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Every real estate investor wants happy tenants who pay rent on time and renew their leases. But, they also want their property to remain in good condition. The holiday season can raise issues about tenant responsibilities not to cause damage to rental properties. Landlords can help by issuing reminders to tenants about fire safety, and about damaging walls and doors. Those reminders should be carefully worded to be friendly, and neutral regarding religious observance. Here’s what landlords should know about holiday decorations.
Christmas trees, candles, and faulty lighting are a dangerous combination in any home. Ensure that each unit is supplied with the proper number of fire extinguishers and that tenants have an evacuation plan. As you prepare rental properties for winter, you should bring in a licensed electrician to inspect circuit boards and outlets to ensure they are in safe and operable condition. Replace smoke alarm batteries and test alarms. Remind tenants not to overload circuits or outlets, and not to run electrical cords under carpets or area rugs.
Remind tenants about fire safety precautions and any clauses in their lease that ban real trees or candles as fire hazards. If you allow them, provide tips on reducing fire dangers. Keeping the tree well-watered and away from heat sources, and unplugging the lights when sleeping or away can reduce risk. Many battery-powered “candles” give nearly the same glow as wax candles, and they don’t create smoke marks on ceilings or wax drips on floors.
Direct tenants to the clause in their lease that governs alterations and damage to the property. Be helpful with suggestions about non-damaging ways to hang decorations around windows and on walls. Suction hooks or temporary adhesives are available at most hardware stores or can be ordered online. Plastic window clings make charming decorations.
Make sure tenants understand the rules about damaging the exterior of the home as well as the interior. Rules should be clear, understandable, and applied equally to all tenants and properties. Be specific about what’s allowed and what isn’t among the many choices people now have for outdoor holiday décor. Define whether you will allow tenants to hang lights on the home’s exterior, and how they can and cannot be attached. If you allow them, identify how tenants can hang them without damaging the roof, gutters, or siding.
Specify whether you permit inflatables on the lawn, flashing lights, or laser displays. Warn tenants not to climb on the roof. Thousands of people are injured each year in falls. Electric shock is another hazard. If you allow lighted outdoor decorations, require that they be rated for outdoor use. Remind tenants to follow product guidelines about how many strings of lights can be connected together, safe use of extension cords, and keeping cords off walkways to avoid trip hazards and impeding snow and ice removal.
Landlords should know what holiday decorations are prohibited by homeowner’s associations or municipal nuisance regulations, and remind tenants to comply with those rules.
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