It's here!!! Christmas lights, hot cocoa, family, friends, presents and all the other things that make this time of year so special to most is finally here. Christmas and New Year is a time of year when so many memories are made and people around the world come together to be just a bit more kind, just a bit more caring and just a bit more giving to each other. This is the season where we open our hearts and let our walls down, even if slightly.
While preparing for the holidays and decorating your home is a nice task for the entire family that brings a lot of joy and fun, it can be also be a bit dangerous, if not properly done. As we enter this festive season, it’s worth knowing potential hazards and how to avoid them. We’ve pulled together some of the most common issues that can impact you during the run-up to Christmas, and some tips on how to address them.
Inviting Guests & Family
Having family and friends over for celebrations is arguably the best part of the holiday season, and having a rental shouldn’t stop you from celebrating! Before setting plans, however, give your lease a quick review to ensure you don’t unintentionally end up in a sticky situation. Many lease agreements outline specific timelines for guests, so be sure to review it before inviting family to stay for the whole month. Check your lease for the guest policy.
Disregarding this policy can set yourself up for trouble. If a guest breaks this length of stay policy, you are breaching the agreement and your landlord could assume you’re attempting to harbor an unapproved roommate. Worst case scenario, you could be setting yourself up for eviction or litigation.
Instead, opt to make sure guests are aware of the policy and will only be staying for a short length of time. The benefit of this policy? You now have a ready excuse for guests that tend to overstay their welcome; remind guests that it’s policy–not personal–so no one is offended... yep... bonus!
If you have a guest situation where you truly want or need them to stay longer, call your property manager or landlord and ask for an exception. Having a good relationship with your landlord might mean he or she is willing to allow an extended stay this time.
Related: Top 5 Most Overlooked Lease Clauses
Long Holiday Trips
If your holiday plans include an extended trip, be sure to check with your landlord or property manager to ensure that everything is in place before you leave. Most states require that you notify your landlord of any extended trips, and even if your state law does not require it, your lease might.
In order to ensure that your space is well maintained for the duration of time that you are gone, and that your landlord knows how to contact you in case of an emergency, be sure to notify them of your holiday plans in advance. Find out if there is any prep that your landlord requires before your trip - such as leaving the thermostat set to 65 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing - to be certain that you won’t come home to an unfortunate issue that could have been solved with a little extra planning and communication.
"Find out if there is any prep that your landlord requires before your trip, such as leaving the thermostat set to 65 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing..."
Thieves are looking for homes with lots of valuable holiday gifts, so don’t give them an invitation. Keep gifts out of sight from windows and don’t leave boxes from expensive electronic goodies at the curb or doorstep. Breaking down boxes, hiding them in trash bags and waiting to place them outside until the night before trash collection, is good practice.
When going out of town, putting lights on timers and holding mail and newspaper deliveries will aid in preventing others from noticing that you're away. Another alternative is to ask a trusted family member or neighbor to collect your mail and to watch over the exterior of your home every now and then.
Christmas Trees & Care
The Christmas tree is the centerpiece in many homes this time of year. There are several things you can do to make sure that it poses no danger to your apartment.
Choose a fresh live tree and keep it well hydrated daily. It looks better and it is less susceptible to fire.
Don’t place the tree near a fireplace or a heater as it can easily catch fire.
Despite being alive, the tree is still flammable because of its needles and sap.
Choose a location that you can monitor, and where you can keep an eye on small kids or pets trying to play with the tree and threatening to knock it over.
Choose decorations that are flame-retardant and non-conductive.
Do not use lighted candles for decoration and always turn off or unplug tree lights before going to bed.
If you opt for an artificial tree, go for one that is fire-resistant as it poses less danger of catching fire.
If you were hoping for a Christmas tree, but don’t have the space in your rental to host a giant pine, consider an easily removable alternative like decorating an empty wall with the outline of a tree out of washi tape. To add a bit of character, use baker’s twine to hang light ornaments along the inside of your tree, or create faux ornaments from more washi tape.
Another space-saving option, is to cut out a triangle from an old pallet. Simply paint it green, create a simple “trunk” and stand from the leftover boards, and you have a unique and fun space for Santa to set all those gifts.
Other Holiday Safety Reminders
Many holiday safety issues revolve around fire, electrical and freezing safety. Be sure to take additional care during the holidays to keep you, your family and guests safe during this cherished time of year.
Check your smoke alarms and replace batteries if needed.
Be careful with fires and candles and don't leave them unattended.
Ensure you have emergency phone numbers handy.
Don't leave the oven on and unattended.
Pay attention to holiday lights, they are a source of many unintended holiday fires.
Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
Be Prepared for the Uncertain
Finally, as much as you and your family prepare, some things are beyond your control, and you could end up with damage to your home and personal belongings. Whether it’s from thieves breaking in or guests spilling mulled wine on your carpet or Rudolph chewing on your sofa... life happens.
You may think that getting insurance is an additional financial burden and most surely need the extra cash for Holiday expenditures. But staying insured not only gives you peace of mind during this stressful season, it is also easy and affordable. It’s always better to be ready and prepared than sorry. Check your insurance to make sure it's updated and you’re covered for any potential Christmas disasters, and if you need to add anything, just let your carrier know.
Enjoy the Holiday and Spread Cheer!
Perhaps the most important of all... enjoy the holiday, make memories, be kind and spread cheer. These tips are good for any time of year, not just the holidays. Remember, the safer the experience you and your guests have at your home, the more likely this holiday season will be a success and a cherished memory for all. We want to wish you, your guests and your family safe and happy holidays.
About Ricardo Reis
Ricardo is a member of G3 Management & Investments and a real estate professional. He has been a successful property manager and real estate investor for over 10 years.