With only a few weeks to go until Christmas, and with the first signs of snow appearing to the north of the UK, now is the time to consider your obligations as a tenant when it comes to taking care of your rental property if you are planning on going away during this period.
There are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure there are no unwanted surprises when you return to your rental property after leaving it for a prolonged period during cold weather:
1. Check your Tenancy Agreement
It is worth re-reading your Tenancy Agreement to confirm exactly what you are responsible for during cold weather, and, when leaving the property vacant.
For example, your Agreement is likely to state that you need to “take all reasonable precautions” to prevent damage by frost to pipes, to prevent the build up of condensation, and to keep gutters and drains free from obstruction.
It is also usual for the Agreement to state that you will need to notify the landlord/agent before leaving the premises vacant for any continuous period of 28 days or more during the Tenancy. Consequently, if you are planning to be away for a number of weeks over the festive season, it is important you check your specific obligations within your own tenancy contract.
2. Prepare the property well
A lot of problems can be prevented by simple preparations before you leave. For example, turning off electrical devices at the wall can prevent possible electrical fires, and, emptying fridges and freezers before your departure can prevent the growth of some of the more nasty bacteria that could make you and your family rather ill! It is worth walking around the inside and outside of the property and dealing with anything that might lead to a problem – look in particular for leaks/damp patches, a buildup of leaves in gutters, loose wires, dripping taps, etc.
3. Leave contact details with a neighbour
If you know and trust a neighbour, it would be worth leaving a spare key and your contact details with them, and asking them to keep an eye on the property whilst you are away. Another option might be to leave your contact number with the property’s managing agent or landlord. If something does happen, at least you should then hear about it straight away and be able to take the necessary measures to sort the problem out efficiently.
If your road is part of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, it is worth joining it, and informing your neighbourhood contact that you will be going away. Details about the scheme and a vast amount of useful information about securing your home from burglary can be found at http://www.ourwatch.org.uk/.
4. Keep heating on or drain the system
If it is possible, and suitable for your property, it would be wise to keep the heating on at a low level whilst you are away. By keeping the heating on, the pipes won’t be able to freeze and any damp should be minimised. If you have a loft, keeping the hatch open a small amount will allow the warmer air to circulate around the tank.
If you are unable to leave the heating on, it could be advisable to employ a qualified tradesman to turn your water off and drain the system completely.
5. Secure the property
Before you leave, ensure all windows and doors are closed securely, and locked where possible. Timer switches can be a good idea when used with a light or radio, as they can give the impression that people are in the property and help to deter opportunist thieves. If there is a burglar alarm, ensure it is set correctly on your departure. Leave a contact telephone number discretely next to the alarm keypad – that way, if there is a break-in, the police will be able to contact you immediately to inform you.
Further tips to secure your property can be found at the Crimestoppers website (http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org/crime-prevention/helping-prevent-crime).
If your Tenancy Agreement was arranged by TRC and you have specific questions about your own agreement in regards to this issue, please do get in contact.
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