offer both insured and custodial protection. We also provide fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

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