Top ten tips to protect your property in a heatwave

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Weekend fun at home together. Rear view of a mixed race couple standing in the garden, embracing and looking at the house

Whilst we’re not currently seeing the soaring temperatures seen in Southern Europe right now, it always pays to be prepared when it comes to protecting your property. Our partner, Total Landlord, share their ten top tips for landlords, as we face the growing reality of more frequent extreme heatwaves, fuelled by global warming.

Here are their ten top tips based on the increase in the type of claims seen during and in the aftermath of a heatwave.

1. Protect your pipes

People usually assume burst pipes are a winter problem. And whilst it’s true that uninsulated pipes are prone to freezing (which causes water inside to expand and burst the pipe), we tend to forget the effect heat can inflict. Metal expands in heat, causing more burst pipes in summer than ever, where the heat from the sun is warping pipes and expanding them beyond capacity – causing a fracture. It’s important to be sure to maintain your pipes so that they can withstand both hot and cold temperatures. You can find out more in Total Landlord’s guide to preventing burst pipes in your rental property.

2. Check your gutters and drains

We all know that storms and torrential downpours follow a heatwave. With dry ground being incapable of absorbing the sudden influx in water, it’s vital that gutters and drains are kept clear. Drainage systems can very quickly become overwhelmed during a sudden downpour or torrential rain, causing groundwater to rise. And when the ground becomes saturated, the resulting excess surface water can cause devastating damage to properties, sometimes making them completely uninhabitable. It’s been recorded that flood claims, which spike sharply following a storm, have been increasing year on year with the rise in named storms. When combining the increase in frequency of unsettling and extreme weather, and the typical cost for fully repairing a flooded home (which is somewhere between £20,000 and £45,000), it would not hurt for landlords to find out what they should be doing to prepare their properties for potential storms. You can read Total Landlord’s guide to protecting your property through storms.

3. Move mirrors away from sunlight and draw the curtains

Mirrors can magnify heat received from the sunlight, potentially causing a fire if that heat gets projected onto other objects. It’s not something many of us would even consider, but keep in mind that exceptionally hot weather can bring on more unusual claims. Recently, Total Landlord received a claim from a landlord whose curtains had been set on fire after the sun’s rays reflected off the window. The heat even burnt the plastic window frames. In extremely hot weather it’s a good idea to keep curtains drawn – at the very least this will prevent the strong sun from discolouring furniture and carpets. Similarly, not putting up garden mirrors is also a good idea, as these too have been known to cause fires.

4. Make sure you’re covered for accidental damage

Forewarned is forearmed – through analysing claims data, Total Landlord surmised that accidental damage claims peak during the summer months when children are off school and tenants spend more time at home. Whilst unintentional, the impact of accidental damage is certainly inconvenient and can turn out to be quite expensive to fix. Whether it’s a child kicking a ball through the window or a tenant flooding the property by leaving a tap running, it’s up to the landlord to pay for any repairs needed as a result. Getting comprehensive cover is an important step as a landlord, as well as doing all you can to reduce the chances of accidental damage occurring in the first place. Total Landlord happen to offer one of the few policies which include accidental damage as standard, but many do not. Read their ultimate guide to accidental damage insurance.

5. Look out for invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed in the garden

Weeds usually thrive in hot weather, and tenants need to be aware of their responsibilities for keeping them under control, as well as alerting you if there is anything to be concerned about. Invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed become virulent during hot spells. There has been much debate in recent times about how harmful Japanese Knotweed really is. It’s normally thought that it can penetrate concrete (which is untrue) –it instead creates its hold by taking advantage of structural weaknesses.  So, it’s important to know how to spot it, combat it and, most importantly, to stay on the right side of the law. Read their ultimate guide to Japanese Knotweed to find out more.

6. Beware of turning a heatwave into a crimewave

Due to the intense summer heat, tenants will understandably open windows and doors to ventilate the property. This does however create potential opportunities for ‘walk-in’ or ‘reach-in’ thefts, which are most common in the summer months. Advising tenants to only leave windows open for ventilation when they are in the room and lock them when they leave the house is a good way to combat this method of crime. Ask them not to leave windows open, even on upper floors, if they are next to a porch or a flat garage roof as trespassers can still climb through windows. It’s also a good idea to fit window opener restrictors.

7. Make sure you’re covered for malicious damage

Total Landlord noticed that malicious damage claims peak during the summer months. This year, police have issued alerts for increases in vandalism and anti-social behaviour linked to the heatwave and cost of living crisis. Malicious damage is reported to be amongst the top three most common insurance claims for landlords in the UK. That said, Total Landlord paid out an average of £6,127 for malicious damage over the last five years, the third highest average claim amount. So, it’s well worth checking your landlord insurance and adding it to your policy if you’re not covered. Malicious damage thankfully, is included in Total Landlord’s Premier policy as standard.

8. Spot the signs of subsidence

Subsidence claims increased by a whopping 49 per cent in the year to July 2021. However, 51% of homeowners don’t know what the signs of subsidence are, or falsely identify it. Damage caused by subsidence can be expensive to fix – Total Landlords most costly claim was for £71,800! What’s important is to take action straight away since the longer the subsidence resides, the more expensive it gets. For more information on subsidence and how to spot the signs, read Total Landlord’s guide to subsidence.

9. Barbecues and balconies – fire safety starts at home

When there are heatwaves or even short periods with higher temperatures, the risks of fires increase both inside and outside the home. Landlords should make fire safety a priority throughout the year. Educating your tenant is key, but it’s up to the landlord to carry out regular portable appliance testing, make sure all gas fittings are well maintained and that annual gas safety checks are carried out. Fire brigades across the UK issued warnings during last year’s heatwave, urging people to minimise risks of grass blazes by throwing away glass bottles, which can start fires by magnifying the sun’s rays, and keeping a bucket of water or sand near the barbecue (and avoiding barbecues in extremely hot weather). In the last five years, London’s firefighters have attended almost 600 fires involving barbecues, 45 of which were on private balconies. Balcony barbecues should not be permitted, as the embers could potentially catch fire on a neighbour’s property. And gas grills are not without risk – barbecue gas bottles can explode when exposed to intense heat for a long period of time. Remind tenants to keep them out of direct sunlight and store them in a cool place. Read Total Landlord’s ultimate guide to fire safety regulations for landlords for more information.

10. Prevent pest problems

Summer is the season for pests. But how do landlords prevent pests in their property? Problems with the property can lead to issues with pests and vermin, for example rats, mice, cockroaches, ants, and wasps. As a landlord, it is your responsibility to make sure the property is ‘fit for human habitation’ and in a good state of repair. If there is a pest infestation in your property as a result of something you did or failed to do, it is your responsibility to deal with it. However, tenants have to dispose of rubbish properly to reduce the risk of attracting pests such as rats. During the summer, tenants are more likely to spend time outside eating and drinking, and this can also attract wasps. Wasps in properties can affect the health and safety of tenants and impact the brickwork, so it’s important for landlords to be well-informed. Check your insurance policy covers removal of wasps nests (which Total Landlord Premier policy does), and read their guest blog from the British Pest Control Association for more information on what landlords can do when it comes to dealing with wasps.

Higher summer temperatures and their aftermath bring extra challenges for landlords and tenants. But taking steps to prepare your property can go a long way towards lessening the risks. It’s also an opportunity to check in with your tenants, particularly if they are elderly or have babies, to make sure they have all the supplies they need, and to flag any potential problems with the property.

Now is a good time to check your landlord insurance to make sure you are covered for the specific risks that summer brings. Whilst it’s impossible to know what the future holds, we can be confident that we’ll see another heatwave in the UK.  

 

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