Home security during the holiday season

The weather in the North West is doing its usual ‘will it, won’t it get warmer’, and so it may be time for you to pack your bags for sunnier climes. The thought of a couple of weeks away from work or waking up in a different place can feel that much more relaxing if you know you’ve given serious thought to home security when you’re away. There may be a dizzying number of security gadgets available but securing your home and belongings when you’re not there needn’t cost the earth.

Insurance check
First and foremost, check your home insurance. Should the worst happen, it’s good to know that you can claim on your policy. Make sure payments and details are up to date before you go away.

If you plan to be away for more than 30 days you'll need to consider that most home insurers won't provide insurance for unoccupied properties if they are empty for more than 30 days in a row. Indeed, your mortgage company will require you to have buildings cover in place as a condition of your loan, and this applies if your home is a holiday home, second home, letting property or if you are away from your main residence for an extended period.

Insurers may ask you to turn off the water, or keep on the heating, for your usual cover to remain valid, but if you're away for more than 45 days, it is often a condition that you remove all valuable items from your home and that all possible measures are taken to ensure your home does not look empty (someone collecting your post at regular intervals and such).

If you think this may apply to you, it is vital that you talk with your insurers to ensure you have the correct level of insurance.

Remove tools and items of value from windows
It may seem obvious but making sure you don’t leave out any tools that would allow quicker entry to your house is important. Do you have ladders stored behind a garden shed? Is there a toolbox in your greenhouse? Remove anything that could be used by a would-be thief, and make it less attractive for them. Pop that iPad you leave on the kitchen table in a drawer – these 'easy to dispose of' high value electricals are perfect fodder for a burglar. Remember that if you are leaving a car (or cars) in the driveway, don’t leave the keys visible and, if they are keyless entry, invest in a Faraday box/pouch to make sure car thieves won’t prey on you.

Illuminating advice
For a small cost you can invest in some timers, allowing you to plug in lights around your home that automatically come on at a set time, or even as dusk settles. If you want to spend more you could try a camera doorbell, which can be hooked up to your smartphone and allow you to see and speak to anyone who comes to your door.

Adding lights to your external spaces can be a great deterrent, so consider installing a light by your front door and some powerful solar lights in your garden.

You can now go one step further with the use of smart bulbs, activated and managed via an app on your phone. Making your home look occupied even when it isn’t has never been easier with the introduction of this technology, and at the press of a button you can illuminate a room from wherever you are in the world. Many of the systems are easy to set up and install, and you'll get peace of mind when you are away knowing you can control the lighting in your home with ease.

Servicing your appliances
While larger home appliances are unlikely to be taken in a burglary, it’s worth checking they are functioning correctly or turning them off all together. It could be wise to have your annual service, for appliances such as boilers, in the summer months just before you go away.

There are more expensive tricks you can employ, such as purchasing a safe to store your valuables, installing a burgalr alarm or adding security cameras to your property but taking some of the sensible precautions outlined above should suffice. These changes can push your insurance premium down, too, which is an added bonus.

Keeping mum
It’s easy to get carried away letting friends and family know that you’re either going away or that you are on holiday but think carefully about how much detai​​​​​​​l you reveal on social media. You can always show off your holiday snaps when you get back.

Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours! Not only does getting to know your neighbours strengthen the sense of community around your home, but it also means you’re never short of someone to keep an eye on things when you’re away. If you trust your neighbours, you may even call upon them to remove post, put out your bins, open and close curtains and randomly switch on lights around your home for the duration of your holidays. Nothing more is needed than a fancy packet of biscuits and a bottle of local wine as a thank you…and you’ll have someone to keep an eye on things for many holidays to come.

A final check around to make sure all windows and doors are shut and locked and you’re away, happy in the knowledge that you have done all you can to keep your home safe.

If you’d like to know more about securing your home you can read lots of advice from the police.