How can deposits protect your property from damage over winter?

The main reason it’s worthwhile taking a deposit is to make sure that if the tenant does something that causes damage to your home, you can keep some or all of the money to help cover the cost of repairs. 

It also helps the tenant if they don’t have any spare cash to pay for damage they’ve caused – it can just be taken out of the deposit they paid at the start of their tenancy.

Here, we explore some specific winter related deposit issues and how taking a deposit from your tenants can help you recoup some of your costs.

Protect your deposit today

If you have taken a cash deposit, you must protect it in a government authorised scheme within 30 calendar days

Why are deposits particularly useful during the winter months?

Quite simply, there are more potential hazards during wintertime that can cause problems for your tenant and your property.

If your tenant hasn’t rented or lived outside the family home before, it’s certainly worth having a conversation to make sure they understand how to keep the property safe and secure over the winter period, as this can save both of you a lot of money and hassle! 

Some common winter hazards are down to the elements – they’re nobody’s fault – which is why it’s essential to have not just a deposit, but the appropriate level of landlord insurance cover.

Here are some examples of three common winter hazards to remind your tenants to look out for and report to you or your managing agent:

  1. Leaks. High winds and heavy rain can cause gutters to block, break and leak, or dislodge roof tiles, leaving a hole for rainwater to get in. Freezing temperatures can also lead to burst pipes, both inside and outside a property.
  2. Blocked drains. This can simply be due to leaves collecting on top of drains, which need to be cleared or they can cause localised flooding and penetrate the property walls causing damp. 
  3. Flying debris. On very windy days, garden furniture and other things left outside can cause a lot of unnecessary damage, so it’s worth the tenant checking there’s nothing that could take off during storms. 

For more information on winter related insurance issues, read Total Landlord Insurance’s article, how to minimise insurance claims during the hazardous winter months

What kind of damage are tenants most likely to cause in winter?

While tenants aren’t responsible for winter weather, they can unintentionally cause damage during the winter simply through using the property in a different way to how they might throughout the rest of the year.

For instance, although a tenant might take showers as a general rule, on a cold, dark winter’s night, there’s nothing better than a long, hot bath. Unfortunately, we can all get distracted at times and your tenant might accidentally let the bath overflow.

Depending on how long it’s left, that could cause significant damage to décor, flooring and possessions, and if it is a property in a block of flats, cause damage to the property below.

This would undoubtedly be classed as damage caused by the tenant, and it should be quite straightforward to deduct the cost of repairs from their deposit.  The good news is there are devices that can stop this happening – read Hamilton Fraser’s guest blog from Aqualeak which explains how ‘PropTech’ can help prevent leaks in your property.

Something that’s less clear-cut is damage caused by not heating the property well enough over winter – and this is likely to be a significant problem in 2022.

Energy prices had already risen by 54 per cent in April 2022 and they’re almost certainly going to rise again in October. With these spiralling costs, tenants may choose not to heat the property so much – or even at all – and not realise the damage this can do.

A cold home – particularly if it’s not ventilated properly – can suffer from damp and mould. That’s not only unsightly, but it can damage the fabric and décor of the property, furniture and furnishings and your tenant’s own possessions.

Worst of all, the mould could lead to respiratory issues for your tenant.

Our case study involving damp and mould highlights how our adjudicators approached a recent case, what was decided, and why. 

And if the temperature drops sufficiently, pipes can freeze and burst. That could easily result in a huge flood in the property, which might be so bad that the tenant has to move out while repairs and refurbishment are carried out.

Although you might believe this kind of damage is the tenant’s fault and therefore you’re entitled to retain some or all of their deposit money, it might be hard to prove. 

Nevertheless, if you’ve taken a deposit, you can provide evidence to the scheme provider’s resolution service and they will make the final decision about how much, if any, you’re entitled to keep. 

So, even if the tenant doesn’t believe they should have to pay for any damage caused, you may still be able to recover some costs from their deposit.

Protect your deposit today

If you have taken a cash deposit, you must protect it in a government authorised scheme within 30 calendar days

Suzy Hershman

“To have the best chance of success in a dispute, make sure your tenancy agreement clearly and simply explains the tenant’s responsibilities on how to look after the property. When making a claim, we need to see a comprehensive check-in inventory and check-out report, both with good quality photos, which were provided to the tenant and can be easily compared for any deterioration.

The best of these are often those carried out by a professional third party. You will also need to provide a detailed list of damage and any repair estimates or invoices.

Finally, make sure you have landlord insurance to protect your investment if damage does occur and you can’t, for any reason, make a deposit claim, or the amount of damage caused is more than the deposit.” 


Suzy Hershman, Head of Dispute Resolution

Case Study: Frozen pipe bursting over the Christmas period

One case we had involved a burst pipe which happened after the tenant had left the property empty for three weeks and had neither left the heating on nor turned off the stop cock. As a result of extreme weather, a pipe froze, burst and flooded the property, damaging flooring and the washing machine. 

Due to a clause in the tenancy agreement which related to frozen pipe risk and damage, coupled with a letter and email which had been sent to the tenant to turn off the water and leave the heating on if going away over the Christmas period, it was felt the tenant had failed in their ‘duty to take reasonable care to safeguard the property from damage’ and that they were in breach of the agreement. 

As a result, the landlord was awarded the full deposit which, although it only partly paid to repair the damage, was better than not getting anything at all. 

The problem is, if your tenant decides they can’t afford to keep their home heated as well as it should be, it could easily lead to these kinds of problems, which no-one wants. So you need to emphasise to your tenant the importance of keeping the property warm over the winter months and if they’re struggling to pay their utility bills, suggest they talk to someone such as Citizens Advice  who can help and support them during these difficult times.  

Finally, if the property is liable to any flooding, it’s worth both you and your tenant signing up to flood alerts from the Government and listening out for local radio station warnings. Even if you’ve lived in the area for some time, new floods are cropping up all the time, due to some of the extraordinary weather we have these days.  

To find out more about the different types of deposit protection available, visit mydeposits home page. And for much more information and advice on protecting your rental property against damage this coming winter, head to Hamilton Fraser’s  ultimate guide for landlords on preparing your rental property for winter.