Winter is here so now is the time (unless you’ve already ticked this off your to-do list) to ensure all your landlords assess their properties for any issues that need attention to safeguard their tenants and protect the property and their finances. Not sure what should be on the winter maintenance checklist?

The winter maintenance checklist has a primary focus on tenant safety and comfort. During the colder months of the year there are some specific potential hazards that need to be ruled out.

Test all smoke alarms

More house fires occur in winter than at any other time of the year, Causes include faulty appliances like electric blankets and heaters and negligence like leaving a heater on or a candle burning overnight or leaving washing out to dry in front of an unattended heater. While these are all the tenant’s responsibility, a smoke alarm is required by law to ensure the safety of occupants in the property. Therefore ensuring the provision of adequate, functioning smoke alarms is a landlord’s responsibility.

Check with your local Fire Authority for the smoke alarm laws that apply in your state. As a minimum though, if smoke alarms aren’t hardwired in the property, you should advise your landlords to schedule annual smoke alarm maintenance checks and ensure the following is done:

  • Test batteries monthly
  • Remove dust every six months
  • Replace batteries once a year
  • Replace the smoke alarm every 10 years.

Assess for mould and treat it if discovered

Inadequate ventilation in a home is the main cause of mould. With shorter days, less sunshine and windows often kept closed during winter, windows and walls can become traps for the presence of mould. If there is a high presence of mould found in a property, it has the potential to lead to health problems.

The best way to tackle mould is to ensure the property is adequately ventilated. Landlords should be advised to consider installing an exhaust fan in rooms, such as the bathroom or laundry, where mould from excess condensation is found. Ensure windows and doors can be opened with ease and advise tenants to open them during the warmer, sunnier times of the day, if possible. If mould is found in cupboards advise tenants there are products readily available to purchase that are designed to collect excess moisture and make a suggestion to landlords that they assess the property to find and solve the source of the problem.

Clear gutters

Blocked gutters and downpipes can cause a range of problems in winter, when it tends to rain more often. Issues include water leakage, rising damp, mould and even problems to the property’s foundations in severe cases. These issues are readily preventable simply by keeping gutters and downpipes free from leaves, small branches, dirt and other debris. Now is the time to advise landlords to check their roof and gutters or suggest organising a handyman to do the job if they don’t have the time or are wary about climbing a ladder.

Assess for slippage risks

Winter is also the time of year when there is higher chance of a build up of moss, mildew and algae in damp, shady areas outside the property. This includes decks, patios, pathways, driveways and stairways, creating a significant slip hazard.

While tenants are responsible for maintaining those areas, it is important that you let them know what they should do to prevent these situations from occurring before winter sets in and that you check for slip hazards at each inspection.

A simple measure to prevent the build up of moss, mildew and algae is to keep external surfaces as free from debris as possible by regular sweeping. There are also a number of off-the-shelf products available to prevent the build up of moss, mildew and algae.

If you find significant slip hazards during a routine inspection, advise the tenant to avoid the area/s or take extra care and suggest that the landlord take the necessary steps to remove the risk. This may include trimming back shrubs or trees to let more light in and giving the area a good clean with a gerni.

The ultimate solution to ensure property safety

Every tenant has a right to be safe, warm and dry at home in winter. The most comprehensive way to ensure all-round safety for tenants and provide peace of mind for landlords and your agency year-round is to have a professional PropertySafe Health & Safety Evaluation Report conducted. Conducted by fully qualified safety inspectors, the report alerts the landlord to all relevant safety risks and provides practical options to mitigate those risks, making your job easier and protecting all parties. After all, as a property manager you are not an expert on safety in the home.

The report encompasses 14 hazard groups and over 120 safety issues, including slip hazards, mould, fire safety and blocked gutters.

If your landlords have never had a PropertySafe inspection completed before, now is a great time to suggest they have it done to ensure their property is safe and sound for winter. To learn more, call PropertySafe on 1300 350 000 today.

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