Students must take precautions to protect apartments over break

Students who will leave campus for a month or more over winter break can take several precautions to ensure their apartments stay in good condition during their absence.

Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union, said students should never turn the heat off during winter break, no matter what the outside temperature. She said pipes freeze and break every year as a result of bitter cold Champaign-Urbana weather. Some landlords require that tenants set their thermostats to a specific temperature, she added.

“The landlord can bill you for the damage. It’s thousands of dollars,” Patt said.

In addition to making sure pipes continue to function over break, students should be aware of the threat of burglary. Mary Resner, senior in Education, said her apartment was broken into over Thanksgiving break.

“It looked like they used a crowbar or something between our door frames. Because it was an older door, when you pushed on it there was enough leeway to get in,” she said.

Resner estimates that between $500 and $800 worth of goods were stolen, including an iPod and an iPod dock. Thomas E. Betz, directing attorney for Student Legal Services, said every criminal knows that campus is nearly empty during winter break.

Patt said students should make their apartments appear as if they are occupied. She said students can do this simply by buying timers for the lights in their apartment.

“If there are three apartments in a building that have their lights on, it is unlikely that a burglar would go there if they can go to a dark one,” Patt said.

She also advises students not to simply leave their lights on non-stop over break since it can actually be an indication to burglars that nobody is home.

Resner said she and her roommates are going to buy timers to ensure that what happened over Thanksgiving break does not happen again this winter.

Patt also suggested that students get renter’s insurance.

Although many students are covered by their parents’ insurance— Resner and her roommates are— Betz still encourages students to buy renter’s insurance. Betz said it is easy to obtain and costs about $100 to $150 a year.

The holidays are the prime season for break-ins, and students who are not covered are taking a risk, Betz said.

“You’re playing roulette,” he said.

Landlords are not insurers of their tenants’ goods. Unless the robbery resulted from landlord negligence, he or she is not responsible for any property lost or damaged, Betz said.

Tony Ortiz, crime prevention officer for the University, also suggested that students take their money, jewelry and important documents home or lock them in a safety deposit box.

Betz said he believes students become better at keeping their apartments safe as they get more information.

“Students have become aware that it’s the season (for break-ins to occur),” he said.