The winter season brings new challenges for landlords. With the colder weather setting in, properties are more vulnerable to damage, so it’s important to take extra care when carrying out your property inspections and encourage your tenants to be vigilant of any signs of water damage.

Here we’ll share our guide on how to detect water damage in a house so you can stop leaks in their tracks and protect your property from further damage.

Signs of water damage

Some signs of water damage are easier to spot than others so make sure you check all aspects of your rental property. We’ll highlight the top areas to inspect when it comes to identifying water damage.

Water stains

If you notice large water stains on walls or ceilings, it’s pretty obvious that you have a leak or burst pipe somewhere in your property. Water stains are typically found near a kitchen, utility or bathroom. And stains in the ceiling are normally formed from pipe leaks in the attic and could threaten ceiling collapse in extreme cases. When you come across a water stain, try and trace it to the source then get in contact with your insurance provider.

Swelling in the walls

Swelling in the walls is a more severe sign of water damage in your property. Swelling indicates that the wood or drywall has absorbed large volumes of water. Buckling of the walls can either be the result of a storm or flood or a continuous minor leak.

Warped floorboards and paint damage

Often, homeowners first become aware of water damage when they spot peeling paint and wallpaper or warped wood. Don’t just plaster over the cracks, get a specialist in to see to the damage.

Damp smell

You can use all of your senses to spot water damage! And there’s no mistaking the strong smell of damp. If the scent of damp has made itself at home in your rental property, the damage will be inside the walls. Older houses often feature a damp odour, but it shouldn’t be overpowering. Get the problem looked at right away, especially if it’s out of character.

Health issues

If your tenants develop respiratory problems, it’s possible that water-induced mould is the route of the cause. Mould can trigger asthma and allergic reactions amongst other respiratory infections. So don’t ignore this important sign of water damage.

Cracks in the foundation

When you inspect your rental property, don’t forget to check the exterior. Crumbling foundations can stem from interior plumbing leaks.

Common places for water leaks

There are some common culprits when it comes to water damage in your rental property. And it comes as no surprise that most of these places revolve around water. When you carry out your routine property inspections, pay particular focus to these top 5 common places for water leaks.

  • Water tank/boiler: First, check the valves that take water in and out of your boiler. It should be pretty easy to spot a leak. If no water is escaping, keep an eye out for hints of a slow leak. This includes a hissing sound and marks on the floor underneath the valve. If your property is fitted with a central heating boiler, a leak could indicate a more serious issue so, get a specialist in right away.
  • Showerhead: Tenants will use the shower on a daily basis and so it’s more susceptible to wear and tear. And with that comes problematic leaks. Clogged showerheads are common causes of water leaks so encourage your tenants to maintain this part of the property.
  • Toilet: Much like showerheads, the toilet goes through a lot of use so it’s quite common for parts to pick up faults.  A small leak is nothing to worry about, but the cost can add up if you don’t fix it straight away. Most of the time, all you need to do is change a washer which can save you heaps in plumber bills.
  • Appliances: Appliances such as the dishwasher and washing machine get their fair share of use too. Over time, these appliances can shift in position which can loosen pipes and valves. This then leads to the dreaded leak. Again, ask your tenants to monitor these machines by making sure the attachments are fastened correctly.
  • Roofs: When a big storm hits, roof tiles can often go flying. This can leave gaps in the roof to allow water to seep in. Look out for mouldy insulation, rotten supporting beams and loose shingles. It’s important to get any roof leaks seen ASAP before the water can drip down into the floor below.

How to tell if water damage is new or old

Once you’ve spotted the water damage, it’s important to work out how long the problem has been sitting there. This will determine whether you can tackle the damage yourself or if you need to bring in the experts. Here are a few things to pay attention to:

  • Material consistency- materials that are mushy to touch will have older water damage.
  • Discoloured rings- a number of discoloured stain rings are signs of repeated soaking and drying.
  • Rot- extended water exposure will cause rotten woodwork
  • Mould and mildew- mould can appear from as little as 24 hours after water exposure.


To give yourself peace of mind in the unfortunate event of damage to your property, take out Landlord Insurance and Landlord Contents Insurance from us at CIA Landlords. Our insurance policies are competitive so get a quote today or request a callback to speak to one of the team.

We hope that you’ve found our guide useful! Visit our advice centre to discover our collection of tips for landlords. We cover topics such as financeneighbourly disputesproperty access and more.

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