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House Sitters Wanted

Using a House or Pet Sitter

Important issues when considering the use of a house sitter and/or pet sitter:

advice to home owners when searching for a house sitterDO ensure that both parties have a ‘plan B’ in case the house sitter is severely delayed. . . 

. . . or suddenly unable to undertake the assignment (e.g. bereavement, serious injury, car breakdown etc.). Agree a strategy in the case of such unlikely eventualities.

DO trust your house sitter! When treated with respect, most normal people won’t do anything you wouldn’t want to happen if you were to return to your house unexpectedly. In our experience, any issues can be resolved in a very civilized manner if everyone is polite, patient and courteous.

DO make the effort to be present when the sitter commences the assignment. 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 enjoy your trip!

DO encourage your sitters to get into a daily routine, give them an informal but comprehensive ‘daily checklist’ – then they will be less likely to forget to water plants, feed chickens etc. etc.

DO make it clear over your feelings about sitters’ overnight guests, make sure you have a written agreement as the basis of your ground rules over this.

DO tell any neighbours that you have sitters coming, and where possible, encourage both parties to introduce themselves to each other!

DO advise sitters over your home’s drainage and sewerage arrangements. If you have 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 before you leave, and let the sitter know you have done so. You might advise them that usually, at that time of year, your property takes x units of gas and / or heating oil / sacks of logs etc to heat. This way, the sitter will be more inclined to keep an eye on their consumption and keep it appropriate.

DO tell the sitters if you have free calls on your landline package but stress the limits for long distances or calls to mobiles. Sitters should buy pre-paid phone cards or use Skype over the internet.

DON'T expect sitters to ‘spring clean’ , the house should really just be left as you like it, the way it was found!

DO encourage your sitters to lock every door and window whilst you are absent from the property EVEN IF YOU USUALLY leave the house wide open yourself! You might think that you’ve nothing worth stealing, but the sitter would be terribly ashamed and embarrassed in the event of a burglary if it happened on their watch! So please find door and window lock keys even if you don’t usually bother for yourself. Give them the tools to keep your property safe and then there’s no doubt in the rare event of an incident.

DON’T leave any personal or confidential stuff anywhere the sitter might be forced to look for something legitimate. No normal house sitter would go rummaging through your underwear drawer, but, for example, don’t leave a bank statement or naked photos of yourself in a drawer where someone might reasonably look to find a torch in the event of a power cut or something! You could be quite embarrassed if you remember you’d left something confidential in an innocent place whilst you’re away. Also:

DON’T lock off any rooms where you might prefer the house sitter not to enter.

A simple polite request to not enter a room unless there is an emergency will suffice; if you lock a room and there is a plumbing leak or a fire, the consequences could be serious. If you must lock a room, leave a key in a sealed, signed envelope; then there will need to be a good reason for that envelope to have been opened. In an emergency you’ll probably be glad the key was available to the sitter.

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 the sitter had the plumber’s contact details immediately available.

DO programme the veterinarian’s emergency and daytime contact details into your home phone and show the sitter where it is. Encourage the sitter to duplicate that information into their own mobile or smartphone. If they’re out walking the dog, and it gets into a horrible fight, or God forbid, goes under a car, the sitter won’t need to return to your house to find the vet’s practice address. Those extra saved minutes could be life or death for your beloved pet.

DON'T let your sitter get locked out! If you have a self locking door, you might encourage your sitter to use the smart technique of double-indemnity key hiding. It goes like this: If your 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! Drat!!)

DON'T ask the sitter to mail house keys to your own home address if they or you forget to retrieve their spare set after departure. 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.

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 your sitter 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 ask your house sitter to undertake jobs beyond their competence level. If a leak occurs or an electrical failure, leave details for a nominated tradesperson if it’s anything more than changing a light-bulb or tightening a tap connector.


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