Christmas Tips for Tenants

It's that time of year again where Facebook is flooded with pictures of undercooked turkey and Twitter is going crazy with posts about Christmas shopping (which, 5 days from Christmas, we've not even started ours) but also, this is the time for properties to be unattended for weeks on end. So, to avoid burst water pipes and to keep your property secure, there's a number of things you can do to bring yourself (and your landlord) complete peace of mind over the Christmas period, especially if you're living in Leicester; due to being higher up than most parts of the Midlands, our air is typically colder and as such, there is an increased risk of frozen pipes in Winter.

6 Best Ideas for Keeping your Home Safe and Secure this Christmas:

Keep valuables out of sight: Laptops, televisions and car keys are all high-value targets for opportunist criminals and it's important to keep these well out of sight and reach, this includes keeping them away from windows which can be broken and letterboxes which can be opened; it isn't uncommon for more 'sophisticated' thieves to wield litter pickers which slide easily through the letterbox to pick up car keys from key hooks mounted next to the front door. Valuables don't just mean the physical item. If you've bought your children the latest games console or PlayStation games or other high-cost items, do not put these boxes outside. Take them directly to the recycling centre. When people put boxes outside on boxing day, it is like opening the door to a burglar and showing them what you have to offer.

Lock all windows and doors: Doors and windows have a habit of being left unlocked, especially in shared houses or flats (also known as Houses in Multiple Occupation or HMOs). We also see communal doors propped open giving easy access to less-trustworthy individuals who can close the security door for a bit of peace and quiet from the outside world whilst they work on opening your door discreetly, without your permission or knowledge. Doors that "automatically" lock behind you can still be opened using a piece of wood through the letterbox; we know, we have tested them. Leicester City Council have a special tool to let their tenants back into their properties should they close their door behind them and lock themselves out. Don't assume that, just because you can't open the door by pushing the handle down, that the door is locked. Make sure you lock the door with the key. Door chains and window cables can also be broken quite easily with a pair of wire cutters so do not rely on these either. If you are sharing a house and have to go away for several weeks, take out a contents insurance policy to protect your belongings; Don't rely on your housemates holding your possessions in high a regard as they do their own.

Keep a light on: Plug-in timers allow lamps to turn off and on at set intervals and gives an impression that someone is home even when the property is empty. By setting the timers to activate between the hours of 6pm and 12am (or as appropriate as per your typical sleep schedule), People in your neighbourhood will think you're home and it's less likely your property will be attacked by thieves.

Neighbourhood watch: Whilst your lights turning on and off is a great idea, another good idea is to buddy up with your neighbours and ask them to keep an eye on your property. You can even provide a telephone number in case they need to contact you.

Take down Christmas decorations: Christmas decorations sure brighten up a home and after Christmas, burglars love a sign that says "Target This House, it's been empty for three weeks!" and your Christmas decorations say exactly that if they're left up for longer than usual, so take down the decorations before you leave for Christmas. Likewise, remove any promotional material in your windows that might suggest you’ve been gone for the last three weeks. This can include fake snow, Christmas cards, etc.

Leave thermostat on: It sounds expensive but what would you rather do? Spend a couple of quid a day keeping your pipes from freezing over and potentially bursting or spending thousands of pounds replacing your worldly belongings that are destroyed by water damage? Frozen pipes expand when they thaw and this dramatically increases the risk of water pipes bursting. It takes around ten minutes to completely flood a room when a water pipe bursts and if it is upstairs, it can lead to the downstairs ceiling caving in and water damaging your property on all floors below. It isn't worth the risk, even if you have contents insurance. Not to mention the smell of damp and mould. Tenants need to be particularly mindful of new laws; the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill explicitly states tenants must keep properties in a tenant like manner and any repairs caused by the tenant failing to keep the property in a tenant like manner (which includes taking measures to prevent pipes from freezing) will no longer be an obligation of the landlord to resolve.

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