RULES OF HOUSE SITTING
Here are some useful rules of house sitting:
DO ensure that both parties have a ‘plan B’ in case the house sitter is severely delayed or suddenly unable to undertake the assignment, or if the house owner cancels or postpones the assignment. (e.g. bereavement, serious injury, car breakdown etc.). Agree a strategy in the case of such unlikely eventualities.
DON’T ever do anything that you wouldn’t want the homeowner to discover if they were to return to your house unexpectedly. If you want to do any weird stuff / party like an animal / generally behave like a hooligan, please do it in your own house, not someone else’s!
DO make the effort to be punctual when commencing the assignment. This will give you time to chat and mull things over with the home owner. There will always be questions that both parties had wished they’d have asked at an earlier meeting – be sociable, make coffee, make sure everyone is happy with everything, then the owners can enjoy their trip and you can enjoy the assignment!
DO try to get into a daily routine, work from an informal but comprehensive ‘daily checklist’ – then you will be less likely to forget to water plants, feed chickens etc. etc.
DON’T invite ANY overnight guests, unless you have a written agreement from the home owner approving who the guests are and how long they can stay.
DO introduce yourselves to the neighbours and be sociable, too!
DO be careful over drainage and sewerage issues, especially if the house has a septic tank, a useful reminder pinned in the bathroom over what can and can’t be introduced into the cistern (especially types of cleaning products) could save annoying and costly blockages!
DO read the meter for gas and electricity etc together with the home owner before they leave. You should enquire as to a typical energy or fuel usage, at that time of year, if the property takes x units of gas and / or heating oil / sacks of logs etc to heat. This way, you can keep an eye on your consumption and keep it appropriate.
DON’T use the owner’s phone unless they have free calls on their landline package but don’t make long distance calls or calls to mobiles. Sitters should buy pre-paid phone cards or use Skype over the internet.
DON’T ‘spring clean’ the property, the house should really just be left as the owner likes it, the way they left it!
DO lock every door and window whilst you are absent from the property EVEN IF THE OWNERS USUALLY leave the house wide open themselves! You might think that they have nothing worth stealing, but you would be terribly ashamed and embarrassed in the event of a burglary if it happened on your watch! So please find door and window lock keys and keep them where you can quickly find them.
DON’T get nosey if you happen across any personal or confidential stuff anywhere around the property. No normal, sane house sitter would go rummaging through anyone’s underwear drawer, but, for example, if you find a bank statement or naked photo of someone in a drawer when you’re looking to find a torch to find the cat in the garden at night, just leave it be. No sticky beaks, as the Australians would say!
DO encourage the homeowner NOT to lock off any rooms where they might prefer you not to enter. If a fire or leak occurs, a locked room can be dangerous or costly to repair if the leak is undiscovered. If owners must lock a room, ask them to leave a key in a sealed, signed envelope; then there will need to be a good reason for that envelope to have been opened.
DO keep emergency information to hand, in one pre-arranged place in the house, throughout the assignment. If an emergency arises you’ll be glad you had the plumber’s contact details immediately available.
DO programme the veterinarian’s emergency and daytime contact details into your mobile phone and into the owner’s landline phone too if possible. If you are out walking the dog, and it gets into a horrible fight, or God forbid, goes under a car, you might not need to return to the house to find the vet’s practice address. Those extra saved minutes could be life or death for the owner’s pet.
DON’T get locked out! If there is a self locking door, ask the homeowner if it is OK to use the smart technique of ‘double-indemnity key hiding’. It goes like this: If the house has any locked garages or outhouses, you can hide a key to the main house somewhere very crafty within that locked outbuilding, then hide the key to the outbuilding itself very carefully around the exterior of the property (NOT under the wheelie bin or under any plant pots!). In this case, a burglar has to find the hidden key, then find which door it opens, then look within that building for the main key, which they won’t be searching for anyway! (unless they’ve read this publication! Drat!!)
DO remember to give house keys back before you leave and DON’T mail house keys back to the home address if you do accidentally leave the assignment with keys that you shouldn’t have. Think of a neutral address to where they can be posted, and post them in a jiffy bag with NO identifying tags to their intended doors. Send by RECORDED DELIVERY (Signed for by recipient).
DO ensure that fireguards are available for use on open fires and be aware of chimney fires. Has the chimney been swept recently enough for you to bank up a fire (even if it’s accidentally too high) !?
DO keep passwords or PIN codes written down handily but disguised, for example burglar alarm codes or parental control PIN for the satellite TV system. Phone numbers for fictional people with the alarm codes bedded within are good.
DON’T offer to undertake jobs beyond your competence level. If a leak occurs or an electrical failure, the owner should have left details for a nominated tradesperson, if it’s anything more than changing a light-bulb or tightening a tap connector.