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Many of the most common problems landlords experience can be prevented, or at least reduced, by carrying out regular maintenance and periodic inspections and establishing clear lines of communication with tenants. But of course, no matter how well prepared you are, you can’t eliminate the risk of things going wrong entirely.
Here, we take a look at the biggest risks landlords are likely to face when it comes to their rental properties and share our top tips for protecting your investment from the most common and costly claims.
‘Escape of water’ is consistently the most common claim we see at Total Landlord and is also the most common reason why landlords make an insurance claim across the UK. ‘Escape of water’ is defined as ‘when water has entered the property by the mains water supply and caused damage’. It usually refers to a leak within the property that is caused by something like a burst pipe, a faulty washing machine or a leaking toilet. Even a small leak can cause significant damage, leading to flooding and mould. The highest claim we ever paid out for escape of water was for £145,855 after a slow leak underneath a bath rotted the flooring in a building.
Around one in three escape of water claims at Total Landlord are due to a burst pipe, and this can be expensive and time-consuming to fix. The average claim for burst pipes at Total Landlord was £2,596 between 2019 and 2023, but recent figures from the British Association of Insurers show that the average cost of weather-related home insurance claims for burst pipes was £9.300. A severe snap of cold weather can lead to a surge in claims – the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018 led to a tenfold increase in pipe claims compared to the previous year.
Fortunately, there are some simple preventative steps landlords can take to reduce the risk of a burst pipe.
For more advice, read our guide, ‘How to avoid burst pipes in your rental property’ and watch our short video which is packed with practical tips to help you and your tenants avoid burst pipes.
Since 2018, storm claims have climbed from being the fourth to the second most common claim at Total Landlord Insurance. The number of storm claims quadrupled between 2018 and 2022, with the average claim paid peaking at £10,801 in the 2020 storm season.
Most storm damage claims are for roof damage, typically as a result of high winds causing tiles to fall off the roof. Most recently, landlord insurance claims for storms Dudley and Eunice (both in February 2022) averaged £4,156, with one claim coming in at an eye-watering £93,020 when a fir tree fell, impacting the roof, sash windows and rear balcony of a property and causing extensive damage.
February is the most common month for storm damage claims, so it’s a good idea to prepare your rental property to reduce the impact at this time of year.
For more guidance read our guide, ‘How to protect your rental property from storms’.
The risk of flooding in the UK is rising as the UK’s weather becomes more unpredictable. Flooding is one of the top three increasing claim types at Total Landlord, with the average flood claim totalling £13,739.
One of Total Landlord’s highest ever claims - for a staggering £143,755 - was for a flood caused by storm Desmond which meant that the tenants had to be evacuated after an entire street was flooded. With unsettled weather on the increase and a rise in flash floods that often occur with very little warning, landlords should do all they can to reduce the risks and impact of flooding.
However careful you and your tenants are, accidents will happen. ‘Accidental damage’ is damage that happens suddenly, due to an unintentional act from an unexpected and unforeseen action. Around 80% of the accidental damage claims we see at Total Landlord are for ‘accidental loss’ scenarios, which includes things like a child kicking a ball through the window or a tenant banging a nail into a water pipe. One of the most common causes of accidental loss we see at Total Landlord is a tap being left running unattended.
Even if the accidental damage was caused by the tenants, it’s up to the landlord to pay for the repairs. Although accidental damage is difficult predict, there are some steps you can take to minimise the risks and impact.
For more guidance on how to protect your rental property from accidental damage, read our ultimate guide to accidental damage insurance.
Rented properties are generally less secure than owner-occupied properties. But it’s in both tenants’ and landlords’ interests to work together to protect the property from break-ins. At Total Landlord, we see significant spikes in break ins during the summer and winter months, so it’s a good idea to pay particular attention to security around these times, and of course if tenants are going on holiday and leaving the property unoccupied.
Fortunately, there are quite a few things that both landlords and tenants can do to protect themselves from break-in. Maintaining a good relationship with tenants so that you can set clear expectations and lines of communication, can help protect your property and your tenants from break-in. The more precautions you both take to make the property unappealing to a would-be intruder, the better.
For more guidance on how to protect your rental property from break-ins, read our ultimate guide to securing your rental property.
Subsidence is when the foundations of a property begin to sink into the ground below the building, which can make the foundations unstable. Subsidence claims, like those for storm damage, are on the rise due to climate change. At Total Landlord, they have one of the highest average payouts of all claims, at almost £7,000 per claim. The sooner subsidence is treated, the better, so it's important that both landlords and tenants are aware of the warning signs.
For more guidance on how to protect your rental property from subsidence, read our guide, ‘Subsidence: what is it, how do you spot it and what should you do if you have it?’
Fortunately, fire claims are rare. However, they can be costly, with the average payout at Total Landlord coming in at £22,558.
It’s very important to educate tenants about fire safety, but landlords, particularly those renting out HMOs, must also be aware of their legal responsibilities. For example:
For full up to date guidance on fire safety requirements, refer to GOV.UK.
For more guidance on how to protect your rental property from fire, read our ultimate guide to fire safety regulations for landlords and watch our short video of top fire prevention tips for landlords and tenants.
Follow the steps offered here and you can rest assured that you’re doing all you can to reduce the risks of some of the most common and costly claims we receive at Total Landlord. You’ll also find lots more useful information by heading over to our Knowledge Centre. By dealing with any issues promptly and carrying out regular inspections and maintenance, you can often prevent minor problems escalating into bigger ones and eating into your profits.
But of course, you can never reduce risks entirely. Having tenants living in a property is considered higher risk than an owner-occupied property, so most buy to let mortgage lenders will require landlords to have appropriate insurance in place. Normal home insurance won’t cover you for the risks associated with renting out your property, so it’s a good idea to take out specialist landlord insurance that will provide comprehensive cover for rental-specific events, such as accidental damage by tenants or their guests. Total Landlord has a dedicated in-house claims team of expert advisers who are on hand to help you should the worst happen.
Watch our short video below, with Founder and CEO of Total Landlord, Eddie Hooker, to learn about Total Landlord’s award winning landlord insurance, and read our guide to find out how to choose the right landlord insurance for you.