Top 10 tips for protecting your unoccupied property this winter

Several houses in a row with cars parked outside covered in snow

There are several reasons why you may have an unoccupied property, from being between tenants or a property being in probate following the loss of a loved one. Whatever the reason might be, it’s important to keep the property safe and well-kept to ensure that it is not disqualified from its insurance cover.

Maintenance can provide a challenge in winter, when the elements can consistently cause minor damage making an unoccupied property a real headache. However, a little preparation before the midwinter weather sets in can save you a lot of time and money.

Here are our top 10 tips to get your property through the winter:

  1. Check your guttering – make sure your guttering and drains are clear of fallen leaves from the autumn. If these are blocked, then over time they will overflow and could cause structural damage or damp.

  2. Regularly check on the property – By doing a weekly check on your house, you might spot a potential problem that you can fix there and then before it turns into a big deal. It will also give the impression that the house is in use, potentially warding off burglars. Some unoccupied property insurance policies will state a regular time period during which a property should be checked (Estate Insure insist a property should be checked every 15 days).

  3. Set the heating to come on regularly – Time your annual boiler service before the winter and set the heating to come on for a minimal period each day - this will prevent the plumbing from freezing during the extreme cold. Most unoccupied property insurance policies require you to keep a house above a certain temperature (Estate Insure’s minimum temperature requirement is 13 degrees Celsius).

  4. Make sure the roof is in good condition – Check the roof for loose tiles or slates, or any areas that could cause a potential leak. If there is a leak, then it might be difficult to find a day with suitable weather for a roofer to come and fix it.

  5. Make sure masonry and pointing are in good condition – Check that the cement (pointing) on the exterior brickwork is not crumbling, and therefore not vulnerable to frost as this could escalate into major structural damage. Also check the joining around the windows and the frames to prevent draft and rot.

  6. Clean the paths and patios – Give any path and garden tiles a jet wash to remove any slippery moss or sludge. This can be hazardous in the winter and could cause harm to anyone looking round the house, be they potential tenants, buyers or workers.

  7. Maintain the garden – If the property has a garden, give the lawn a last trim before the winter and cut back any overgrown plantation. This will give the impression that the home is lived in and cared for.

  8. Get to know the neighbours – By keeping in touch with the neighbours and forming a good relationship with them means they may keep an eye on the house, giving you peace of mind that they will contact you quickly if something goes wrong. Keeping the house in a respectable condition will help with this as it will help maintain the smart look of the road they live on.

  9. Check the fireplace and the chimney – If your property has a chimney then it might be worth getting it checked to make sure that it is unblocked and clean. Fire hazards such as bird nests can be removed before the property becomes occupied again and soot can be prevented from falling back into the house.

  10. Replace the batteries in the smoke alarms – Make sure that the smoke alarms are in a good working order. If there is a fire in the house then the smoke alarms may alert your neighbours who can alert you and, more importantly, the fire service.

For more information about how to keep your house safe in winter or to get an unoccupied property insurance quote contact:

Rachel Casterton
Estate Insure Manager
0114 280 2872