How to Handle Emergencies When House Sitting

By Christine Ascher on June 13, 2017

For the most part, house sitting is a simple job. You water plants and feed pets, and get paid for doing so. However, you’re also responsible for making sure that everything in the house is in tip-top shape — and for handling the situation when things go wrong.

Especially if you’ve never been a homeowner before, you may not know instinctively how to react in extreme situations. It’s best to prepare yourself ahead of time for anything that might go wrong, so you’re not caught off guard if and when they do.

First and foremost, you’ll want to talk things over with the homeowner to see if they have any specific concerns and to make sure you know what they want you to do if an emergency arises. Ask for a list of emergency numbers before they go; in addition to the number for the local police department and the best number for you to use to contact them, these should include the numbers for one or two trusted neighbors you can go to for help if anything happens and the vet if you’re watching a pet.

Beyond that, how you handle the situation will depend largely on the type of emergency. Here are some tips for how to handle four common house sitting emergencies.

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The first step in the event of a fire should, of course, be for you to call the local fire department. There are several steps that you can take once the fire is out, as well, to minimize the damage. According to Athens Insurance, following a fire you should “air out the house as much as possible by circulating fresh air” — for instance by leaving some of the windows open.

Furthermore, “if the fire came near the kitchen, discard opened food packages that might be contaminated.” It’s better that you do this right away and save your homeowners at least one task when they return. You can also get ahead in cleaning up the home; you’ll want to clean any chrome and metal fixtures with soap and water, as “they may tarnish permanently if left uncleaned for more than a couple of hours.”

You can also remove any carpet or linens that are undamaged, to prevent them from becoming dirtied from the cleaning of the rest of the house.

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In the event of a break-in, call the police immediately. Keep a record of what was stolen, and if there was any damage to the home, take pictures to record it. Notify the homeowners and let them know exactly what was stolen so they can contact their insurance. To ensure that there are no further break-ins, take some extra precautions.

For instance, you can leave the TV or music on when you’re not at the house. You might also want to leave a few lights on so that the house doesn’t look empty, and keep the curtains closed to hide valuables from view. Double-check that there’s a porch light on at night, as a dark house can signal an empty house to burglars.

In addition to locking all of the doors, make sure that all of the windows are locked as well. It’s a good idea to keep them locked while you’re at the house in addition to when you’re out, just to be on the safe side.

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Pet illness

If you’re watching a pet while the homeowners are away, make sure you have the number for both their normal vet and the number for a 24-hour vet nearby in the event that the pet becomes ill during the night. If you notice that the pet you’re watching seems lethargic, but nothing else appears to be seriously wrong, hold off on notifying the vet but keep a close eye on them.

If the situation worsens, however, call the homeowners first to see what they want you to do. They might need you to head straight to the vet, or their pet might have had a similar problem before and they already have the necessary medicine on-hand.

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Extreme weather

When house sitting, you should always have a plan for what to do in the case of extreme weather, which can vary based on where you live and the kind of weather typical to that area.

According to Craig Sutton, a writer for, “depending on where you are located, this may include boarding up windows and other preparations to protect the home from the storm.” He goes on to add that “it is also very important to know what to do in case of an evacuation. If you don’t get this information from the homeowner, you can look it up online or even ask a neighbor.”

While you’re house sitting, make sure that you’re consistently checking for inclement weather. Since at times storms or more serious natural disasters can come on suddenly, you might want to check the weather each morning during the duration of your house sitting. Your homeowners may also have specific precautions that they want you to take in the case of certain weather, even if it’s not necessarily extreme.

For instance, they may want you to move their patio furniture inside in the case of high winds so nothing gets knocked over or flies away. Ask the homeowners before they leave if there’s anything they want you to do, just to ensure that you’re fully prepared.

By Christine Ascher

Uloop Writer
Hi! I'm Christine and I'm currently a senior at the University of Southern California, where I study English Literature, Economics, and French.

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