The countdown to Christmas is on and in the hallowed words of Coca Cola, ‘holidays are coming’. The festive season invariably signals a mass exodus across the country, as people leave their homes to visit family and friends, often for a prolonged period of time. This has implications for landlords and buy-to-let investors who need to ensure empty rental properties are safe and secure over Christmas.
Ensuring your tenant has followed a few simply steps before leaving the property can prevent unwanted events such as break-ins and burst water pipes. At this time of year, we are advising all of our tenants and landlords to take preventative action.
– Notification – does the tenancy agreement require tenants to let the landlord or the letting agent know if the property is going to be vacant for a prolonged period of time? Clearly, this may not be relevant if tenants are only vacating for a few days, but it’s worth checking the agreement to make sure and making the landlord aware if the house is going to be empty.
– Locking up – it may sound obvious as most people will double-lock their front door every day, but how often do you go round and check the windows are also secure? Before leaving your home, do a thorough check of every window and door, utilising all available locks. Landlords may also wish to double-check that they have locks which comply with their insurance policy requirements.
– Alarms – home security systems should be tested prior to leaving the property. Do make sure the landlords and letting agent is made aware of the alarm code and a neighbour is given relevant contact details in case it goes off while tenants are away.
– Lights – timer switches on lights are a great way of putting off intruders. Outside lighting is also a good deterrent so a worthwhile investment by the landlord when it comes to keeping vacant properties well-lit and secure over Christmas.
– Signs of absence – while some people think leaving a car on the drive is a great way of indicating someone is home, a car that doesn’t move for a week can have the opposite effect. Similarly, piles of unread post can show no one is home, so ask a neighbour to drop in and move it elsewhere. Don’t leave valuable items on show as this will attract opportunist burglaries.
– Cold weather – asking a tenant to leave the heating on low while they are away can prevent the house getting too cold and avoid frozen and even burst pipes. However, do ensure things like Christmas tree lights are turned off and unneeded electrical appliances can be unplugged.
With all the risks and potential for unwelcome surprises when homes are left vacant over the holiday season, there is, arguably, a case for including clauses in a tenancy agreement to safeguard both the property and the tenant’s possessions. Keeping everyone informed and following a few easy steps will help ensure everyone has a very Merry Christmas, and can return to their home exactly as they left it.