Landlords should be checking for winter maintenance issues now to ensure the health and life of their properties, according to the Department of Building and Housing (DBH).
In its latest Landlord e-newsletter the DBH notes it receives an increase in the number of calls during winter from tenants seeking advice about mildew and condensation, heating and chimney maintenance, flooding, rodent infestations and weathertightness.
"Now is a great time for landlords to cast an eye over their property and deal with general maintenance issues," DBH says.
Now, more than ever, tenants demand dry, quality housing and landlords will often find themselves with empty properties if they fail to provide it.
DBH says if in doubt over a maintenance issue, landlords need to ask themselves how they would feel living there with family or friends.
To avoid condensation issues, DBH recommends having adequate ducting for dryers in laundry areas or providing tenants with a covered outdoor area than enables them to dry clothes outside rather than inside.
Extractor fans in the bathroom and kitchen are essential, DBH says, to help reduce moisture or mould issues in these high-use areas. Safety catches on windows also encourages tenants to get airflow through these typically-damp areas.
If dampness throughout the property is a problem, landlords may need to check the underfloor sealing. It may need re-sealing with building paper or polythene. Check the inside linings of cupboards, wardrobes and closets as to whether dampness is an issue.
DBH also raises the issue of tenants sleeping on mattresses on the floor as a cause of dampness.
Sufficient insulation is also a deterrent for dampness and cold, so landlords need to check under the roof especially, as this is where much heat is lost. Assessing the condition of the ceiling is also a good way to gauge what is going on in the roof in terms of dampness and mould.
DBH recommends making sure the air vents in the foundation area of the property is clear, to help with airflow and reduce dampness. Pruning trees and shrubs that are close to the house is often needed as well to reduce dampness and enable greater light and sun into the property.
Heating is also key to consider. It's important to know what tenants are using in the property. Landlords may need to install a flued gas heater which will produce less condensation and damp than an unflued gas heater, for example.
More winter maintenance tips for landlords: