Winter is officially here! As daylight hours diminish and temperatures drop, now is the time to start preparing and protecting your vacant property before the cold weather sets in.
The threat of damage to vacant property during winter is real and can cost thousands of pounds to repair as well as potentially delaying new occupants from moving in.
Davis Brown are Chartered Surveyors, Estate Agents and Commercial Agents in London providing services for both residential property management and commercial property management. We have prepared some simple steps to fight the freeze and prepare vacant property for winter.
1. Drain down
Many property owners underestimate the catastrophic effect that water damage can have on vacant property. Cold weather can trigger water systems to freeze and lead to burst pipes, causing significant damage and water ingress resulting in a major clean-up bill costing thousands of pounds. Draining down the water system as soon as a property becomes vacant is a cost effective and preventative measure to eliminate water damage and ensure the property is covered by insurance
2. Inform your insurer
Darker evenings often result in an increase in crime. Shorter days provide more opportunities for criminals to work under the cover of darkness, often leading to a rise in malicious damage and property insurance claims during the winter months. Remember, you are required by law to inform your insurer immediately when a property becomes vacant. They may have specific requirements to ensure your building is properly covered.
3. Check guttering
Gutters and downpipes can be damaged by frost. If there is a blockage in a downpipe caused by leaves or twigs, the trapped rainwater could crack or shatter the downpipe if it freezes. Blockages can also cause water to spill over and saturate walls causing masonry surfaces to freeze in cold weather and lead to further structural damage.
4. Clean and clear
All properties should be cleaned and cleared of rubbish to avoid creating hygiene hazards and prevent pest infestations. Any combustible materials should be removed from the building.
5. Safe and secure
Vacant property can become an easy target for vandals, trespassers and squatters and according to the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) prolonged hours of darkness provide the perfect conditions for opportunistic crime. A range of cost effective and innovative solutions can be employed for vacant property security and surveillance ranging from anti-climb paint, alarms, regular inspections and monitoring to manned guards.
6. Inspect for mould
Mould growth through a lack of heating and ventilation can be a serious problem in winter months. The allergens, irritants and toxins produced by mould can pose a health risk to humans. Professional treatment will keep it at bay and protect properties for the long term.
7. Roof repairs
Water damage caused by leaking roofs in the winter months may compromise the rest of your property, and can be particularly hazardous as it may not be noticed for some time until it is too late and serious damage has occurred. The most common causes of a leaking roof are cracked or missing tiles or slates, broken or unsealed flashing, and points where the chimney or vents join with the roof. Additionally, lead flashing has been an increasingly common target for metal thieves so it is recommended to kill two birds with one stone by performing a simple check to prevent water damage and reduce the risk of metal theft. If in doubt, ensure you seek expert help as roof repairs and maintenance can be very dangerous.
8. Window treatment
Windows exposed to the hot sun in the summer and then cold temperatures in the winter can develop cracked seals from the continuous expansion and contraction. This can eventually cause the seals to break, allowing moisture to get between the glass, resulting in a white haze forming between the glass. Additionally, condensation can form on the inside of windows during the winter months, so make sure the window-sills stay dry on the inside as frequent exposure to water can lead to rotting wood.
9. Utility turn off
All services such as gas and electricity supplies should be turned off in vacant properties to reduce the risk of gas leaks and potential fire threats. Regular meter readings should be taken to ensure there are no discrepancies with previous tenants, and undertaken on a regular basis to ensure no usage.
We hope you enjoy the Christmas period and wish you a successful 2016. If you are interested in using our services, or have a vacant property and wish to instruct Davis Brown Commercial Property Agents in W1, please call us on 020 7637 1066.
Davis Brown accepts no liability for the above statements.