Kate Faulkner is one of the UK's leading property experts and in this article, she discusses how to keep your tenants safe this Christmas and New Year.
Christmas is coming so, once again, it’s time to think about how you can help your tenants enjoy the festive season. The winter weather puts extra stress on the property and so might your tenants, especially if they’re planning to celebrate at home.
Here are my top 10 tips for ensuring you, your property and your tenants all emerge from the holiday period in good shape. Hopefully if you have a good managing agent, they will be making these checks on your behalf!
1. Make sure the property is secure. Presents out on display, distracted tenants and any lapse in security make your property ever so attractive to burglars, so check fencing is in good condition, security lighting is working properly and remind your tenants to lock up properly whenever they leave the property. It’s also a good idea to suggest they don’t leave any new technology in plain sight – particularly if it’s still in the box.
2. Are your tenants’ belongings insured? With new presents around and an increased risk of burglary, ask your tenants whether they have taken out contents insurance. If they haven’t, explain that your policy doesn’t cover them and suggest that it might be a good idea.
3. What are your managing agent’s festive opening hours? If you use an agent to manage your property, make sure both you and your tenant know when they’ll be open for business and who to contact in case of an emergency.
4. Ask about your tenants’ plans. If they’re going on holiday or will be spending some time away with friends and family, and it looks as though it’s going to be particularly cold, you might want to ask them to leave the heating on low. And if they’re taking an extended break of 30 days or more, check the status of your buildings insurance with your insurer, as this can render some policies invalid.
5. Make sure parties don’t become a nuisance. Ask your tenants to let the neighbours know if they’re going to be having any big parties and ask them to turn their music down after 11pm. You might also want to contact the neighbours yourself to let them know they can call you if they’re concerned about anything.
6. Remind your tenants about the heating settings. When it gets particularly cold, water pipes are at risk of bursting, which can cause a huge amount of damage, although this can easily be avoided by ensuring the home is heated properly. Most modern systems have a ‘frost’ or ‘cold’ setting that means the heating kicks in below a certain temperature, so make sure your tenants know how to use it and that it remains cost-effective for them.
7. Do the tenants know where the stopcock is? If a pipe does burst or there’s any other kind of water leak or flood, it’s important to get the mains water turned off as soon as possible, so make sure your tenants know how to do that.
8. Have a conversation about decorations. Most of us like to put up decorations at Christmas and it would be unreasonable to expect your tenants not to. But it’s sensible to speak to them about what you’re happy for them to do – for example, can they put nails in the walls and use Blu Tack, or is there another way you’d like them to secure their decorations? You might be happy to leave it to their discretion, but remind them that any damage will have to be made good.
9. Potential increase in fire risks - make sure your tenants stay vigilant. Creating a festive atmosphere is lovely, but if candles are lit, fairy lights are left on for long periods and sockets are overloaded, the risk of fire breaking out in the property is increased. So remind your tenants to switch things off and extinguish candles at night and when they leave the property. Make sure they know what to do and who to call in case a fire does break out and, importantly, check your insurance policy to make sure you’ve got emergency accommodation cover if something bad happens.
10. Buy your tenants a festive gift. Good tenants are worth their weight in gold, taking care of your property and helping you secure a good return on your investment, so let them know you appreciate them. A festive treat will go down very well – and if you deliver it in person, it’s the perfect opportunity to talk them through the rest of our tips!
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