When all is merry and bright during the winter holidays, tenants may want to hang up lights. When it comes to rental properties, there are often different rules for different houses. Tenants may be wondering what homeowners will or will not approve, and how to avoid being held liable for any damages as a result of improper use and/ or installation. Whether renting a unit, condo or single-family home, a few strands of holiday lights can really add some sparkle to the season.

Property Managers’ primary concern is the health and safety of their tenants and properties. In extreme cases, holiday lights can boost the risk of fire hazards and personal injury.  Many managers agree on these few quick tips about holiday lighting so tenants and properties can be safe, while brightly shining.

Here are 7 safety tips that tenants should remember when using holiday lights on rental properties:


Tenants need to purchase lights, extension cords and electric decorations that are UL-listed. UL-listed lights means they have met the high standards of the Underwriter’s Laboratory and its nationally recognized safety criteria.


When hanging lights outside, tenants must use electric decorations that are rated for outdoor use. Not all strands of lights are meant for the outdoors, and improper use of indoor lights can cause big problems. We ask that you check the light packaging for the holographic UL label that states whether the string can be used outdoors, indoors, or both.


It’s a good habit to inspect each string of lights and each bulb to ensure that there are no exposed wires, broken bulbs or frayed plugs. Broken or damaged strands of lights should not be used.


From light strands to lighted displays, the biggest fire risk happens when the wrong wattage is used in electrical decorations. If you end up having to replace bulbs, you should double check that the new bulb is the correct wattage.


Do not load up extension cords and plugs. Connecting too many strands end-to-end or loading them into one outlet is unsafe. Nowadays, LED lighting standards allow many strands to be connected at once. These new LED strands are never to be connected with older, out-dated ones. Even if rental properties have properly working outlets, too much feeding into one can cause major trouble.


To reduce the risk of fires or sparks while the home is unattended, turn off holiday lights and electrical decorations before going to sleep or leaving the property. This seems like a no-brainer, however according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, “in the United States 50,900 fires each year are attributed to electrical failure or malfunction.”  


Many of our properties are associated with HOA’s which have very specific codes for hanging up exterior holiday lights. Should tenants not abide by these rules, the fines will be passed on to them. There are many different types of plastic light clips that don’t do any damage to the house structure, but there are some that might. Note: if damage occurs, tenants will be held accountable for the cost.

Holiday lights can really make a rental property feel like a home. That is why we want to extend our tenants the pleasure of decorating for the holidays. Reminder: Be sure to take holiday lights down by January 31, 2017 (or as per HOA code) to avoid incurring a fine. As long as you are clear on what is and isn’t allowed, and use these basic safety tips, you can decorate for the winter holidays with peace of mind.