Sim Sekhon: Britain’s weather is no laughing matter

Other parts of the world may have predictable climates and seasons, often with extreme conditions but Britain has its weather. Just this morning – and I’m writing this in August – I’ve heard about frosts expected overnight in Scotland. We’ve had a scorching summer, but the bank holiday weekend was a wash-out and now heating boilers are being fired-up.

We might be used to the varying temperatures, but the very unpredictability of our weather can cause its own problems for the property owner. Be honest, did you check your property for damage after the arrival of the Beast from the East earlier this year? Have you had a look at things after the recent dry conditions? When the wind last tore through your part of the country, did you examine trees and fences, chimneys and roofing materials?

I find it very frustrating that many people see our weather as a joke or an irritant. When an episode that’s outside the norm has passed, they forget that it could have had lasting consequences. In my opinion, most landlords don’t inspect their properties often enough, and small problems that arise from weather damage can soon escalate. Remember that your tenants are less likely to care about the long-term integrity of your property than you are. Even if they’ve spotted an issue, they might not bother to mention it, especially if they’re moving on. You could be facing void periods with new potential tenants unwilling to rent a property that has obvious structural issues.

Summer is drawing to a close, but its effects are left behind. After a period of prolonged hot weather, properties shift and settle, and as they do, fissures can open up in walls and around window and door frames. Baking heat can cause older building materials to become brittle, and flashing on chimneys and the pointing between brickwork can fail. Which means that inspecting your property now is a great idea.

Arrange a good time with your tenants. Explain why you’re coming and what you’ll be looking for. Ask them to tell you about things they may have noticed. Don’t forget to check over any outside spaces as well as the house itself. Gardens, perimeter walls and fencing, sheds, garages, paths and gateways can all be vulnerable to temperature extremes.

With autumn and winter being the peak seasons for damaging cold, wet and wind, you’ll want to protect your investment by getting the jobs done. But don’t assume you’ll be able to get contractors onto a job straight away. You may have to wait weeks before there’s a gap in your preferred builder’s diary. It’s just another reason to keep on top of the inspections. Smaller issues can be quick fixes you may be able to handle yourself.

I understand that making a return on property rental involves keeping a close eye on expenditure but don’t allow negligence to erode the value of your capital asset. Avoiding essential repairs will cost more in the long run and reduces your potential rental income. If you check your insurance policies, you could find you’re covered for some of the work.  If not, it’s well worth considering changing your insurance.

I’d like to see more landlords respecting the impact of the British weather – even with our supposedly “mild, temperate climate”– and being proactive about inspections and property maintenance. With predictions that extreme weather is becoming more likely, landlords need to be vigilant and well prepared.