Looking after your home in winter

Published: 14/11/2022

There is nothing worse than a cold, damp house. Our home is our castle, and this has never been more relevant than during - and following - the ‘Covid years’. We no longer see our homes as just a base, a place to eat and sleep. Our homes are our sanctuaries now, more than ever before. But for us to feel that, it needs to be cosy and comfortable. No one wants to wake up to a freezing cold house in the morning, and no one wants to come home from work and have a family meal surrounded by mould and condensation. But to ensure our homes remain our castle, they need a little TLC.

When it comes to rental properties, both tenant and landlord play a part in keeping the property ‘winter safe’, but what are the key things to be aware of and who is responsible for what? Let’s consider some things we should all be mindful of this winter…

Landlords Responsibilities:

Boiler Maintenance and Repairs
It is the tenant’s responsibility to use the heating system correctly, but it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure it works correctly. As a minimum, it is a legal requirement for a gas boiler to checked once a year and any repairs addressed accordingly. Where lettings agents manage a property on behalf of a landlord, they will make these arrangements on their behalf. If a boiler doesn’t work, there will be some very unhappy tenants, and the property is also at risk of condensation and burst pipes…no tenant or homeowner wants that.

Emergency Contact Details
Tenants are encouraged to report all maintenance problems as soon as they occur. A small problem doesn’t stay small for long if left unaddressed. By providing tenants with a list of contact details to use in the event of a problem, they have everything they need to look after the property while holding the keys. Winter often sees a peak in callouts, so let's plan ahead by preparing for all scenarios.

Tenants Responsibilities:

One of the biggest struggles homeowners and tenants experience in the winter months is condensation. It is a massive headache and can be challenging to keep on top of in some poorly ventilated properties. But there is a lot that tenants can and should be doing to keep on top of it. Condensation in homes will occur when humid air cools or becomes oversaturated with water vapour. Warm air can hold more water vapour than cold air, so any sudden drop in temperature can result in water droplets forming in the right conditions. This is usually when warm air meets cold surfaces like windows or walls. Obvious signs of condensation in a home are water on windows or walls, a smell of dampness in the air, or even the appearance of mould. Poor ventilation means humid air cannot escape, so open windows and extractor fans can make a big difference. Condensation usually increases tenfold in the winter when tenants do not want to leave their windows open and/or can only dry their clothes indoors due to poor weather. You can see where the problem begins! 
The main recommendation for improving condensation during the winter is sufficient heating and even distribution of this heat. If some rooms are left unheated, warm air from elsewhere in the home may cause condensation when it cools in these colder parts. Keep internal doors open to let the warm air flow freely. To put it bluntly, the key to fighting mould is good heating and good ventilation in equal measures.

Bleed Your Radiators
Many people have no idea what this means or how to do it, but it is very simple, and there are 1,001 tutorials on YouTube to show you how. The process of bleeding a radiator involves releasing any trapped air from the system, allowing hot water to fill every part of the radiator and warming the property more efficiently. You don’t necessarily need to wait for a professional to bleed a radiator; this is something you can do yourself. It is quick and easy; you just need some tools… and patience. 
If your heating is on, but your radiators stay cold to the touch (especially at the top), you may need to bleed them. Not only can cold radiators lead to cold properties, but inefficient radiators also mean you will need to whack your thermostat dial right up - given the current financial climate, no one wants that.

Keep the Property Warm                    
Keeping the property warm over the winter is vital for many reasons. It reduces the risk of condensation, helps prevent burst pipes, and, most importantly, creates a desirable living environment…which everyone wants, right?
But heating is expensive; we all know that. Familiarise yourself with how to use the thermostat and set a timer. Keep the heating on low when you are away to prevent burst pipes, and time it to turn up about half an hour before you get up in the mornings and half an hour before you get home.

Make sure you know the location of the stopcock so that you can turn the water supply off in the event of an emergency, such as burst pipes. Stopcocks are often under the kitchen sink, but yours might be elsewhere in your home. If in doubt, give your landlord or letting agent a call, and they will provide you with all the information you need. Always be prepared is our motto!

Bring on the Winter…

As the evenings draw in and the temperature drops, new problems can arise in and around a property. The key is to be proactive rather than reactive when looking after our homes. There is no denying that looking after a property comes with different responsibilities for both tenant and landlord, but a home in good condition benefits everyone. It is also essential for landlords and tenants to have good communication between them - or the managing agent if they have taken the reigns. Suppose an issue arises, and a tenant feels confident in who to approach. In that case, the whole process will likely be smoother, more easily and quickly resolved, and (hopefully) more cost-effective, especially if addressed early.
If the relationship between all parties is positive, then the property is in the best possible hands. Winter, we are coming for you!
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