The summer holiday season still looks very different due to the pandemic – with uncertainty about travel to certain popular destinations abroad. However, the complete removal of legal restrictions on Monday July 19 and the traffic light system for overseas travel, has seen more people taking the plunge to go abroad. At the same time, last year’s staycation boom is set to be followed up by an even bigger one this year, as society slowly starts to reopen fully.
Leaving your home behind for a week, ten days or a fortnight can pose problems from a security point of view, though, and you must take steps to secure your home if you’re going away this summer. Thieves are very good at knowing when a property is empty, with more than 80% of break-ins taking place when the occupant or homeowner isn’t there.
Below, we look at the precautions you can take to ensure your home and belongings are secure while you enjoy your time away.
Simple and easy precautions
If you’re the target of an attempted burglary, time is your biggest ally, so you must ensure you’ve taken steps in advance to protect your home.
Simple steps like double checking that all doors and windows are firmly locked before you leave, and doing the same for garage doors or garden gates, are a great way of keeping your mind at rest.
The thinking here is to make it as difficult for the burglar as possible. After all, the more time it’ll take a thief to break in, the less likely they are to attempt it.
Double-checking everything will offer peace of mind – so, whether you’ve made it somewhere to lounge around by the pool or you’re camping out in the Lakes, you won’t need to be worrying about whether or not you’ve left the garage unlocked.
Before you head off on your holidays, it’s also a good idea to make sure that all electronics and lights are switched off. Not only will a bedside lamp left on for over a week cost you more money in energy bills, it could demonstrate to potential thieves that you’re not at home.
To cut your costs, you should also consider unplugging larger electrical items – like TVs and washing machines – to save yourself more money.
Top tips for while you're away - how can you protect your home?
Fortunately, most of the things you can do to protect your home are quick, cost-effective and straightforward.
Post: One of the most prominent tell-tale signs that properties have been empty for a lengthy period is post left in an overflowing letterbox. To prevent this being the case, arrange for one of your neighbours or a family member to collect your post for you while you’re away. A good alternative, if this isn’t possible, is to try Royal Mail’s Keepsafe system. With this, they’ll store your mail for you and deliver it when you are back home.
Alarm: The simplest but probably most effective, preventative step – an alarm can be a great source of comfort in keeping burglars at bay. Of course, if you have a home alarm, you must make sure it’s activated as you leave. It would be best if you double check this before you depart and leave the code with a neighbour, family member or your agent/landlord to use in case of emergency.
Tell your landlord: Communication is all-important in a successful tenancy, and it’s also crucial from a security perspective. As such, you should let your landlord know if you’re going away for a week or so. While it’s unlikely that you are required to tell them under the terms of your tenancy agreement, it’s still best practice to do so - and this way they’ll know that there may be a problem if they get a call about the house. They could even offer to call in once or twice and check-up on things, if they live locally, or offer to remove post from the letterbox.
Occupied - how to make your home look lived-in
If you don’t want your landlord or agent to call in, a trusted neighbour or family member can do this job for you – and it’s recommended you have someone to check in at least once a week during the time you’re away.
This can help you avoid deciding whether to have blinds open or closed permanently during your absence. Having another car on the drive also demonstrates that there’s still regular activity at the home. You can even bring your neighbour or relative a thank you gift back from your trip.
If you don’t have a local family member or haven’t lived in an area long enough to build a strong rapport with your neighbour, there are several items you can purchase to help your home seem occupied.
- Shops such as IKEA and Argos sell automatic light timers for around £10-£15, which will switch on at a time you set to make it seem like someone is at home (think Home Alone 1 when Kevin does this to try and keep the Clean Bandits at bay). By doing this, you can ensure your home isn’t in total darkness for the duration of your holiday.
- Similarly, timer switches are available from most DIY stores, which can programme your television or radio to turn on at certain times of the day for set durations – again, to give the impression that someone is at home.
- TV light simulators can also be purchased for around £15, and give off the effect of watching TV at home. They use built-in light sensors and timers to turn on and off automatically.
- If you like your security to be more high-tech – think smart alarms and the like – Good Housekeeping recently outlined the top 10 smart alarms on the market. The Scotsman has also penned an article about the top UK smart home security products in 2021, from video doorbells to security cameras that link up to your phone.
Keep it secret - don't tell the masses
This might sound obvious – who would want to advertise their unoccupied home to the world knowingly? – but it happens all the time unintentionally, as people often post statuses on social media about being away.
You should never assume that only your friends and family will see your posts – criminals will crawl through social media for this kind of info, which on sites like Twitter and Facebook can be open to all if they’re not set as private. In theory, then, anyone can see what you post. Old posts, too, can be used to figure out where you might live or in what area, giving thieves the info they need when you are away again.
To prevent the above being an issue, you should consider posting all your holiday snaps in one single album when you’re back and only letting close family and friends know where you are through secure, end-to-end encrypted platforms like WhatsApp.
If you can’t resist posting that latest food photo to Instagram while you're away, you may want to ask a friend or family member if they’d mind staying at your property while you’re away to keep your mind entirely at ease.
If someone breaks in and steals your belongings, our specialist renters Contents Insurance Incorporating Tenancy Liability policy is there to protect your possessions. Click here to get a quote today! If, despite taking these precautions, something was to happen to your home, being insured will make life a lot easier and mean that you don’t have to fork out to replace expensive items, as well as giving you extra peace of mind while you’re away.