This article was posted on Wednesday, Dec 12, 2012

Landlords are always concerned about safety issues in their investment property. But there is no better time than during the holidays, to remind your  tenants of some basic steps they can take to keep themselves and the property they live in safe.Holidaydecorations present many “opportunities” for landlords to encounter additional liability.

Indoor Christmas Lights

Indoor Christmas lights should be replaced every three to four years for safety however most of us tend to keep them a lot longer than that. Those 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. Never use more than three strings of lights per extension cord as this presents a definite fire hazard.

Christmas lights are relatively inexpensive so go ahead and change them out every few years for fire safety reasons. Be sure to remind your tenants to always turn off the Christmas lights when they leave.

Exterior Christmas Lights

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Tenants that decorate their homes with exterior lights can expose their landlord to some serious liability. Many people are injured from roof falls and shocks every year when they get up on the roof to decorate. Just walking on the roof in very cold conditions can damage the shingles on the roof.

When using exterior Christmas lights, always be sure that the lights and any extension cords are certified for exterior use and that they are plugged into GFCI protected outlets.

Chimneys and Fireplaces

As a landlord, if you have a property with a wood burning fireplace, be sure to have the flue cleaned annually. Creosote occurs naturally from burning wood. If 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.

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.


People love candles, but candles 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. With a little caution, most all fires started by candles could be prevented.

 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.
  • There are 12,500 injuries every year from roof falls and shocks associated with the installation of exterior Christmas lights.
  • Candles start about 11,600 fires annually which result in 1200 injuries, 150 deaths and $173,000,000 in property loss.

No one wants to get “that call”; the one telling you that someone has been injured on your property or that he house has sustained serious damage from a fire. Take a few minutes this busy holiday season to give your tenants a little reminder of these simple but important safety tips.

 Sharon Vornholt is with Innovative Property Solutions, LLC – author of LouisvilleGalsRealEstateBlog.  Reprinted with permission.

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