The landlords guide to protecting your property from rain and floods
Severe flooding has become more common in the UK, with several major flood events causing long lasting damage to properties and impacting upon residential and commercial landlords. It is hard to predict when and where the next heavy rainfall will occur, or the extent of its intensity.
Summary of recent floods
2004 – Destruction of Boscastle village
2005 – Carlisle area
2007 – Midlands and North East England
2008 – UK wide
2012 – UK wide
2013/14 – West Country St Jude’s floods, Thames Basin
Depending on the type of tenancy, landlords can be responsible for the upkeep of the building.
Failing to do so may result in the landlord being liable if there is any damage as a result of rain or flooding, even if insurance is in force. This could come in the form of substantial repair costs or even legal proceedings if a tenant believes they have grounds go to court over a dispute, for example over health risks arising from damp accommodation or stagnant water.
Top tip – be proactive and responsive
Action can be taken now before the situation becomes critical. If preventative measures are taken and a good standard of general maintenance is in place, the wild and rainy British weather need not be a problem for property owners or landlords.
Preventative maintenance - rain
Check drainpipes and seal any gaps
The job of drainpipes is to keep water away from the walls of the building, so blocked or cracked pipes left for long periods of time can create problems of water ingress, and even affect the structure and safety of the building by draining into the foundations. Water seeping into the house will cause damp and mould to occur, putting the tenant’s health at risk. This type of property damage is unlikely to be covered by insurance, as it will be considered to have occurred over time (known as a "gradually operating cause") and therefore could have been prevented.
Clear guttering and check drains regularly
Annual checks should be sufficient, however more frequent visits may be necessary if there are lots of trees surround the house. Removing the build-up of debris, checking the guttering sagging caused by damaged brackets and leaks caused by faulty joints.
Check drainpipes for cracks and blocking, for example from the build-up of cooking fats and waste food. Blocked or broken drains can result in foul smells and waste water overflowing through manhole covers while aggravating the effects of heavy rain.
Check roof surfaces
Roof slates, tiles and flashing can become weathered over time and develop cracks or become displaced, which will lead to damage from water ingress into the roof space and timbers.
Safety first: Roof surfaces are fragile and dangerous therefore it is important to ensure you have adequate crawling boards and ladders, using packing between boards and tiles to avoid damage.
Keep windows sealed
Heavy rain could well lead to water cascading down the side of a property, possibly for prolonged periods of time. With this in mind, the sealing around external windows must be meticulously maintained and checked for leaks on a regular basis.
Rain or shine, look out for issues
Landlords should schedule in a complete property maintenance review a few times a year, ideally during the autumn and spring seasons before extreme weather arrives. It is important that tenants have the right means of contact with you or your letting agent to report any home emergency issues to be dealt with immediately.
Professional help for remote landlords
If you live a significant distance from your let property or have a portfolio of premises that span a larger geographical area, regular and frequent building checks could be logistically impossible. In this case, it is paramount to schedule checks by a third party, whether a letting agent or a trusted maintenance professional.
Preventative maintenance - floods
Be prepared for floods 24/7
- Check flood risk and warnings for your property area at the Environment Agency
- Check your let property insurance covers floods
- Properties in high flood risk areas may want to consider permanent flood protection
- Create a flood plan for tenants
- Contact tenants to advise of flood warnings and help them prepare
- Offer an emergency telephone helpline that tenants have access to at all times
- Research alternative accommodation for tenants
- Raise ground floor electrical sockets to a higher level
- Ensure tenants know how to shut of electricity, gas, heating and water
Don’t underestimate small issues
Although the immediate damage might be slightly less than when a drainpipe leaks, failure to act straight away could ruin the fixtures and fittings inside or even compromise the structure of the property. This must be organised through a letting agent or contractor if you are a landlord who is based further afield. Where the obligation for maintenance lies with the owner of the property rather than the tenant, any level of neglect with regard to keeping the building watertight could ultimately lead to legal action.
Property management services can provide maintenance on a landlord's behalf, but it is best to always do the appropriate research before committing to this to ensure the company in question will be adequately responsive.
The long-term consequences of flooding
A landlord is ultimately doing themselves a disservice if they fail to carry out these simple steps. Although in the immediate future it might seem like an easier option to let the odd imperfection slip through the net, in the long term it could compromise the value of the property as an asset.
Check a property’s flood defences before investment
It is always best practice when purchasing a new property to consider how vulnerable it could be to rainy weather. Research the local area to see whether it has a history of flooding and try to use other properties as a benchmark. If there is evidence that other property owners are taking preventative measure that you don't have in place, it could well be worth following suit.