Property News: Protect those pipes this winter

December is notoriously quiet in the property industry and, once again, the local lettings market has seen reduced stock levels during the latter part of November and the month of December.

One of the reasons we are quiet on the lettings front is because of our seasonal lock-outs. For many years our tenancy agreements have included a lock-out period precluding landlords and tenants from serving notice during this timeframe. This protects landlords from void periods or being forced to accept reduced rates, both possible consequences when marketing a rental property at this time of year. Equally there is a lack of availability for tenants and the quality of the product tends not to be as good.

At Paramount we use this opportunity to gain new business by taking the time to nurture our existing database. This year the winter months have also allowed us to get our lettings team out and about visiting tenants, to make sure they are happy and settled before the festive period. Consequently we have been made aware of a few lingering maintenance issues that we can now fix quickly to ensure product control.

We have also been providing guidance to our tenants about keeping their property safe and warm over the winter months, which is good advice for all:

Going away this winter?

  • Leave your heating on for at least an hour a day while you are away to stop the pipes freezing
  • Leave your heating on all day and night at your usual temperature setting in severe weather conditions
  • Ask a friend or neighbour to check in at your property whilst you are away so any emergencies, like burst pipes, are detected as quickly as possible
  • Secure ladders and any garden furniture to prevent any damage if there are high winds

Keep your home warm

  • 16°C is the ideal minimum temperature and your main living room should be between 18-21°C
  • Draw your curtains at dusk to help keep the heat generated inside your rooms
  • Use thermal curtain lining on the inside of your curtains
  • Keep radiators free of obstructions to allow heat to pass around the room
  • Prevent cold air moving around the house by closing internal doors

Reduce energy costs

  • Turn off radiators in rooms you don’t use often
  • Use energy efficient light bulbs when possible
  • Wash clothes at 30 degrees and air dry them when possible

For low income and vulnerable households there is support available through the Warm Home Discount, which can provide a discount on your energy bill of £140 in 2014/15. Phone your energy suppliers to see if you are eligible. Another easy way to get your energy bills down is to switch to the lowest possible tariff. To do this contact your energy supplier and competitors and ask to be put on the best tariff.

It always surprises me how many tenants have never had any kind of contents insurance. There seems to be a strong misconception that while living in a rented property, a landlords building insurance will cover a tenant’s possessions. Unfortunately this is not the case. Should your house or flat be burgled or flooded, your landlords insurance will only cover the building and their furniture and fixtures.

Unfortunately we witnessed an instance like this earlier in the year, when a basement flat had been flooded in the freak rain we had in September. While the landlord was able to claim on their own buildings insurance for repairs to the flat, the tenants’ possessions, including a computer and phone, had been so damaged they were unable to be repaired.

It might not sparkle, but if you buy yourself one Christmas gift this year invest in tenants’ contents insurance. It may be your best investment of the year.

Spencer Lawrence
Lettings Director
Paramount Properties
150 West End Lane
West Hampstead
020 7644 2314

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