In a series of two articles, Samantha Miles, sales director at Vasek Insurance tackles how brokers can help clients to minimise the risk to properties during the cold winter months.
Getting property ready for winter
Autumn is upon us already and with the dark nights beginning to close in, now is the perfect time to think about telling your clients to protect their property for winter.
Adverse weather during the winter months can cause serious structural damage to a property if it not sufficiently protected.
As such, Samantha Miles, sales director at Vasek Insurance has provided some expert guidance on how to greatly minimise the risk of damage as the cold snap looms.
It is vitally important to ensure landlords sufficiently protect their investment. Large numbers of rental properties are damaged each year as a result of inclement weather.
In fact, research from the National Landlords Association reveals that freezing-related claims accounted for 35% of total insurance claims in 2014. These include water escaping through burst or cracked pipes and blocked guttering.
Buy-to-let landlords and homeowners alike should ensure they follow some simple guidelines in order to keep their property safe during winter months. Here are some key topics to talk through with your clients:
• Conduct an inspection - Inform your clients to conduct a thorough inspection of the entirety of their home, before the winter sets in. Get them to check all windows, doors, walls, pipes, roofs and guttering for any faults. Make sure any cracked tiles are replaced, guttering is cleaned and unclogged and moss removed. For any more serious issues, get them to contact a relevant tradesperson in plenty of time, before the issues get worse.
• Service the boiler - A recent survey from British Gas revealed 46% of people are worried about their heating or hot water failing during the cold weather. It is vitally important for people to service their boiler ahead of the winter months. Pipes should be assessed for leaks and radiators should be bled to check for airlocks.
• Think about insulation - Loft and cavity wall insulation are simple ways to save on energy bills and keep the heat in! It is important for your customers to do their research - they could be eligible for a grant in order for these works to be carried out.
• Don't lag behind - Make sure checks are carried out on the lagging around all water pipes and cold water storage tanks. Just the smallest of gaps could allow cold air in, leading to freezing pipes. This is particularly apparent in pipes in the loft, eaves and cupboards.
Managing void periods
The winter period sees many properties left empty for a prolonged period of time, as people return home or choose to visit family.
Research from specialist lender Paragon Mortgages shows that the average length of time a property is unoccupied for is less than 2.6 weeks per annum.
However, this is still more than enough time for serious Winter-weather related issues to arise.
An unoccupied property during cold months will not be sufficiently ventilated, leading to increase chances of issues with damp, mould and condensation.
Condensation is the prime causer of damp in a property. Should windows and doors of a property be closed for a prolonged period, the damp will become more frequent, increasing the chance of mould forming.
If your clients know that their property is to be vacant, for example during the holiday season, then it is vital for them to take measures to reduce the risk of damage.
After preparing property following the steps above, encourage your clients to try these handy tips to ensure Jack Frost and friends don't cause any issues during unoccupied periods:
• Don't leave the property unchecked - Perhaps the most important piece of advice to property owners is to make regular checks during unoccupied periods. This will not only alert them to any problems but will ensure they can address these issues, hopefully before it is too late.
• Leave the heating on - Should some of your consumers be landlords with tenants who are leaving the property in winter months, you must advise them to inform tenants to keep the central heating set at a minimum temperature of 15°C. This will help to protect against the formation of damp and condensation.
• Leave the doors open - No, not the front or back door, just the internal doors inside the property! Leaving these doors open will enable heat to circulate around the home. This also applies to cupboard doors, which could allow warm air to reach any otherwise hidden pipes. What's more, leaving the loft hatch ajar will also be beneficial.
In the second part of the series Samantha Miles will give her tips on how to best try to keep property safe through the darker nights of winter - a time that statistics show an increase in burglaries in Britain.