In terms of keeping your property secure, the insurers we use require your property to have a certain level of security in place for us to consider offering cover. Ideally you must have locks which meet BS3621 standards on all external doors to avoid your cover becoming invalid. Patio door locks should be multi-point or have a lock on the central rail at the top and bottom of the door.
If your home does not have these protections you still may be able to obtain a quote, but your underwriter will need to assess if the locks you do have are adequate. As an extra measure, you can use a house alarm to keep your property even more secure.
To minimise the risk of theft you should hide valuable items away and out of sight where possible. Ideally, you should take these items with you, but when this is not possible at least move them out of immediate view.
Have a neighbour or friend check in on your property regularly while you’re away, to look for leaks and signs of break-ins. Also ask them to pick up your post for you: a pile of mail in your letterbox is a sign to burglars that the property is vacant.
Installing alarms and CCTV cameras will also keep your property more secure from burglary attempts.
Another common danger for unoccupied holiday homes is a water leak. This is normally caused by a burst pipe, leaking toilet or malfunction with a central heating system.
It’s likely that you’ll spend less time in your holiday home over the winter months, and this is the time when burst pipes are most likely to happen, especially as a result of freezing temperatures. There are a few things you can do to stop this happening though.
This is known as 'lagging' and involves wrapping waterproof and insulating material around pipes to stop them freezing.
Insulate water tanks
Again, these can freeze over in cold conditions. Most DIY shops sell materials for you to do this yourself.
Keep the property heated
If you have your heating on a timer while you’re away, this could help heat the property sufficiently to stop pipes freezing. Consider leaving it on at a minimum of 13°C.
Know where your stopcock is
If you’re in your house when disaster strikes it’s helpful to know where the stopcock is so that you can shut off the water quickly and minimise damage. Similarly, if you aren’t there and you need to call out a plumber, you can direct them to the stopcock with ease. Better to know before an emergency than after it happens.
Maintain your boiler
Cold snaps and frost are among the most deadly property threats, especially to a vacant holiday home. Make sure your boiler is serviced annually and that any external pipes (ie condensing boiler pipes) are insulated properly.
When you or your tenants are leaving the property, use our checklist to prepare your home for every possible emergency before you leave.
Hot water system: Make sure your storage tanks and hot water cylinders are in good working order, and insulate them to prevent them from freezing and breaking.
Foliage: In windy or stormy weather, debris might smash windows and result in serious property damage. To prevent this, make sure the trees or hedges on your property are pruned in such a way to avoid your house and nearby power cables.
Gutters: Ensure that your gutters, eaves, and drains are clear of debris and free of leaks, to prevent overflow and blockages.
Heating systems: Leave your heating on a minimum of 13°C using a timer. You could also install a central heating app to manage the property's temperature. If you have to turn your central heating system off, make sure it’s properly drained down to avoid burst pipes.
Loft: Help your home retain heat by insulating your loft and leaving the loft hatch open to allow for better air circulation.
Paint: Inspect your exterior paint and weather-staining for damage, and ensure any damaged parts are repaired.
Roof: Check your roof for broken, loose or leaking tiles. Fix your roof ASAP if you find it in disrepair and it’s at risk of causing property damage or injury.
Water pipes: Drain down your water pipes to prevent excess water being trapped in them and freezing and bursting. You should also protect your pipes by insulating them with lagging. If you’re unsure how to do this, contact a plumber for advice.
Windows: Make sure all windows are in good repair and free of water. Check window sills for rot and damp, and double-check the sealant around the windows of your home and outbuildings, making appropriate repairs to any areas of damage.
Remember: If your holiday home might be subject to natural disasters such as typhoons or earthquakes, make sure you’ve weather-proofed your home to withstand those threats.
Aerials: If your house has any aerials (e.g. antenna, satellite dish, etc), make sure they’re still firmly attached to your home.
Appliances: Double-check your home for leaks, especially potential problem areas such as your dishwasher, washing machine, and your taps and showers. Also consider unplugging all appliances except for your refrigerator and freezer to save energy and reduce the risk of fire.
Emergency pack: Store emergency supplies (e.g. first aid kit, torch, important documents, etc) in an easily accessible location, so that you can find it during emergencies and power outages.
Surge protector: Install / check existing surge protectors to protect your sensitive electronics from power surges and electrical storms.
Smoke detectors: Test all of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace old batteries if necessary.
Basic security: Tightly close and lock all the doors and windows of your property and its outbuildings (e.g. garage, shed, barn, etc). Also, remove any keys you may have hidden outside.
Lighting: Illuminating entry points will often dissuade would-be burglars from entering your home. For extra security, you can also put your internal lights on a timer to make it appear as though someone is home.
Valuables: Take whatever valuables you can with you, and hide whatever you cannot take out of sight. You might also consider installing a safe to protect small valuables.
This is a marketing article by Towergate Insurance.
The right insurance will give you peace of mind and save you a fortune should the unthinkable ever occur. For more information, visit our holiday home insurance webpage or call one of our specialist advisers on 0344 892 1750.
James Cooper is a respected industry leader with around 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: December 20, 2018
Category: Home and Property