As a managing agent, have you considered the implications of heavy snowfall this winter? Here are some tips to consider for avoiding snow damage.
Preparing for snow to thaw
When the thaw comes and the snow melts, the water has to go somewhere. When did you last have the building’s gutters checked? Gutter maintenance professionals can use cameras and suction hoses on poles that can reach up several storeys to spot and clear debris quickly.
Are the drains in good condition and, at the very least, have you cleared away the debris of autumn’s leaf fall so the water is not impeded? Water that cannot drain away may freeze if the temperature falls again.
Preventing slips and trips
Keeping pathways and steps clear of ice and snow can be vital to avoid people coming to harm on your property.
Your local authority has an obligation to grit the highways, which technically includes pavements, but outdoor common areas like car parks, footpaths, bin stores, and steps can be your responsibility as a managing agent or director of a residents’ management company (RMC).
You may be liable for injuries to residents and visitors. You may have professional indemnity cover or Directors’ and Officers’ Liability Cover to help financially if such a situation does arise.
If you cannot divert people away from icy areas altogether, the Health and Safety Executive recommends using grit or similar in places prone to be slippery in frosty and icy conditions.
Depending on the area concerned, you might need an outside contractor or, if it’s just a path and a few steps, you can provide a grit bin and ask residents to help spread it when necessary. If you do invest in a supply of grit, keep it under cover to help prolong its lifespan.
If the block of flats has balconies, advise leaseholders to remove any snow that accumulates on it to prevent it from melting and dripping onto the balcony below.
Avoid roof damage from weight of snow
Be aware of the possible damage that can be caused by freeze-thaw cycles, where meltwater gets into cracks or under tiles of roof felt, refreezes, and expands. The repetition of melting and refreezing could deteriorate your roof over a period of time.
While there may not be much you can do at the time, you may want to commission a survey of the roof as soon as possible after severe winter weather. The outside of any building can take a battering in the winter, so surveying the whole building can be helpful for avoiding potential further damage.
Preventing frozen pipes
A big concern in severe cold weather can be frozen pipes, with the risk of bursting pipes and internal flooding as soon as the ice melt.
Keeping the heating on at a constant temperature throughout the cold months can help to avoid this. If apartments are left empty for an extended period, your block of flats insurance policy may also state a minimum temperature requirement during colder months, or require that the water is turned off at the mains and the system drained if the heating cannot be left in operation. Check your policy wording for full terms and conditions.
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