What you need to know before leaving your home for spring or winter break 

Many Iowa City residents, as well as college students, leave town for spring and winter break. No matter if you're heading home for the holidays, or flying south for spring break, it's important to prepare your home for your absence, especially during periods of potentially cold and snowy weather. 

Take these preventative steps to make sure your car and home are taken care of during break. 

  1. Prepare for a snow emergency: move your car off the street
  2. Arrange for someone to shovel your sidewalk
  3. Take all precautions to prevent household pipes from freezing

  4. Make sure your home and property are secure

Snow-packed roads with cars.

1. Prepare for a snow emergency

During winter break, and even during spring break, Iowa City can expect snowstorms. If a snow emergency is declared, and your car is left parked on the street, it can be ticketed and towed. You could also incur $200 or more in fines. 

Be sure to move your car off the streets before heading home for a long break, or arrange for someone to move it for you. More information about snow emergencies can be found at www.icgov.org/snow and you can sign up for snow emergency notifications at www.icgov.org/e-subscriptions

A snowy walkway.

2. Snow shoveling

Even when you're gone, tenants or property owners are still responsible for shoveling their sidewalks after snow accumulates. Plan ahead with your landlord, roommate, neighbor or someone else to be sure someone is available to shovel even if you're gone. 

Sidewalks must be cleared of snow 24 hours after the snow has stopped. Failure to do so will result in the cost to have your sidewalk cleared, plus a $100 fine. More about the ordinance can be found at www.icgov.org/propertymanagement

A running faucet.

3. Prevent household pipes from freezing

It can be tempting to turn off your heat completely when on vacation to save money, but such a decision could be disastrous. If cold enough, pipes throughout any property could freeze or burst. Take these steps instead to ensure pipes remain working while you are gone. 

  • Never turn your heat off completely. You can lower it, but never lower than 55 degrees.
  • Close windows and storm windows, but keep doors open to bathrooms, kitchens, and other rooms that have plumbing or water fixtures. 
  • Arrange for someone to check your home while you're gone and show them where the water shut-off valve is, just in case.

In case of a water emergency, call the Water Division's emergency line at 319-356-5166. 

4. Home and property protection
An open door to a house.

Before you leave town, take measures to protect your home from break-ins, vandalism, or other crimes. 
Ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity at your home while you’re gone, and let them know if you will be having someone check the house. Here are some tips that you can follow to keep your home safe while you're away.


  • Lock all doors and windows, including those to the garage. 

  • Have your newspapers and mail held or picked up each day by someone who is checking your house. 

  • Set up some inside lamps on timers so that they turn on and off throughout the day. 

  • Move your garbage can and recycling bin away from the curb. 

  • Lock your vehicle doors. 

  • Move bicycles and other valuable items inside or lock them up. 





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