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Winter tips for empty properties

Empty Property Protection Over Winter

As we are coming into the winter months and the weather has turned colder it is worth taking the time to make sure that your property is ‘winter proofed’.

All homeowners, landlords and tenants need to consider how to look after a property during the winter months but when a property is empty it is something that can be easily overlooked and is essential to act now to avoid major winter damage.

Empty property protection over winter requires keeping the house, particularly the water pipes, warm enough to avoid them freezing is the most important job. There are three options which will be your main defence for your property against the cold.

1. Keep the heating on all day and night but keep the thermostat at a very low setting of around 12 degrees.

2. Set the heating to come on daily for a few hours early in the morning and again late evening to help keep the property above freezing. The thermostat can be set lower than you would be comfortable living but warm enough to raise the house temperature and get warm air circulating, around 14 degrees. 3. If you do not want to put the heating on while the property is unoccupied then the plumbing and heating systems in the house can be drained down. Without water in the pipes to freeze the chances of burst pipes are greatly reduced and if severe cold does damage pipes there would not be water damage caused while you are away, and the ice defrosts. Draining the system down greatly reduces the risk of water damage but there could be water trapped in parts of the system and draining down is no guarantee, but any damage would be limited and as it may only become apparent when the system is up and running it is important to check and not to leave the property unattended.

Empty property – the curse of condensation

Another concern if the property is left without heating is the risk of condensation which can occur within the property through the winter. A cold property without heating would also not be inviting for viewings for continued marketing.

Other tips to help empty properties through winter:

Open the hatch to the loft to allow warmer air to circulate into the loft space.

Open cupboard doors under the sink to allow the warmer air to get into the water pipes and help against freezing.

Put extra insulation tubes on exposed pipes. These can be purchased from a DIY store or online.

Disconnect hose pipes from external taps and cover with insulated boxes or insulated caps.

Know where the stopcock for your mains water supply in your property. It is usually in the kitchen but can be elsewhere. If you have a trusted neighbour with a key let them know. For a managed let you should tell your letting agent in case of a problem.

Finally make sure there are no dripping taps including outside taps as an external tap with a slow drip will freeze very easily.

Some home insurance policies will often have clauses for vacant properties during winter.

These can include keeping the heating on at a low temperature 24/7, leaving the loft open or draining the system. If you are concerned if there are any specific clauses on your policy that must be adhered to, to ensure that you are covered should there be a burst pipe or any other damage during the time the premises are empty, please check with your Cox Mahon account handler or email [email protected]

Information provided by Harrison Law, Cert CII, Head of Commercial & Private Clients, Cox Mahon Ltd.