With Christmas approaching fast, many people will be feeling in holiday mode already. However, if you’re a landlord, relaxing with a mince pie and mulled wine probably isn’t something you can consider yet.
Just like every other time of year, it’s important to be a good landlord over the festive period. Preparing your properties and your tenants for the long break should begin now.
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Complete winter checks
It’s a good idea to carry out winter checks on the property to look for any potential issues.
This should include a safety check for the central heating system, clearing the gutters of leaves, looking for loose roof tiles and making sure the pipes aren’t frozen if the temperature is below zero.
It’s far easier to spot any problems now and call a tradesperson to fix them, rather than receiving a call from your tenants on Christmas Eve to say there’s a major issue.
Communicating with tenants
Communicate any holiday plans with your tenants, especially if you’re going away and won’t be readily available in the event of an emergency.
Make sure your property is in safe hands by having a responsible person on call, should there be an issue. This could be a letting agent, family member, business partner or trusted tradesperson who carries out work regularly for you.
Make sure the tenants have their contact details and emergency number, should the worst-case scenario happen.
Also ensure your tenants have the emergency numbers for utility companies including gas, electricity and water, in case they need to be contacted about a bigger issue.
Check whether your tenants are going away for Christmas and leaving the property unoccupied. Make sure burglar alarms are operational and that door and window locks are secure.
Take a drive past during the festive period to check that everything looks in order if your tenants aren’t there.
Gently remind tenants about fire safety. This shouldn’t come across as a lecture, but rather as a friendly refresher on keeping safe.
When the house is decorated with tree lights and possibly candles on the mantelpiece, advise them how to reduce the risks of a blaze. This should include never leaving lit candles unattended, especially if they have pets that could knock them over.
All year round, one-third of fires involving home decorations are caused by candles. This figure rockets to 46% in December.
Remind tenants never to leave portable heaters too near soft furnishings, or to fall asleep under a quilt on the sofa with an electric fire nearby. While your landlord furniture must meet the relevant fire safety standards, there’s always a risk if the correct safety precautions aren’t followed. Upholstered furniture, beds and mattresses setting alight cause 12% of all domestic fire incidents in the UK.
In the case of HMO furniture, especially in communal areas, gently remind tenants that if they have visitors over the holiday (especially when alcohol is involved) it’s safer not to smoke.
Should the worst happen, and damage occurs, landlord furniture packages are available for every eventuality, but of course, it’s far better to prevent a fire in the first place.
Christmas tree safety
The Christmas tree lights shouldn’t be left on overnight, or when no-one’s home, due to the risk of overheating. Unplug them when left unattended.
A real Christmas tree has a greater risk of igniting if it isn’t kept well-watered. A 6ft tall tree needs around three pints of water a day. If it isn’t watered and becomes dry, heat from the tree lights can easily set it alight.
In the UK, there are around 50 Christmas tree fires every year, with 20% having been caused by the lights and almost 10% by carelessly positioned candles.
Make sure the smoke alarms are in working order and ensure there’s a clear escape route, should a fire occur, where there’s no clutter and with locks and door handles that operate smoothly.
Protection against burglaries
Finally, remind tenants to minimise the risk of burglaries. As well as a standard check on doors and windows including locks, check things such as external lighting and security in the main entrance area if you manage an HMO.
Making sure your rental properties are secure will make your tenants feel happier and safer. It will also minimise the risk of you receiving a call on Boxing Day to say there’s been an overnight burglary at one of your houses.
If you wanted to go the extra mile, you could supply your tenants with smart plugs, so they can set the lighting to go on and off while they’re out, making it look like someone’s at home. They are a great deterrent for would-be opportunist burglars.
Last year, Christmas burglaries cost the UK a staggering £7.8 million, including stolen presents, according to a study by Compare the Market. The highest number of burglaries in the UK occurred in London, where householders lost £1.7 million pounds of their property to thieves.
As a responsible landlord, once you’ve completed the relevant preparations for Christmas with your tenants, you can finally relax.