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Keeping your home safe when you are away

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In a story published on the 20th of June, the Express newspaper revealed that crimes involving thefts from homes had fallen during the stay-at-home guidance of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now that several months’ of lockdown are beginning to be eased, of course, you want to exercise your new-found freedom by venturing away from home for a day or two – or even longer.

After such a relatively long time having been confined to your home, however, you might have forgotten some of the golden rules about keeping the place safe while you are away – however long your house is temporarily vacant.  So, here are some reminders.

Opportunistic thieves

Burglars are essentially opportunistic thieves, warns the Metropolitan Police – they’ll be on the lookout for any opportunity, however, slim or brief, take advantage of it, and make off with whatever they might find of value.

Keeping your home safe, therefore, is about closing down those opportunities as well as you are able:

  • don’t leave doors or windows open when you go out, and keep any valuable hidden from sight;
  • burglars tend to know more about your home than you might credit them for – whether you have valuable items inside, what time you are likely to be out on the school run, and when you have gone away on holiday, for example;
  • they might pass your house by if they feel there is a risk of being overseen by a neighbour, spotted by a passer-by, or delayed by more sophisticated locks and alarms;
  • during these warmer summer days at home, you’ve probably been in and out of the garden shed more often than usual – did you remember to lock it after you, to keep secure those very tools a burglar might use to break into your home;
  • bear in mind, too, say the Metropolitan Police, that some houses fall prey to multiple break-ins because homeowners fail to upgrade their security and the thieves have already learned the lie of the land.

Don’t advertise

While you’ve been at home during lockdown, you might not have noticed how some of your more valuable items may have been left out in plain sight through windows, open doors, or letterboxes.

If you haven’t done so before, therefore, now is the time to remind yourself not to advertise any items of value that have been on show.

Social media is great for keeping in touch with friends – but it’s equally helpful for burglars wanting to know when you’re next likely to be going to the gym for an hour or two – or even taking a well-earned holiday. Be sure not to advertise those events by posting them publicly online where the whole world and its budding burglars can read the news.

Keeping up appearances

If you have decided to go away on holiday, it is important not to leave your home looking as though it’s unoccupied. Once again, there are a number of common-sense measures you might take:

  • tidy up the garden and mow the lawn before you go away – in the summer weather, it’s unlikely to be very long before your lack of garden maintenance begins to show;
  • leave blinds and curtains drawn – closed curtains during the day are a clear advert that there’s probably no one at home;
  • cancel any regular deliveries you usually receive at your door and ask a neighbour to look out for any other items that might arrive to take them indoors;
  • you might also ask the same neighbour to park their car in your driveway from time to time – so, giving the impression that there is someone at your house;
  • install timer switches for lights – and perhaps the TV or radio – at strategic places around the house to create that lived-in feel when it gets dark.

Insurance

Now might be the perfect time to check that your home insurance continues to provide the cover you need to help keep your property safe – both when you are home and when you’re away.

If you are planning to be away for any substantial period of time – say longer than a month – remember that the majority of home insurance policies severely limit the level of cover on your property once it has been unoccupied for longer than 30-45 consecutive days and nights. You may need to consider the importance of standalone unoccupied property insurance.

Remember, too, that even with the appropriate insurance policies in place, you are still expected to take all reasonable precautions to mitigate any loss or damage to your home. If you have failed to take seriously some of the suggestions above, therefore, and need to submit an insurance claim, you may find that it is dismissed or that you are guilty of contributory negligence – and any settlement figure is adjusted accordingly.

We hope these tips and advice offer a timely reminder for keeping your home safe and secure whether you are popping out to the shops or going away for a longer break.