5 Tips to Protect Your Empty House
There are many reasons why a property is empty for a long period of time. Perhaps you are in between moves, you have moved out whilst renovations or works are taking place, you are on an extended holiday or away from home due to illness. Whatever the reasons, it’s essential to prepare it for the period it will be vacant. Preparing a property for an unoccupied period will help to protect it from damage and crime.
Remember – most standard home insurance policies will only cover periods of unoccupancy for up to 30 days. If you know the property will be left vacant for longer, take out specialist unoccupied home insurance.
Here are some tips on how to keep your empty house safe during periods of unoccupancy:
1. Keep all security systems activated
While this might sound like common sense, it’s all too easy to forget to check all of the locks on your windows and doors or set the alarm when a property is left unoccupied. Take a moment to double check all access points are locked, remembering windows and doors from access points such as the garage. Be sure not to leave any spare keys outside the building (don’t leave them under the plant pot!), and ensure there aren’t any keys visible through windows e.g. on the kitchen worktop.
Even if your home is unoccupied, it is well worth keeping any existing security systems in place to prevent a break in. Motion detector lights can be a wise investment and an ideal way to deter burglars. Install motion-sensor lights to the house exteriors to activate if a person walks around your property. For additional security, you can also set lights above the garage, front entrance and windows.
Also, don’t think the contents of your home are the only items thieves are interested in. Even if all your personal possessions have been removed, there have been incidents where thieves have removed copper plumbing pipes, roof tiles and even boilers have been stolen from properties. This not only creates a loss, but also could cause severe water or other kinds of damage to your property that are unlikely to be covered unless you have taken out specialist unoccupied home insurance.
2. Maintain the property internally and externally on a regular basis
Where possible you should arrange regular visits to the property. If you are no longer living close to the property, try to enlist the help of a friend or neighbour to check on the property as often as possible. Having regular visitors to the property makes it look occupied and acts as an effective crime deterrent. Your visitors can put lights on, collect the mail from the front door area and park their car outside.
It also will help you to become aware quickly of any damage or issues that have occurred (such as a leaking pipe) giving you the chance to resolve the issues and minimise further damage or long-term problems.
If you do not have anyone that can help with this, contact a property maintenance professional who can take care of these visits on your behalf.
As well as inside the home it is important to maintain the external parts of the property. Thieves and vandals are on the lookout for signs that a home will be empty and leaving the garden overgrown and/or allowing an accumulation of waste outside makes your property an advert for thieves and vandals. Waste removal and site clearance will help make the fact that your property is vacant less obvious and therefore go a considerable way to deterring intruders.
3. Check your utilities
If your property is going to remain unoccupied for an extended period of time, it can be a good idea to turn off the utilities in order to reduce the risk of a large loss manifesting. As well as fire, escape of water from a leaking or burst pipe can cause significant damage if allowed to go unnoticed. Turning off the stopcock and draining your heating system can also be a good way to protect your property from damage.
During the winter months however, it is often recommended that the heating systems is kept on to maintain a minimum temperature, (often 15°c). This is to prevent the pipes from completely freezing over, consequently making them vulnerable to burst.
4. Smart Home Devices
Advances in technology have helped to create a number of useful ‘smart’ devices that can reduce the risk of a loss escalating or in some cases preventing a loss at all.
Leak detection devices are becoming increasingly more common and can do a wide range of things to help prevent large losses. Some of the more basic models can send a notification to your phone when a leak is detected whereas more advanced models can do this as well as monitor the temperature of the pipework and notify you when they are at risk of freezing over. The most advanced models can be installed with shut-off valves which automatically turn off the water when a leak is detected.
Advances in smart home security devices make it possible to see what is going on at the property both internally and externally from any location using your smartphone. Video doorbell devices will immediately notify your phone when someone rings the bell and even provide a camera, speaker and microphones so you can not only see who is at the door but talk to them as well. More advanced models will use motion detection and notify you if someone is outside of your home, even if they have not rang the doorbell.
5. Specialist unoccupied Home insurance
If you are going to leave your house empty for more than 30 days, most standard insurers will not cover this type of risk and as a result we recommend purchasing unoccupied property insurance.
Intelligent Insurance policies provide cover for up to 60 days of unoccupancy as standard and provide competitive cover with clear terms for properties left unoccupied for longer periods. To give you a clear idea of costs, we can provide immediate online quotes in most cases. If you have questions, you can speak to our experienced advisors in our UK office.
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