With the Met Office predicting one of the coldest winters in a decade, North-east insurance brokers Elliott Garden have come up with a checklist to ensure Teesside landlords are protected against the worst the elements may have to offer.
Elliott Garden's property insurance expert Julie Young said: "Obviously it is essential to make sure you have the appropriate insurance cover but there are some simple steps that everyone can take to protect their property at this time of year.
"Give you property a critical look over to see if there is any damage that needs to be repaired to face the worst weather - for example missing or damaged tiles.
"Check the guttering and downpipes to make sure they are not blocked. Insurance policies don't cover general wear and tear so make sure that your property is in reasonable condition.
"Ensure all pipes have been adequately lagged - burst pipes can cause a huge amount of damage once a thaw sets in.
"Are the doors and windows securely locked? Extra locks should be fitted if necessary and, if you have a burglar alarm, make sure it is activated at all times when your property is vacant.
"There are more burglaries during the winter months than at other times of the year. To reduce the risk of a break-in or damage to your property, consider fitting motion-activated lights.
"Repair any damaged steps leading to your property to reduce the risks of trips and falls in wet or icy weather which could result in a claim being made against you for injury.
"Insulating and draught-proofing will keep your home warm and reduce fuel bills, making your property more energy efficient. Consider draught-proofing doors and windows, fitting double or secondary glazing and insulating lofts and cavity walls. Extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom will help to reduce the build-up of condensation on windows, reducing any long-term damage.
"Ensure you have working smoke alarms fitted. The risk of fire increases at this time of year as more portable heaters are used. On average 270 people are killed in fires each year because they didn't have a smoke alarm and, over the past five years, more than 70 people have been killed because their smoke alarms didn't work - usually because the batteries were missing. You might even be able to obtain a free smoke alarm from your local fire service.
"A key source of electrical fires is faulty wiring. If you are a landlord, check that any appliances you supply are regularly inspected and checked by a registered electrical contractor.
"Residential landlords need to ensure annual gas checks have been completed to rule out the risk of deadly carbon monoxide fumes.
"As a landlord you have to show due diligence and if you are found guilty of neglect you may be fined or even imprisoned.
"Carbon monoxide detectors are a good idea for peace of mind. Every year about 30 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues that have not been properly installed or maintained, while many others also suffer ill-health.
"If your property is vacant for any length of time, consider leaving the heating on low to reduce the risk of pipes freezing and damp occurring. However, make sure this complies with the terms of your insurance policy."
* Elliott Garden, operates across the North-east and has offices in Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland and Washington.