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Leaving Home Empty

The annual two week holiday is something on an institution in the United Kingdom, but amongst all the planning of where to go where to stay, what to wear and how to get to the airport etc, sometime time does need to be spent considering how you are going to protect your own home whilst away. It is statistically proven that unoccupied houses are at a greater risk of burglary when the owners are away on holiday or absent for a period of time. However, vulnerability can be reduced by disguising the fact that you are away and making sure your property is secure. Most burglars like to go about their business undisturbed, and rarely will they target a home if they know it is occupied, most want to avoid confrontation, thus the best method of protecting your home whilst away is making it look lived in and combining this with good physical security. For persons considering a longer break or for those that intend leaving their home for a long period of time, perhaps because of work commitments or illness, then even more detailed plans will have to be made. If you are a second home owner and spend certain months of the year at your holiday home, you will also need to consider the possibility you will need specialist insurance.

Most home insurance policies will cover homes whilst they are unoccupied, but almost all will place severe restrictions on cover, if the home is left unoccupied for more than a certain period of time. The threshold is usually 30 days although it does vary from policy to policy. Study your contract wording and if you intend to be away for longer than this, you should inform your insurers. However, they may place restrictions on your cover or request that you carry our certain procedures, often dependent on the time of year ( such as leaving the central heating on in winter). If you intend to be away from the property for over 30 days on a regular basis, it is probably worth considering a more more suitable form of insurance that does not place such onerous conditions upon you and with the insurer fully aware of the fact that the property is left unattended on a regular basis.

Its fairly easy to spot an unoccupied home, if you walk down a street on a regular basis, you spot subtle changes in occupied property and there will of course be evidence of activity, however, there is often something very ‘still’ or ‘tranquil’ about the empty property and many can be easy to spot even after only a few days of unoccupancy. Free newspapers, post and take away menus quickly build up on door mats and these are easy to spot by a burglar, the curtains remain closed, burglars can even spot that the folds in them have not changed from day to day. The burglar is looking for a house where the occupants are away but the home is obviously normally occupied. There will usually be something inside worth stealing. For the home that is completely unoccupied, without furniture, it has been known for thieves to target the central heating boiler, particularly if the property is recently converted and the system is new.

Here are some tell tale signs to look out for:-

  1. Build up of post or newspapers or ‘free leaflets’ on the door mat.
  2. Curtains which always remain closed or open.
  3. Lights which remain off at night
  4. Lawns which remain uncut or gardens that are uncared for.
  5. General build up of rubbish or waste material around property.

Keeping you home looking occupied – one major advantage in keeping out the burglars is having friendly neighbours, your burglar alarm wont give you much peace of mind whilst away but having good neighbours looking after your property will be a major help. Usually, neighbours asked to look after a home whilst the person is way, will feel responsible and will make a point of visiting the property on a regular basis, to make sure all is well. Of course the length of time you intend to be away is a factor as is the season but the following tips should all be considered.

Before you go.(In good Time)

  1. Cancel your newspapers and milk if you have them delivered.
  2. Pay all outstanding bills to avoid unnecessary correspondence whilst you are away.
  3. You may like to consider transferring your telephone to a mobile, this is often possible with modern telephones and will enable you to answer the phone.
  4. Make sure that all security systems are working and operational.
  5. Give the garden and home surrounds a good tidy.
  6. Check you home insurance policy to see if there are any special considerations you have to comply with.
  7. Are you expecting any large postal items to be delivered whilst away from your home, is so, you can speak to your local Post Office and ask them to hold the parcel for you.
  8. Examine the contents of your outbuildings, do you have good quality locks on these buildings? it may be worth while bringing certain items in to the home whilst you are away, things to consider bringing in to the home include pedal cycles and important documents.
  9. Prepare an ‘Information Pack’ for someone you trust, this should include your Travel Itinerary, details of where you are staying and how you can be contacted, photocopies of your passports and other important information relating to your home as your feel fit. Make sure you have your Travel Insurance documents to take with you.
  10. If you are intending to use electrical timers for lights etc, test out for a few days before you leave. ( Don’t forget to make sure you know the times it’s get dark)

When you are about to leave.

  1. Depending on the season, you may want to either, leave the heating system on, or drain it down depending on your insurers recommendation.
  2. Make sure you have left the keys and your information pack with someone you trust.
  3. Do a tour of inspections checking everything is locked and that sockets are unplugged if not required.
  4. Make sure that you have placed all important documents or valuables in a safe or in a safe place ( that you will remember)
  5. Make sure that everything is tidy outside the property and that all sheds and outbuildings are securely locked.

Whilst you are away.

  1. If you have a friendly neighbour or perhaps a relative that lives near by, ask them if they wouldn’t mind calling in at your property to remove any build up of paperwork on the doormat.
  2. You could also ask them, if they wouldn’t mind opening and shutting the curtains and may be turning on and off the lights at different times. If you feel this will be too much for them you can buy timing switches for the lights that can be quite effective.
  3. Depending on the time of year you are away, it may be an idea to ask the neighbour if they can mow your lawn for you, grass can grow very quickly at certain times of the year and an uncut lawn can be a real give away. You could also ask them to make your home look as lived in as possible, perhaps, leaving a few small tools on the lawn to make it look like the garden is being worked on, or perhaps moving some items around.

If you are unlucky to suffer a loss at your home when you are on holiday, you will need to be contacted as quickly as possible as certain things may need to be done to make your home secure. If there is a break-in at the property, the police will have to be notified and the property made secure. Whoever deals with the police, will have to obtain a crime book reference number as this will be required by your insurers as well as the police contact details. Make sure you have your home insurance policy number to hand as well as the insurance claims department telephone number. Call them and keep them informed of developments, they will probably let you effect temporary emergency repairs but other than that, may wish to appoint someone to come and view the damage before works can commence.

Assetsure provides UK flat insurance and home insurance for buildings and contents for homeowners in the United Kingdom.