Post-winter property health check

We’ve had quite a winter, with the very cold weather hanging on right into spring. For the last few years, we’ve been used to rain and wind, but with this February’s ‘Beast from the East’ and much greater snowfall generally, combined with ice, properties have taken more of a beating than is usual for the season.

How can snow and ice affect properties?

The issue with snow is that it’s wet and cold combined and when it’s piled up against walls for days at a time, there’s a greatly increased risk of water permeating brickwork. And when water freezes, it expands, which means any damp areas will be liable to cracking and splitting, allowing water to trickle in and/or rush out as the ice and snow thaw. Add to that the sheer weight of snow and ice and if your property is at all vulnerable, you’ll certainly know about it.

Here are some of the key problems that snow and ice can cause, so now we have some sunnier days, it’s worth checking to see if the Winter has caused any of these problems to your property:

  • Ice dams on your roof. When water in your guttering and along the edge of the roof freezes, it forms a ‘dam’. Melting snow that’s unable to escape will find any gaps underneath and between your tiles, and before you know it, you’ve got a leak into the loft. So it’s important to keep clearing snow out of your guttering before it has a chance to melt and re-freeze as ice. If you did get any leaks from your roof this winter, look from inside on a bright day and wherever you can see daylight, that’s where the water and snow was getting in, so make any necessary repairs as soon as possible.
  • Damage to drainage outlets. If ice forms in guttering and downpipes, as the water expands it can easily force joints apart and may split any plastic not in good condition. So have a contractor check around the whole property and fix any damage because if water isn’t properly carried away and ends up running down the walls for the rest of the year, you’ll almost certainly get penetrating damp issues in the property - and complaints from tenants will soon follow.
  • Frozen water pipes. If the temperatures are cold enough, even pipework that’s inside your property can freeze. Again, joints can be forced apart and the pipes themselves may burst, meaning that when the ice thaws, the water escapes and you could end up with a big leak. So ensure all your pipework is properly insulated and encourage your tenants to keep the property well heated during particularly cold snaps. Make sure they know where the stopcock is so that if you do end up with a leak from a frozen pipe, they can quickly turn off the water supply and hopefully keep damage to a minimum.
  • Damage to external brickwork. The force of water expanding when it forms ice can loosen mortar and pointing, and even split the bricks themselves, leaving your property vulnerable to penetrating damp. So, once the thaw’s passed, walk around the outside your property, looking for damage to the brickwork. Look at the ground too, as you may see pieces of pointing that have crumbled. As soon as the drier weather arrives, have a contractor make repairs, to ensure the property and your tenants stay warm and dry.
  • Collapsed roofs and damage from falling branches. When snow and ice build-up, it can get very heavy. That means any roofs not in good condition – particularly flat roofs – are vulnerable. On top of that, if you have any large trees or branches close to your property, excess snow and ice could cause them to fall, potentially causing damage. So, although you might not want to be working outside in the snow, it’s important to keep roofs clear and make sure large and/or old branches are cut back ahead of winter or stormy weather.

Remember that if your property has suffered damage, over and above what might be considered ‘normal’ aging or wear and tear, you should be able claim for the cost of repairs on your landlord insurance policy. Make sure you take photographs before you make any repairs and report the damage to your insurer as soon as possible.

This information has been provided by our partner Mortgage Advice Bureau. For more information relating to Mortgages or for Mortgage Advice please visit Mortgage Advice Bureau.

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