We have now officially headed into the holiday season with Thanksgiving last week. Traditionally many people will also begin decorating their homes for Christmas this week. I thought it was a perfect time to talk about how property owners can keep their property and their tenants safe.
Real estate investors are always concerned about safety issues where their property is concerned. But there is no better time than now as we head into the holiday season, to remind your tenants of some basic steps they can take to keep themselves and the property they live in (your property) safe. Putting up Christmas lights and holiday decorations presents you with many “opportunities” for additional liability in your rental property.
If you regularly send a newsletter to your tenants, this is a perfect topic to include in your holiday newsletter. If you don’t have a newsletter, then go ahead and mail out a “Happy Holidays” flier to each tenant reminding them that taking a few extra precautions can enhance their safety this year. Doing this will take a little time and effort on your part, but it can potentially save you big dollars and a whole lot of headaches down the road.
Approximately 13,000 people go to the emergency room every year in November and December because of accidents related to holiday decorations.
Indoor Christmas Lights
Most people know that indoor Christmas lights should be replaced at least every 3-4 years for safety however most of us tend to keep them a lot longer than that. Those lights have tiny wires can be easily damaged from normal use. Before you put any lights on the tree, they should be inspected for broken and cracked sockets, frayed, bare or damaged wires and loose connections. There is one safety rule you should always follow; never use more than 3 strings of lights on one extension cord as this presents a definite fire hazard.
Over the years, Christmas lights have gotten relatively inexpensive. Make it a practice to change them out every few years for fire safety reasons. Also be sure to remind your tenants to always turn off the Christmas lights when they leave the property.
Exterior Christmas Lights
Just about everyone loves Christmas lights. However tenants that decorate their homes with exterior lights can expose their landlord to some serious liability. Folks rarely replace these lists as long as they are working. Exterior lights should be inspected every year the same as interior lights, and should be replaced every few years as needed.
Not only are many people injured from roof falls and shocks every year when they get up on the roof to decorate, but just walking on the roof in very cold conditions can damage the shingles. As the landlord, any liability or roof repairs will land squarely on your shoulders.
Tenants should be reminded that any extension cords used for these lights must be certified for exterior use, and they need to be plugged into GFCI protected outlets for safety reasons.
Chimneys and Fireplaces
If you have a property with a wood burning fireplace, there are a few safety rules that you need to remember to follow. Be sure to have the flue cleaned annually. Creosote occurs naturally from burning wood. When it gets to be a quarter inch thick or thicker inside the chimney, it’s a fire hazard as it can ignite and cause a chimney fire.
Also, be sure to caution your tenants not to throw wrapping paper in the fireplace. Those materials tend to get very hot as they burn and they can cause flash fires.
Everyone loves candles, but they pose a serious fire risk if they are not handled properly. Most fires started by candles are a result of them being forgotten or being placed too close to something that is flammable. Just about all fires started by candles could be prevented just by using a little caution and common sense. Just give your tenants a reminder about candle safety.
Facts and Figures
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has some sobering statistics I would like to pass onto everyone that has rental property.
- Christmas trees are responsible for 300 fires annually which result in 30 injuries, 10 deaths and $10,000,000 in property damage.
- Candles start about 11,600 fires annually which
result in 1200 injuries, 150 deaths and $173,000,000 in property loss.
- There are 12,500 injuries every year from roof
falls and shocks associated with the installation of exterior Christmas Lights.
The last thing any landlord wants to get during the holiday season is one telling you that someone has been injured on your property or that the house has sustained serious damage from a fire. Take a little time out of your busy schedule to give your tenants a quick reminder about these simple but important safety tips during this busy holiday season
Be sure to check out this video also for tips on keeping your home safe during the holidays.
Photo Credit: Denis Collette…!!!