Property and Homes

Landlords – How to check for and avoid frozen pipes

There’s a level of shared responsibility between landlords and tenants when it comes to maintaining the property during the winter and reducing the chances of pipes freezing. The landlord will be responsible for making sure that the water and heating supply are in good working order and fixing any maintenance issues.

The tenant is responsible for making sure the property is properly looked after by heating it sufficiently, clearing blockages, and checking the boiler regularly.

Winter can bring about a few problems for landlords, one of which is frozen pipes. So it is important that as a landlord you know the signs of frozen pipes, how to avoid them and should it happen, what you can do to rectify it.

What is a frozen pipe and how to detect it

Your pipes always have a little water in them and when temperatures drop, that water freezes and you find that nothing can pass through.

Below are the most common signs of frozen pipes:

  • Frost is on the exterior of the pipe– if you can see frost on a pipe, then there is a high likelihood that it is frozen.
  • Little or no water coming from the pipe – If there’s no running water, or only a then there is a high chance that the pipe leading to the tap may be frozen.
  • You notice bad/odd smells from the faucet or drain – if a pipe is frozen, you may notice a bad smell coming from the taps or drains.
  • Your boiler isn’t working – if this happens during a cold snap, the condensate pipe (which is close to the boiler and takes condensation from the boiler to a drain) may be frozen.

Below are some practical things landlords can do to help reduce the risk of frozen pipes:

• carry out regular inspections of the property so you can spot any problems missed by tenants before they become serious
• if any issues are found, make sure to address it quickly
• keep in touch with the tenants so you are aware f any issues sooner rather than later.
• Have a skinning fund for maintenance and repairs to your property so if you do need to carry out any works, you are able to afford it.

Ways you could try to prevent frozen pipes

• Insulate pipes and water tanks.
• Don’t switch your heating off completely but rather you could set your thermostat to a low temperature so the pipes don’t freeze.
• Try to turn your taps on and off every day to try to prevent the pipes from freezing.

How you can temporarily fix frozen pipes?

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position where the pipes are frozen but have actually burst, then you may still be able to save the pipes. You will probably need to call a plumber to help thaw your pipes, but if it’s not too serious here are some ideas you could use to thaw the frozen pipes yourself:

• You can use a good old fashion hairdryer to thaw pipes, but make sure you never use a naked flame or blowlamp as it could be dangerous
• you can try pouring hot water over the pipe but be very careful
• you can turn off the stopcock to stop the water supply
• you can use towels soaked in hot water, or hot water bottles, to begin thawing the pipes (start at the end of the pipe nearest the tap).

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