It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but only if it’s not spoiled by a break-in or a burst pipe.
All landlords want for Christmas is for their properties to stay safe and their tenants to stay happy. To put their feet up so they can relax without worrying about harsh weather, security problems or troublesome tenants.
Here we share some top tips for landlords to help you prepare for a very happy Christmas.
Ask about your tenant’s festive plans
First off, speak to your tenant about where they’ll be spending Christmas. Not all of them will be staying put over the festive period, especially if they’re students.
Young professionals could also be heading to their parents’ home or, although less likely this year, jetting off to sunnier climes.
If they’re planning to be away for more than a couple of weeks, check your insurance policy to ensure you still have cover while the property is empty.
Equally, if you’re not staying local, make sure your tenants know and have someone to contact, like a managing agent, in case of an emergency.
And if you’re friendly with neighbours near your property, ask them if they could keep an eye on it. Don’t forget to leave your phone number with them and even a spare set of keys, just in case.
Put security at the top of your Christmas checklist
Houses, particularly those left empty, are prime targets for burglars at Christmas. They’ll be on the lookout for unsecured properties and piles of presents under the tree.
Sharing some home security tips with your tenants will protect both them and your property:
Put gifts and other valuables out of sight
Set up a light on a timer to give the impression someone is at home
Keep all doors and windows securely locked when the property is empty, whether that’s for a few weeks or a few minutes
Ask them to let you know if external security lights aren’t working, gates aren’t locking properly or fencing is damaged
Suggest they take down decorations if they’re not returning to the property until well into the new year
Protect property from the elements
The period when your property is most likely to be empty unfortunately coincides with potential bad weather.
Cue the possibility of leaks, burst pipes, blocked gutters and malfunctioning boilers.
If your tenants are going away to celebrate, the number one job for them is to set the heating to come on at a low temperature at least once a day. This will prevent pipes from freezing and eliminate the risk of bursting, causing a disastrous flood.
A pre-Christmas property check is a good idea to nip any possible issues in the bud. Check for cracked pipes, mould and damp, draughts, and any boiler issues.
Be clear about decorations
While you don’t want to be a humbug, make sure you clearly outline any decoration dos and don’ts to your tenants.
For example, you may ask them to avoid using nails in walls and opt for Blu Tack instead. Or you may feel happier if they avoid lighting candles because of the fire risk. Politely remind them that any damage will need to be paid for.
If they’re hanging lights outside, make sure they’re aware of the need to follow electrical safety guidelines extra carefully.
The key here is to be flexible. Adding their style of decorations will make their rental property feel more like a home. And if they can create that friendly festive vibe, they’ll be more likely to look after it as if it were their own.
Point out added fire risks
Your tenant will likely want to make their home feel cosy and sparkly with fairy lights and candles.
Make sure they’re aware of the increased fire risk from naked flames, overloaded electrical sockets and overheated Christmas tree lights. It’s a good call to remind them to carefully blow out all candles and unplug lights when leaving the property or going to bed.
If they’re leaving the property empty, also ask them to unplug all electrical appliances (apart from the fridge, of course) and check smoke alarms are working properly.
Set party rules
Big house parties aren’t an option this year due to coronavirus restrictions. Following a change to the planned relaxation only Christmas Day allows any form of get together and this is subject to the Tier in your area.
Check your tier here and remind tenants that partying is not an option this year
Draft an emergency action plan
Finding an emergency plumber to fix a burst pipe is nobody’s idea of fun, especially on Christmas Eve. You’ll want to enjoy Christmas too so make sure you and your tenant have a list of contacts – a gas engineer, electrician, locksmith etc – who will be available for emergency callouts.
If you use a property manager, check their opening hours and make sure you have a dedicated emergency contact.
A little prep now will give peace of mind to all.
Spread some festive cheer
When the tenant-landlord relationship is strong, the chances of a harmonious long-term agreement are much higher. Which is to everyone’s advantage.
So use this time of year to build on that relationship by sending tenants a Christmas card or a small, thoughtful gift. They’ll appreciate the gesture and you’ll increase the chances of keeping good tenants for longer.
Discover more expert advice for landlords on the MakeUrMove blog