The Christmas season is upon us and many of you may be planning to go away for the holidays; visiting family or escaping to somewhere sunny. But while you are away how can you keep your empty house safe?
Here are a few useful tips to ensure you have a fabulous Christmas without worrying about what disaster you might find on your return:
Don’t let your house look unoccupied:
Put lights on a timer. Make sure the timer has random intervals – so that it does not go on religiously at 7:00pm and off at 10:00pm every night and try to avoid table lamps that can be viewed through the window – both are dead giveaways. Some timers pair with your smartphone so you can turn the lights on and off at will. You can also plug TVs and radios in to create noise. Alternatively, you can buy photosensitive bulbs that switch on when certain levels of darkness are reached. These low energy LED lightbulbs contain two photosensitive light sensors that automatically switch the bulb on when it gets dark and off when it gets light – all you have to do is screw them in and leave the switch on when you leave. They are low energy so should not adversely affect your electricity bill.
Make sure you stop all regular deliveries such as milk and newspapers. Don’t let mail build up on your doorstep or clog up your letterbox. Royal Mail offer a keepsafe service that will hold on to your mail while you are away and deliver it all to you on your return. You can apply for this online or by phone (it takes 5 days to set up) and costs £17 for 17 days. Or ask a neighbour or friend to stop by every couple of days to pick up mail.
Leave curtains and blinds open, nothing says no one is living here like all the curtains closed. You may choose to leave the bedroom curtains partially open.
If you have a garden or terrace make sure you tidy it up before going away so it does not look neglected. Motion activated lighting is also a good deterrent.
Accident Proof your Property
Check ALL windows and doors are locked – it may be obvious but you would be amazed how many people forget to lock that small bathroom window for example. Secure sliding glass doors by placing a metal rod in the track to prevent an intruder forcing the lock and opening the door. Check garage doors are secure by disabling the electric opener or install a padlock on the overhead door latch.
Turn all electricals off at the socket, except for fridge and freezer and anything left on a timer rather than leaving them on standby. This will reduce the risk of fire and reduce your electricity bill. Hackers can determine your exact location from Google home speakers or Chromecast device so make sure you switch off broadband too.
Re-set heating and thermostat for the time you are away - it is best to leave heating on constant and very low to avoid pipes freezing.
Try to make sure, where possible, that obvious valuables are not visible from the street. Put all valuables in a safe if you have one, preferably a built-in safe or one too heavy to carry away!
Don’t keep spare house keys or car keys within easy reach of the letterbox or near a window. Remove hidden or emergency keys kept under a pot or fake rock – they are too easy to find. Leave a key with a neighbour, close friend or family member and pull in a favour by getting them to check your property occasionally to prevent junk mail building up, check everything is ok and maybe flush the water. They can also give access should there be an emergency like a burst pipe.
According to NFU mutual research you are statistically more likely to be a victim of water damage from a leaky pipe than burglary. So make sure outside pipes and taps are lagged to insulate them from potentially freezing.
Check and make good all dripping taps as these can cause pressure to drop resulting in the boiler not working.
Check all garden maintenance, including irrigation systems, for leaks.
Clear all gutters to avoid risk of flooding during heavy rainfall.
Very importantly, check your Home Insurance cover is up to date.
Lastly, don’t tell everyone you are going away other than close family and friends. Don’t brag on social media, posting photos on Facebook and Instagram, advertising that you are away. You can post on your return.
Now, with all those tips on how to keep your house safe, you can go off and enjoy your Christmas holiday in peace.
Happy Christmas and Happy New Year from all at Palace Gate.
Palace Gate manages all aspects of property ownership and complex lifestyles.