Unoccupied home insurance requires that the property looks ‘lived in’ even when it isn't. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to advertise your absence to potential thieves. We've look into the most useful tips you can use to secure your home while you’re away.
The trouble with making your home look lived in when you’re not there is that it’s not being lived in and you’re not there! For this reason there is no real substitute for having someone visit. A timer switch on your lights is a great deterrent from the opportunistic burglar, but if someone is watching your property closely, they’ll quickly catch on.
Likewise, if it’s been snowing and the snow that’s settled on your garden path hasn’t been trodden on for a week, your timer lights won’t fool a burglar. We’ll get into a few more examples over the article, but this should highlight that a trusted neighbour or local family member is the best way to keep your unoccupied home looking lived in while you’re away.
So, you’re new to the area and don’t yet know anyone you can trust locally. Not to worry, there are still steps you can take to minimise your risk of becoming an ideal target for burglars.
Ask a friend to help
The first important thing to note is that if a friend is visiting, but your neighbours are aware that you have left, make sure that your inform them. You don’t want your neighbours seeing someone moving around in the house and end up reporting the very person who is securing it. Letting them know what their car looks like should be enough.
Don’t go around bragging about your upcoming trip
Secondly, you want to tell as few people as possible about your holiday. Break-ins often happen when the culprit knows the house (and what’s in it). Visitors can use any chance to get inside to see the layout/security measures and opportunists will use the knowledge of your trip to determine that your property will be unoccupied. With this in mind, don’t go crazy with excitement telling everyone online, and don’t share this information with people you don’t trust.
The answer to whether you should leave your lights on when you go away is “do you leave you lights on constantly on any other normal day?” Most likely not - it’s not environmentally friendly and the bill would cost more than your holiday! If you have no one to turn them on and off for you, then a timer is a cheap and simple alternative; the trick is to make your house look normal, otherwise it just looks suspicious.
For outside appearance, the most important thing is that the curtains change regularly from being drawn to undrawn. Specifics, such as whether they are open in the day and closed at night are less important. Ask your visitor to open or close them each time they visit. If you have no one to do this it’s best to leave them open. The property will appear less ‘closed up’ with them open. Make sure you remove anything valuable from sight of course but at least someone checking the property i.e. police or friends, can see in to assess
How does it look as I drive past?
Is the snow trodden in? Or in the summer, is the grass cut and plants watered? Is there mail sticking out of the letter box? Is there a car in the drive? Or – even worse, a great big sign asking the delivery driver to leave the packages somewhere else? Whether you do what you can before you leave or request these tasks from whoever is stopping by, these small details will hold up against the scrutiny of anyone driving around looking for a potential home to enter.
Someone breaking into your house doesn’t want to do any damage if it can be avoided. They will want to get inside and then leave without leaving any obvious signs to them having been there. If they suspect your property is unoccupied, knowing more time is available, they may have a good look round for a spare key. If yours, like many, is under a rock or in a jam jar in the shed, or anywhere else that wouldn’t hold up to a determined search you are offering a free pass to anyone who wants to get inside.
For a fee you can request the Post Office withhold your post while you are away with Royal Mail Keepsafe.
If, despite all your best efforts, someone did get into your home while you were away, the last thing you want to happen is for your most valuable possessions to be taken.
These may be items with some monetary value or just the ones that you can’t replace, i.e. sentimental jewellery or photos or even intellectual property on a laptop. Find a place to store these items where they won’t be found or even drop them off at another location for safekeeping while you’re away.
Don’t give them any help. Remember, the culprit may drive past your house every day on the way to work. For someone who is actively looking, small things can scream that your property is unoccupied. And if they do get in, don’t hand them your treasured possessions on a plate.
Finally, don’t forget, your social media accounts are windows into your personal life. Don’t overshare, as you never know who might be looking.
For more information on the cover Towergate can provide for your property, visit our home and property insurance webpage.
Do you own an unoccupied property? You can take out unoccupied property insurance.
James Cooper is a respected industry leader with over 10 years' experience in the home and property insurance sector. He works across a broad range of insurance product and policy development and delivery, including product development; customer sales and marketing; and P&L accountability.
Date: May 25, 2014
Category: Home and Property