When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Dealing with bad weather if you are a private tenant

There are certain steps which you can take to protect your home from bad weather. In a private rented property, you may need to contact your landlord to ask if these steps have been or can be taken. Remember, in the event of flood damage because of bad weather, your belongings will only be protected if you have your own contents insurance. You cannot make a claim on your landlord’s insurance for damage to your personal property.

Weatherproofing the property

The main risk to any property in periods of cold weather is water damage due to burst pipes.  You can minimise the changes of damage occurring by taking a few key steps.

  • Leave the heating on for certain periods during the day.
  • Open any trap doors to ensure warm air can circulate around pipes in the roofspace.
  • Keep doors in the property ajar to allow warm air to circulate.
  • Keep the cupboard under the sink open.
  • Find out where your stopcock is and how to turn it off.

Ask your landlord if the pipes in the property have been lagged.  If they have not, your landlord may wish to consider getting this work done to reduce the risk of pipes freezing. Reduce the risk of pipes freezing by ensuring that you have enough gas or oil to heat the property.  There are schemes available to help you with the cost of heating your home.

Remember to inform your landlord if the property is going to be empty during a period of bad weather.

Be prepared and be insured

As a private tenant it is really important that you have your own contents insurance.  Without contents insurance your belongings are not protected against any damage caused in your rented property.  You cannot expect your landlord to reimburse you for items lost or damaged if the property floods.

The property you rent is your home and you have a certain duty to look after it.

  • Make sure you know where the stopcock and the mains electricity switch for the property are located.
  • Check that you have your landlord’s contact details, which should be in your rent book.
  • Inform your landlord if you are going to be away from the property during a period of bad weather.

NI Water has produced a useful video which shows you how to find your stopcock.

Dealing with frozen or burst pipes

If your pipes do freeze, you will need to act quickly to reduce the risk of them bursting.  You should:

  • Turn the water supply off at the stopcock.
  • Try to thaw the pipes, by placing warm towels or a hot water bottle on them or using a hairdryer on its lowest setting.  Pipes must be thawed slowly, never use a blowtorch or exposed flame.

If the worst happens and the pipes burst, you should:

  • Turn the water supply off at the stopcock.
  • Inform your landlord.
  • Try to stop any escaping water with blankets, buckets or towels.
  • Turn off your central heating, immersion heater and any other water heating systems.
  • Drain the system by turning on all your taps and flushing the toilet several times.
  • Check if there is a risk of electrocution and switch of the mains electricity supply if there is.
  • Inform any neighbours who may be affected.

Notify your landlord

If something happens to cause damage in your home, you must tell your landlord immediately.  Your landlord’s telephone number and address should be contained in your rent book.

You’ll need to tell the landlord the following:

  • What has happened.
  • What damage has been caused.
  • What, if anything, you have done to try to repair the situation.
  • Whether the damage has affected neighbouring properties.
  • Whether the property is habitable.

As with all repairs that the landlord is responsible for, your landlord will have to make steps to carry out repairs within a reasonable timeframe.  In some cases, the landlord’s insurance company may cause a delay or the landlord may have difficulty finding a plumber or electrician if lots of other people are having similar problems.

Emergency contact details

Make sure you have your landlord’s contact details, including an emergency contact number.  These should be contained in your rent book. If your landlord has a “handyman” or person who carries out repairs, ask if you can have contact details for this person.

If your water or electricity supply has been affected, you should contact NI Water on 0845 744 0088 and PowerNI on 08457 643 643.

Uninhabitable accommodation

Burst pipes can cause significant damage to a property.  If your private rented accommodation has been rendered uninhabitable because of flooding or water damage, try to negotiate with your landlord to find a suitable solution.

If your landlord has alternative accommodation available, you may be able to move into that property until the damage in your home has been repaired.   If this happens, you should not be expected to pay an increased rent. Your landlord should not expect you to stay in an uninhabitable property for a long period of time.  If no alternative accommodation can be found, you may want to try to negotiate with your landlord to end the rental contract early.

If you continue living in damaged property, you may wish to negotiate with your landlord for a reduced rent, but your landlord is under no obligation to agree to this.  However, the Environmental Health Department of your local council can carry out an inspection on the property.  If the property does not meet certain standards, the council can order your landlord to carry out certain works and, in some cases, may be able to restrict the amount of rent you are charged.

If you are going to continue living in a water damaged property, be aware that you will have to allow the landlord and any workers access to the property to carry out repair work.  If this is going to cause you disruption, try to negotiate an acceptable work schedule with the landlord.

Need help solving a problem?

You should always get advice if you are having problems with a tenancy. You can contact Housing Rights for advice on your rights. Housing Rights can also provide a mediation service if you and your landlord are having problems and need an independent person to help resolve these.