How to keep your home safe while you’re on holiday

The last thing you want on holiday is a phone call about a burglary or a burst pipe. Our top ten tips will help you avoid disaster and make sure you can really relax while you’re away.

The last thing you want on holiday is a phone call about a burglary or a burst pipe. Our top ten tips will help you avoid disaster and make sure you can really relax while you’re away.

Chris King
From the Home team
5
minute read
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Posted 22 NOVEMBER 2021

1. Make your house look occupied

An empty home can be an open invitation to burglars. The secret is not to draw their attention in the first place.

They’ll be looking for:

  • post piling up
  • deliveries sitting on the doorstep
  • an empty drive with no car outside
  • no lights on at night or lights that are obviously running on a timer
  • overgrown plants or a lawn that needs mowing
  • rubbish bins that haven’t been emptied or returned to their normal position after a collection.

To minimise the risks of a break in, give a trusted neighbour or friend a key and ask them to pop in from time to time. They can open and close the curtains, turn lights on and off, collect your mail and manage your bins – and if they can park their car in your drive too, even better.

It’s also helpful for someone to have a key in case of a leak or other emergency.

Make sure you cancel any regular deliveries, such as your daily newspaper or milk – and don’t order anything online that may arrive while you’re away.

If there’s no helpful neighbour to hand, Royal Mail offers a Keepsafe service that will hold you mail for up to 100 days and deliver it to you once you’re home.

If you’re going away for a fortnight, the service will look after your post for 17 days for £18.50.

2. Lock up!

It may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed how many people leave a window open or door unlocked when they go away. It’s a mistake that could invalidate their home insurance as some policies will only cover burglary claims if there are signs of forced or violent entry.

  • Make sure all windows and doors are locked before you leave – with locks approved by your home insurance provider.
  • Secure any garages, sheds and outbuildings.
  • Keep tools locked away so they can’t be used to break into your home. If you’ve no option but to leave a ladder outside, ensure it’s secured in a fixed location with a padlock and chain.

3. Hide your valuables

Keep your valuables, including computers and laptops, out of sight or lock them away if possible.

Having a fitted safe can be a good investment. Just make sure it’s fixed securely in place, as smaller models are an obvious target for thieves and easy to steal.

4. Get an alarm system

Depending on the insurance provider, having a burglar alarm may reduce your home insurance premiums. Even if it doesn’t, it’s still likely to cut the risks of being burgled.

There are different types of burglar alarms available, making it easier to find one that suits your budget and the level of security you’re after.

Weigh the cost of the system against the value of your possessions and look for models accredited by either the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or the Security System and Alarms Inspectorate Board (SSAIB).

  • Bell-only alarms come with various motion sensors connected to a central control panel and can be either wireless (battery-powered) or wired in, which requires professional installation.
  • Monitored alarm systems connect with an alarm-receiving centre (ARC), from which a staff member will call or text you or a chosen keyholder if the alarm goes off. They may also contact the police.
  • Smart burglar alarms are managed with an app and you’ll get alerts if the alarm is triggered. They are part of your smart home hub set-up and can be integrated with a range of devices including security cameras, motion detectors and voice commands.

5. Secure your doors

It’s not a quick pre-holiday fix, but upgrading your external doors can play a big part in securing your home. According to the Office for National Statistics, 70% of intruders who gain access to a private residence do so through the door.

The strongest doors are made of solid wood, or for a longer-lasting alternative, try a composite door that is made up of several different materials. It’s likely to be thicker than others on the market and could come with the latest locking mechanisms – just make sure it meets PAS 24 British Security Standards and has a Secured by Design accreditation.

If the composite option is too pricey, a uPVC version is a cheaper alternative and new models are likely to come with an anti-snap lock, as well as a multi-point locking system, to help keep intruders out.

It’s also a good idea to avoid glass panels or opt for reinforced glass, which will be harder to break. You can fit a letterbox guard too, which stops people looking inside or reaching in to steal keys from a nearby hook or shelf.

Visit the Metropolitan Police website for more door security advice.

6. Don't advertise your absence

Be careful what you post on social media. If you mention on your Facebook account that you’re jetting off, it could give potential thieves the green light to pop round. Leave posting photos and videos until your return.

Similarly, talking about your forthcoming holiday in a local shop or public space – where you could easily be followed home – is best avoided.

7. Get the support of your community

For extra peace of mind, join a Neighbourhood Watch scheme, if there’s one in your area. If there isn’t, you could set one up. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of people – it could just cover your street.

Find out more at ourwatch.org.uk

8. Turn the water off

Keeping your home safe doesn’t just mean securing it against theft. Water damage can be just as costly – and even a small leak, left for a week or two, can have costly implications if it turns into a flood.

If you’re away for a while, turn off your water at your inside stop valve. You’ll find a helpful guide on the Thames Water website.

Before you go away, check your buildings insurance to make sure you’re covered for burst pipes and water leaks. Most policies include it as standard, but always read the small print.

9. Unplug electricals

Leaving gadgets charging or on stand-by uses electricity, so turning them off will save you money on your energy bill while you’re on holiday.

However, to reduce the risk of fire, go a step further and unplug everything you can at the wall – with the exception of the fridge/freezer, unless empty.

Before you go away, make sure your home insurance covers fire damage – and remember, most policies won’t cover your property if it’s left unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days.

10. Going on an extended trip?

If you’re intending on staying away for longer than 30 days, you’ll need to tell your insurance provider, or your policy may be invalid.

For long trips, consider unoccupied property insurance, which could cover your home for longer periods against fire, flood and storm damage, vandalism and theft or attempted theft.

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