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Winter Property Care: Who’s Responsible for What?

MaintenanceSnow and storms, freezing temperatures and flashes of lightning can all play havoc with a property. And in winter the weather can be an especially unpredictable beast.


From frozen pipes to falling fences, landlords and tenants need to be aware of the possible problems the colder months can bring. Problems that can cost money, time and stressful inconvenience.


Here we share the essentials of winter property care, decipher who is responsible for what and highlight the importance of open communication to reduce the chances of catastrophe.


Frozen Pipes

A frozen pipe can easily lead to a burst pipe which will cost time, money and a major clear-up operation.

When water freezes it expands. If this expansion happens inside a pipe, it can cause a split. Then, as the ice thaws, water leaks out of the pipe, damaging a property, its contents and possibly a landlord’s reputation. 

There’s a degree of shared responsibility here between landlord and tenant.

For the landlord, taking a pre-emptive approach can help avoid disaster striking. Proactive steps can be taken to reduce the risk of pipes freezing:

  • Ensure pipes are properly insulated with foam tubing that’s affordable and simple to fit. Don’t forget the loft, garage and outside taps.

  • Check pipes for dangerous cracks and replace any that are damaged.

  • Fix dripping taps to prevent water in the wastewater pipe from freezing.

  • When a property is empty, set the heating to low so it comes on regularly and keeps the system working.

  • And if the property will be empty long-term, consider turning the water off at the stopcock and completely draining the system so no water is left standing in the pipes.


Properly insulated pipes will also reduce energy use, lowering bills, and reduce the chances of unpleasant condensation. The following steps will also help to keep a property warm and energy-efficient:

  • Insulate hot water tanks with lagging, making sure there are no gaps

  • Check windows and doors for draughts, especially in areas where there’s no heating, and add draught-proofing.

Equally the tenant should understand the threat posed by frozen pipes and take steps to minimise the chances of it happening:

  • Alert the landlord about cracks and inadequate insulation.

  • Keep the heating on low when they go away for a few days during a cold snap.

  • Ensure they know the location of the stopcock to switch of the water in case of emergency.

Radiators and Boilers

As the cold weather continues, heating systems need to be reliably firing on all cylinders.

Every landlord is responsible for providing adequate heating so boilers should be top of their winter property care list.

Landlords should get boilers serviced every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they’re in the best possible working condition. Keeping on top of this makes tenant complaints about poor heating and boiler pressure issues less likely. A win-win for everyone.

If a boiler is struggling to do its job, landlords should consider upgrading to a new energy-efficient model. These not only save on costs but will count in a property’s favour when it comes to updating its EPC rating.

And if a property is lying empty, setting the boiler to come on at certain times of the day, or to run constantly at a low temperature, will help to prevent damp and keep it ticking over.

As wintry weather kicks in and tenants increasingly rely on their radiators, these also need to be operating at full power. Bleeding them regularly will prevent pockets of air entering and affecting the amount of heat they radiate.


Where this responsibility lies will depend on the tenancy agreement. If it isn’t specified, keep the lines of communication open so if a radiator is under-performing, the right course of action is mutually understood.

Landlords can inform tenants to look out for the tell-tale signs, such as a radiator feeling cold at the top and hot at the bottom, so whoever is best placed to bleed them can get on with the job promptly. They can also educate tenants about how to do it themselves by directing them to instructional videos.

Collaborating to keep on top of maintenance jobs like this will benefit the landlord thanks to the radiators remaining in good condition, and the tenant because their energy bills will be lower.

Blocked Guttering

A few fallen leaves might not sound like the first stage of a property calamity but blocked gutters can easily result in major damage to a property.

When gutters start to overflow, the water it discharges heads straight for the walls, penetrating brickwork and causing damp. And if that water freezes, it can quickly damage masonry.

It’s a landlord’s responsibility to clear gutters regularly to mitigate the risk. An annual gutter clean is an essential maintenance task, best carried out in winter after most leaves have already fallen. 

Roof checks are also advisable as part of a winter property care schedule. Missing roof tiles can cause expensive structural problems in the long-term while a bad storm can lead to leaks, damp and damage.


Gardens and Fences

Garden gripes can escalate in the colder months with the threat of storms and icy spells ever-present.

While general garden maintenance usually falls at the feet of the tenant, broken fences and precarious trees are the landlord’s responsibility.

Beyond establishing clear boundaries of who should look after what externally, both parties need to keep the lines of communication open. If an overnight storm sends a fence flying or tree toppling, the tenant should alert the landlord as soon as possible who would then need to deal with it.

Landlords can minimise the chances of getting such a call by:

  • Regularly inspecting fence posts for instability and replacing damaged panels.

  • Surveying trees and bushes on and near their property, getting professional advice if any look dead or damaged.

  • Removing overhanging branches before they cause problems. 


Tackle Winter Together


Wherever the responsibility lies for a particular job, keeping the lines of communication open between landlord and tenant will make getting through winter without a hitch easier.


Make it clear at the start of a tenancy agreement who does what and, if necessary, how to do it. When a tenant feels comfortable approaching their landlord, issues can be resolved more readily. 


An information pack can help here, empowering tenants to spot problems early and take action swiftly, saving hassle and expense. It should include:


  • Emergency contacts for a reliable plumber, electrician, general maintenance provider, locksmith and the relevant insurance company.

  • Location of the stopcock to limit damage caused by a water leak.

  • Instructions about how to switch off the gas and electricity if required, as well as changing fuses.

  • Advice on operating the heating as efficiently as possible and minimising the risk of frozen pipes, damp and condensation.

  • Advice on preventing mould, for instance not drying washing inside on cold wet days with the windows closed.

Follow these winter property care tips and whether you’re a landlord or tenant, you’ll be fully prepared, whatever the weather.

Discover how MakeUrMove can help keep your property in great condition.

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