01 August, 2019
The summer is here and at last and many of us will be excitedly planning a well-deserved holiday – the trouble is, burglars will not be planning a break, because for them, with 14.2 million homes empty, the summer months are a really good time for their trade. The sad fact is that 80% of burglaries take place when properties are empty. Time is all-important to a thief who wants to gain access quickly and steal speedily and unobtrusively. Your greatest weapon is to make things hard for them, create barriers and make things difficult because the chances are that the burglar will simply give up, decide it is too risky and move on to another easier break-in. Having said that, the important statistic is that there are 12% more burglaries in the summer months of June, July and August – so make sure you are not a statistic. For one group of home owners, there is the added challenge of keeping their empty property safe. The main thing is that home security should definitely be at the top of the 'to do' list so that it is given high priority and good planning. So you do not miss any points, it is a good idea to work through this tick list.
If you have window locks are they all in good working order? If you do not have locks, it might well be worth installing them on all ground floor windows. It is common sense to close all windows firmly – even the smallest ones. Many people have burglar alarms but don't use them. Check that your alarm is in good working order or consider having one installed for 'peace of mind'. Look at security devices that can be used via smartphones as these ensure that you can keep an eye on your property, wherever you may be. Whilst you are away it is good to create the illusion that your home is lived in. The easiest way of doing this is to install an automatic time switch that you can use for a lamp and can programme to come on as it gets dark. Look out for the switches that can be individually programmed over a seven day period as you can decide on different 'switch off' times each night – which is a bonus. Consider installing a second time switch for bedroom lights – make sure that all the lights on switches are visible from the road as this is essential. It is also worth considering installing further time switches for the television and radio that come on during the day. If you prefer, look into smart plugs and lights as you can decide when they operate and can even operate them from your sunbed. It could be well worth install a couple of motion detector lamps covering the front and back of your property as this will again act as a good deterrent.
This is a really good idea but is not on for the 11th hour. Buy a special security marker and mark all your possessions diligently with your house number and postcode. Take photographs of all your valuable items – especially jewellery – it is well worth taking several good photographs of each item, showing hallmarks or and unique and distinguishing marks. It is a good idea to pack all your valuables such as laptops and mobiles away out of sight for the time you will be away. Put all your important documents in a safe – if you don't have one, your bank certainly does. Alternatively put them into a strong box, seal it and ask a family member to look after it for you. Make a detailed list of all your valuables and this list can be registered free of charge on www.immobilise.com which is a scheme recommended by police. Now is a good time to check your insurance policy – is it still current and is the contents cover adequate?
This point is really difficult because you are probably very excited about it, but it is best to only talk about it with close family and friends. Make sure you do not discuss your holiday plans where other people can overhear the conversation such as in the hair salon/ barber's or in the pub. Of course, whilst you are actually away, it is sensible not to post photos or other holiday info on social media as this will advertise the fact to the world that you are away. Likewise, it is prudent not to write all your details – especially your home address – on your baggage labels. Far better to write your home address and contact numbers on a piece of paper to go inside your suitcase or use your work address.
Whilst empty your property will need protecting against flooding, utility leaks, fire damage and squatters. An empty property is a really vulnerable one and this of course will be compounded by the fact that you are going away. Is the property likely to remain empty for a number of months? Is it your long term renovation project? Your local council could well be interested in letting it for a six month plus period so that it could let it out – this is certainly worth considering. If however, your empty property is remaining empty, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that it is not so vulnerable. The first thing, is to install some movement detector lights outside, front and back. It is well worth considering installing some steel security windows and doors to protect the interior because they really are almost impossible to breach. Monitored CCTV is expensive, but an excellent deterrent that is well worth considering and likewise, it is well worth researching the various alarm systems available on the market. Monitored alarm systems are not cheap but are very effective as they alert trained security staff immediately of any attempted break-in – even if all the utilities have been switched off you will be notified remotely too, which can bring great peace of mind.
All deliveries to your home must be cancelled - including milk and newspapers. It is also a good idea to not order anything on such websites as Amazon or eBay that could arrive in your absence. Piles of post and junk mail can be a giveaway so it might be worth asking a family member or trusted neighbour to pop in regularly to clear the post or booking the Royal Mail Keepsafe Service is well worth considering. This service is not particularly well known but costs just £12.80 for 17 days and takes just one week to set up. All of your parcels and letters that have accumulated, will be delivered the day after you arrive home – tremendous. In the days before you head off, spend time cutting your lawn and weeding all the flowerbeds so that the garden will not look unkempt in your absence. If you have large plants and bushes in front of any downstairs windows, give them all a really good pruning so that no one can hide there. Pack all your stepladders away and leave nothing in the garden that could be helpful to burglars. If you can't pack the ladders away, at least padlock them to something immoveable like a tree or fencepost and don't leave screwdrivers, spades and hammers around as a burglar would find them handy. If you have a garden shed where you store a motorbike, expensive cycle or a range of quality garden tools, it is well worth considering moving them into the main house for security. You will be giving your keys to a trusted family member or neighbour, so do ensure that the usual spare set is not hidden under the mat as burglars would find these very useful.
If you have asked a family member or friend to pop in regularly, maybe they will be happy to open and close curtains too. It is a good idea that if they have several cars that they park one on your driveway. If your holiday is going to be an extended one, of course they may happily cut your lawn prior to your return. If you have a pet cat, it is essential that your house sitter takes good care of them too. Don't forget to leave all your contact details with them (the friend, not the cat!), just in case they need to contact you and of course to buy them a well-earned bottle of Sangria or Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon as a token of your appreciation. Well, the magic day is now upon you, but don't be tempted to pack the car the evening before you go, advertising your departure, far better to pack it in the morning. Before you depart, do one final sweep of your home, checking all windows and doors are locked, timer switches are on and all electric appliances are switched off save the fridge and freezer plus television if you have a time switch. Once you are happy that all is good, jump in your car, enjoy your holiday and Bon Voyage.
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