For those people with holiday homes, a second house, family home or other property which may be unoccupied for significant parts of the winter there are important steps to protect them from the worst ravages of the weather.

Many Insurance companies now insist on steps such as these, if they are aware that the house will be unoccupied for any length of time.

1.    Make sure that your tenant or person checking the house and yourself know where your water stop valve is located.   Also check that it will turn and is not stuck in the on position.

2.    In the loft make sure that all pipes are lagged and that the top and side of tanks are insulated. If they are lagged check if they need to be replaced or improved.

3.    It is especially advisable to securely lag parts of the pipe that are difficult to reach or the ends of pipes. These are often the most vulnerable points.

4.    Leave open the trap door to the loft. This enables warm air from the rest of the house to circulate throughout the loft.

5.    Visit the house or have a local contact visit the house as often as possible so that if there is a burst pipe, it will be detected as soon as possible, and so minimise any damage.

6.    Ensure that there is sufficient heating oil at the property to allow the thermostat timer to regularly heat the house. Where there is a very severe weather forecast it may be advisable to have the heat on 24 hours a day or at least for lengthy periods at a time. Remember that the coldest part of the day is often during the middle of the night, so ensure the heat is on during this period.

These are some precautions that you may wish to follow and which may prevent damage from burst pipes. In a worst case scenario this is damage that may not be covered under your home insurance policy.