Winter insurance tips for landlords: are you fully covered?

December 5, 2020

For landlords and other homeowners, winter can usher in more than a biting wind, with the harsher weather causing wear and tear and, occasionally, some serious damage to bricks and mortar.

Prevention is, as always, better than a cure, but winter can wreak havoc on even the best maintained homes, so it is important to not only have landlord insurance, but to ensure it covers winter-damage.

Before we head into the coldest months, read your current policy thoroughly and understand the terms of the policy as well as your obligations. Your policy may be invalid if you fail to carry out repairs or maintenance, for example on pipes, boilers, drains or guttering.

Boilers

As a landlord, you are legally required to have an annual boiler service and Gas Safety Inspection but you or your letting agent can also perform routine checks in between. Looking for any warning signs such as leaks, cracks or noises can mean identifying a problem before it escalates – saving you thousands of pounds in repairs and, potentially, lost revenue.

Frozen and burst pipes

The risk of frozen and burst pipes increases in winter. Frozen and burst pipes are common side effects of faulty boilers and can wreak havoc for landlords – and their tenants – during the colder months.

Burst pipes can cause widespread structural damage to both your own property and neighbours’ homes, with repair costs running into the tens of thousands especially if you are forced to rehouse the tenant due to the severity of the damage.

A good landlord insurance should cover repairs, but you should take precautions both to reduce the risk and to ensure your insurance is valid.

If a property is occupied, add a clause into the tenancy agreement setting out any essential precautions the tenant needs to take to protect the property during cold weather. If a spell of freezing weather is imminent, remind tenants that if they are away for longer than 24 hours it is their responsibility to set the thermostat accordingly.

Have the pipes checked for leaks and take steps to remedy this – perhaps in the short term this means asking the tenant to turn off the stop cock if they are away, for example.

Alternative accommodation cover

In the event of severe damage to the property, you may need to rehome your tenant as well as pay for the repairs. Alternative accommodation can cover this expense if you are contractually obliged to provide your tenants with somewhere to stay. As always, check your policy documents for specific details.

Check your policy is up-to-date

Is your rebuild valuation correct? This is important, as if your property is undervalued you will not be covered for the full amount of the cost of repairs. If the roof on your buy-to-let property is damaged and you make a claim for a certain amount and your insurer discovers you’ve said the property is worth less than their true value, you will receive less money – how much depends on how much you’ve undervalued it for.

The opinions and views expressed in the above articles are those of the author only and are for guidance purposes only. The authors disclaim any liability for reliance upon those opinions and would encourage readers to rely upon more than one source before making a decision based on the information.