Maintenance Checklist for a Holiday Let or Cottage
Many homeowners forget that holiday home insurance is not a maintenance contract, and it does not cover the cost of things breaking down or wear and tear. Insurance is there to cover damage caused by sudden and unexpected events.
Therefore, it’s essential that you fulfill your duty of care and take reasonable precautions to protect your property and ensure that your guests have a safe and disaster-free holiday. Regular checks and preventive maintenance reduce repair costs and the potential for damage to escalate.
Here, we’ve put together a property maintenance checklist and the steps you can take to make sure your holiday let is in tip-top condition. It should be used in conjunction with your risk assessment to ensure that nothing is missed.
Holiday home spring maintenance
Early spring is the ideal time to carry out holiday let inspections and essential maintenance, so your property is prepared for the busy letting season ahead.
-Re-seal around worktops, clean tiles and re-grout.
-Sanitise the refrigerator and defrost the freezer.
-Descale the kettle.
-Check the drainage pipes from sinks and appliances for leaks that could cause rotting and dampness.
-Deep clean the oven.
-Remove mouldy silicone and re-seal.
-Clean tiles and re-grout.
-Are your towels looking tired and stained? Buy some new soft and fluffy ones.
-Check the bathroom fixtures, such as the toilet, shower tray, bath and washbasin for leaks which if undetected, can cause serious damage to the floor and ceiling.
-Upgrade tired linens and pillows.
-Turn your mattresses and replace it if there are stains.
-Check the loft for signs of moisture and leaking pipes.
-Look for indications of a pest infestation – droppings, smells, evidence of gnawing, chewing or wasp/bee nests.
Service the boiler
Heating failure could cause pipes to freeze and burst during cold snaps. You should have an annual gas safety check by a registered Gas Safe engineer and your boiler should be serviced annually to prevent breakdowns during the frosty months. Doing this in spring means that if there is a problem, it can be fixed well in time before the winter weather.
If you have a condensing boiler, note that external pipes are prone to freezing in winter which causes the system to shut down. Ensure this pipe is lagged.
Make sure gas appliances are maintained and have a gas safety check carried out annually by a registered Gas Safe engineer.
All electrical appliances in your holiday home should be regularly checked for signs of a defect or wear and tear. It is your duty to ensure electrical items and your property’s electrics are safe. If you have concerns, then replace the item or have it checked by a qualified electrician. Instructing a qualified electrician to PAT (Portable Appliance Test) your appliances each year is a good idea.
Holiday let owners are required to comply with fire safety laws and carry out a fire risk assessment to recognise, remove and reduce fire hazards.
Regularly test that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and replace the batteries as needed. If you have a fire extinguisher, check the pressure and expiry date.
Upholstered furniture (including beds, mattresses and pillows) must comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations.
Check walls and furnishings for spots of mould, condensation and the smell of dampness that may have appeared due to poor ventilation. Mould on walls should be treated with a diluted bleach solution to ensure any spores are killed.
Opening the windows often to ventilate the property will help prevent mould. As well as using a dehumidifier, extractor fans, opening trickle vents and heating the property.
Check all wooden windows, doorframes and door edges for wood rot and cracked putty to prevent water and cold air from getting into the property. Make sure water flows away from the glass and doesn’t collect on the window sill or drain behind it.
Carpets and soft furnishings
To remove stains or odours, steam clean or wash curtains, carpets, rugs, upholstery and soft furnishings.
Check the exterior paint and repaint or touch up. You might not need to paint the entire house, just the most used and/or visible areas. Examine your outdoor furniture for chipped paint and touch up or varnish as needed.
Check walls and the chimney to make sure the bricks, rendering and mortar are free from cracks. Large cracks might be subsidence – speak to your insurer if you have concerns.
Empty the septic tank of solids annually.
Spring is the time to put some love into your garden. It is all about preparation – pruning shrubs, raking and repairing the lawn, mulching, weeding and planting.
Thoroughly check staircases and carpets for trip hazards. Look for loose floorboards or kinks in the carpet or rugs and make sure handrails are secure.
Stain removal tips
It’s inevitable that with the constant inflow of guests, there’ll be the odd stain to deal with. Here are some tips to help you remove those stubborn stains.
Holiday home winter maintenance
As the nights get darker and the bleak weather approaches, winter can be undeniably harsh for holiday homes.
Break-ins tend to increase in winter as opportunistic thieves take advantage of darker evenings. There is also the onslaught of rain, frost, snow, flooding and storms – all of which are more likely to cause damage to holiday homes than at any other time of year.
Properties that are kept in good condition fare much better in severe weather. Here, we provide our top tips for protecting your property during the harsh winter season. If you are closing your holiday cottage over the winter months, it will need to be winterised.
Get your holiday home winter ready with these tips.
Protect your pipes
Cold snaps can cause devastation when pipes freeze and burst. To prevent pipes from freezing, consider leaving the heating on (13C) when your holiday home is unoccupied. It may also be a condition of your insurance.
Loft insulation can help reduce heating bills and retain heat, but don’t forget to also insulate or lag pipes and hot water cylinders in loft areas to prevent them from freezing. Isolate or wrap exposed outside pipes with insulating sleeves and check to see if grants are available in your area for energy-saving improvements.
If you haven’t used the heating for a while, bleeding radiators will help them work more efficiently.
Open the loft hatch
During extreme freezing temperatures open the loft trap door to allow warm air from the house to circulate around the loft and pipes. Our experience is that these are the pipes that are most likely to burst and cause the most damage.
Drain heating systems
Simply turning off the water is not sufficient for a property that is to be left unoccupied for a long period as there is still a lot of water in the system which can cause damage. Get a plumber to drain down the water and central heating system to remove the risk completely.
Make sure you know where it is and that you can turn it on and off.
Check roof tiles
Check for loose or broken roof tiles and missing slates which could lead to water ingress, plus tiles could fall off in high winds and damage property – or worse, injure someone. Roof flashings and joints around chimneys, vents and skylights should also be inspected regularly for signs of damage or leaks.
Also, go into your loft to see if the roof appears to be sagging and look for any signs of daylight through the felt or patches of damp.
Gutters and drains
Check for leaks and clear drains, gutters and downpipes of leaves and debris so rainwater can flow freely into the drains without causing flooding or damp. Signs of soil/debris at ground level can be an indication that water is not being caught by the gutter.
Also check that gutters, eaves, fascias and soffits are securely attached as snow and heavy rainfall can easily overwhelm them.
In high winds, a falling tree and branches could damage your property or a third party. Keep trees and shrubs well pruned, remove dead/damaged branches and ensure they are clear of buildings and cables.
Check for gaps around windows and seal them with caulk where necessary.
Don’t forget to check that outbuildings and garages are well-maintained, secure and weather tight.
Satellite dishes/TV aerials
High winds can cause damage to these, are they fixed securely?
Check for leaks
Washing machines, taps, showers, baths, dishwashers etc. should be checked from time to time for leaks because even a few drops of water could cause rotting and dampness.
If you are letting your holiday cottage throughout winter, there is a danger that a guest or someone visiting your property could slip and fall on icy/slippery paths or decking and sue for an injury. Keep driveways, paths, steps and decking well-lit and clear of algae and slippery leaves.
As a responsible holiday let landlord it would be helpful to provide your guests with a good supply of salt or grit and a shovel. Don’t use water to melt snow or ice as it may re-freeze and turn to black ice.
Install surge protectors as electrical storms and power surges can fry your electrical gadgets such as TVs, and modems.
Sweeping your chimney will help to prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s recommended that you have chimneys swept at least twice a year if burning wood and annually if you use smokeless fuels.
Inspect your outside furniture to ensure that it is safe and fit for purpose. Ideally, it should be securely stored in a garage or shed when unused during winter to prevent it from decaying, being damaged in a storm or stolen.
Inspect gates, boundary walls and fences for damage and carry out repairs so they are not damaged by strong winds.
Torches, a first aid kit, important documents and phone numbers should always be to hand in case of power cuts or emergencies.
Beat the burglars
With attempted break-ins peaking in the winter, remember to review your security measures.
Doors and window locks
Check for faulty door or window locks as this can significantly increase the risk of burglary. If you use a key safe, check it functions properly and is secure. Don’t forget to change the code regularly.
Service your security system annually.
Keep expensive garden equipment stored in a locked outbuilding and don’t leave tools lying around that thieves can use to break into your home.
If you have a ladder stored outside, make sure it is secured down with a padlock and chain.
Check bulbs and your outside lighting illuminates key entry points.
Use smart home devices to monitor your home remotely, such as a thermostat, motion sensors, cameras and leak detectors.
Ensure someone checks your property at least once a week when it is left unoccupied over winter.
There are many checks that should be done during each changeover. Use this list that you or your housekeeper can cross-check after each rental.
Regular maintenance will keep your property in good order and help prevent expensive repair bills.
- Carry out regular home maintenance checks to quickly identify potential issues that could result in damage. Especially ahead of winter and again after any bouts of bad weather.
- Ensure any repairs or maintenance is done as soon as possible to prevent any long term, and potentially more expensive damage.
- Make sure guests know exactly what to do if something goes wrong.
- Home insurance policies will not cover general wear and tear or damage due to lack of maintenance.