As the nights grow darker and winter closes in, vacant properties across the city suffer from fluctuating cold and freezing temperatures, causing damp, water leak damage and – at worst – burst pipes.

Normal household insurance will not insure a property or building if it is unoccupied for more than 28 days, leaving many with second homes or leaving their homes for an extended period of time (a common occurrence over the holiday season) at risk of uninsured claims and damages should their home fall foul of freezing conditions. What should you do?

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.

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, sometimes millions* of pounds (*in the case of listed and heritage buildings). 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 – ultimately protecting your valuable asset.

Check guttering for damaged areas often caused by frost

Check for mould – Mould growth can be a serious problem in winter months. Lack of heating and ventilation turns damp vacant properties into giant grow bags. The problem has become increasingly widespread over the last ten years in both old and new properties.

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.

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. Disconnecting these services can also deter

any vagrants that gain access to the property.

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.

Patrolling and inspecting – Scheduled property inspections and patrols will give the peace of mind that your vacant property is being checked on a regular basis during the winter. Depending on requirements and budget, different options are available.

For more information on protecting your vacant property, call your local office or Lettings Manager, Talitha Setz on 01273 647710