Christmas time, mistletoe and … burst pipes? Break-ins? Or maybe a festive sprinkling of home insurance claims?
Among the celebrations and cheer, the unexpected can still happen at home.
Whether you’re staying in your rented property for the season or spending the big day with family elsewhere, it’s wise to take a few steps to disaster-proof your Christmas.
Here we share some top tips for tenants to ensure your property stays in tip-top shape this year.
It pays to be security conscious all year around but with opportunistic burglaries more likely, it’s especially important at Christmas.
When leaving the property for any length of time, take time to do the following:
Ensure all doors and windows are securely locked, using deadlocks where fitted.
Keep valuables out of sight, including keys, laptops and tablets. And in particular those carefully wrapped presents which could tempt anyone peering through your windows.
Avoid the temptation to announce on social media that you’re going away for three weeks.
We know it sounds bah humbug, but if your property will be vacant until well after the New Year, it’s a good idea to take down decorations. If they’re still up in the dying days of the Christmas holidays, they could alert ne’er-do-wells to an empty home.
And as an extra precaution, you can let any friendly neighbours know how long you’re going to be away for and ask them to keep an eye on your property. Don’t forget to leave your phone number with them in case of any emergencies.
Unplugging small electrical appliances will not only save money on your bill but you’ll also be minimising fire risks, especially those from Christmas fairy lights.
There are two exceptions to this: your fridge and freezer which obviously has to stay plugged in and a lamp or two which you can connect to a timer. This will give the impression someone is home.
Look after your pipes
The best present you can give your pipes is a little TLC. So set the heating to tick over at a low temperature. The relatively low cost of this will be offset by the reassurance that your pipes won’t freeze and potentially burst.
When the temperature drops to freezing, pipes can expand and contract resulting in slow leaks and eventually catastrophic bursts. Leaving the heating on at a minimum temperature, usually around 13 degrees Celsius, could well be a condition of your tenancy agreement so check it carefully
The last thing you need while settling down to Christmas dinner with the family is a call from a neighbour about water pouring through their ceiling from your flat above. And then to possibly be turfed out of the property for not fulfilling your responsibilities.
Think safety first
Christmas is the ideal time to cosy up inside, maybe with a few candles and, if you’re lucky enough to have one, an open fire. But they could be an accident waiting to happen.
While this all creates an inviting festive atmosphere, it greatly increases the risk of fire. Which is definitely one form of illumination you want to be avoiding.
So to minimise the chances of a conflagration catastrophe, follow these tips:
Check if your tenancy agreement allows candles to be lit. It may be prohibited. If so, use LED candles instead for a still sparkly but safe effect.
If you can use candles, never leave them unattended. And always remember to blow them out before leaving the property or going to bed. Set a reminder on your phone if you need to. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Take care not to place candles on any surface that could be easily damaged by melted wax.
Check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working. If not, replace the batteries. And if they’re still misbehaving, inform your landlord.
If you’re hanging fairy lights, carefully check the wiring is intact and that the plug shows no sign of damage. Avoid the temptation to overload sockets and use a good quality extension cable instead.
If your tenancy agreement prohibits smoking in your property, remind any visitors.
Keep real Christmas trees away from any heat sources such as fireplaces and heaters. And keep their stand topped up with water to prevent them drying out quickly as this also poses a fire risk.
If you have an open fireplace, use it with caution and have a fire extinguisher close by, just in case.
Check you’ve got emergency numbers for any unexpected issue. From a local locksmith to a reliable plumber, making sure you have contacts who are available to help over the festive period will give invaluable peace of mind.
Check your insurance
If you’re not sure what your home insurance covers, have a careful read of the policy details. If a guest spills mulled wine on your cream carpet, is this covered? If burglars break in and steal presents, can you claim? If you receive a new bike or piece of expensive tech as a present, are these included?
This could also be a good time to consider taking out tenancy liability insurance which can cover you for potential deposit deductions for accidental damage.
Wherever you’re spending Christmas this year, taking the time to protect your property and possessions should be on your to-do list for December.
Take that extra bit of care and you’ll be much more likely to have a very happy Christmas.
Discover more expert advice for tenants on the MakeUrMove blog