A Ho Ho Holiday Decorating Policy for Rental Property Investors
By Kerry Curry, B2R Contributing Writer
Tenants, like owners, have a desire to celebrate the holidays with decorations, but rental investors may want to have a written decoration policy to ensure the safety of their tenants and avoid property damage and liabilities, as well as to ensure compliance with any homeowners’ association regulations.
There is reason for concern. About 13,000 consumers are treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to holiday lights, Christmas trees, ornaments and other decorations during the months of November and December, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
If a written policy seems overly severe, it may be a good idea to mail or email a letter to all tenants with safety guidelines related to holiday decorating.
We’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of eight things to consider:
- A live tree restriction. Every year, about 200 fires occur in which a live Christmas tree is the first item ignited, according to the CPSC. These fires result in an estimated 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property losses. Artificial trees should be labeled as flame resistant. Investors may want to prohibit live trees or, remind tenants to locate trees (including artificial ones) away from heat sources such as fireplaces, heating vents and radiators.
- Limit damage to the walls. Suggest removable plastic hooks for hanging stockings and decorations. For properties that have fireplace mantels, suggest metal stocking holders that sit on the mantel and do not require nails or fasteners.
- Restrict live candles. If a restriction seems too harsh, set out some guidelines: Never leave candles unattended and keep them away from items that can catch fire such as live trees, curtains and other decorations.
- Encourage tenants to check holiday lights for damage before use.
- Caution tenants not to overload extension cords.
- Ask tenants to turn off holiday lights when not at the property.
- For exterior decorations, prohibit tenants from climbing onto the roof to decorate in order to avoid falls and damage to the shingles. Prohibit cords over walkways, or require any cords that cross a walkway to be firmly secured. Remind tenants to use lights that are certified for outdoor use.
- If your rentals are governed by a homeowners association, make sure your tenants are aware of and comply with any restrictions set out by the HOA to avoid possible fines. Besides controlling the type of decorations, HOAs may also set the dates on when they can be displayed. In other words, your tenants will probably not be able to leave any plastic Santa dolls up year-round.
It’s all about balance. Property investors don’t want to be overly restrictive — prohibiting all decorations in a Scrooge-like manner — but they’ll want to take some precautions to ensure their tenants enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.
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