Secure your empty property
Homes can remain unoccupied for various reasons, such as when between owners, undergoing renovations, taking extended holidays, or dealing with illnesses. Regardless of the cause, it’s crucial to prepare your property for its vacant duration. Adequately preparing your home helps protect it from damage and criminal activity.
Keep in mind that standard home insurance policies typically cover unoccupied periods for up to 60 days. If your property will be vacant for longer, you should consider taking out an unoccupied house insurance policy. While buildings insurance for empty property is crucial in protecting you from the financial risk of an unoccupied property, it is important to ensure that you take the necessary measures to prepare your property before it is unoccupied.
Our essential tips for maintaining and protecting your empty property.
- Turning on security systems
- Regular visits to the property
- Keep an eye on your utilities
- Explore smart home devices
- Know what insurance you need
- Think about your post
Though it may seem obvious when leaving a house unoccupied, ensuring all security systems are in place and operational is crucial. Double-check that all windows and doors are locked, including those in garages and other entry points. Avoid leaving spare keys outside the building or visible through windows.
Maintain any existing security systems to prevent break-ins. Installing motion detector lights around your property, above the garage, front entrance, and windows, can deter burglars. Thieves may target more than just the contents of your home; copper plumbing pipes, roof tiles, and even boilers have been stolen from vacant properties, leading to additional damage not covered by standard insurance.
Secure the perimeter
A well-secured perimeter can deter potential intruders. Consider installing sturdy fencing or walls, locking any side gates, and using thorny shrubs or plants as natural barriers around the property. Additionally, to help protect you home use robust padlocks and security systems to secure any outbuildings, sheds, or garages.
Invest in British standard locks
Using British standard locks for doors and windows is highly recommended. These locks have been tested for security and durability, ensuring that they provide adequate protection against forced entry. Upgrading your property’s locks to British Standard 3261 models can further enhance your home’s security during periods of inoccupancy.
Organise frequent visits to the property, either by yourself or by asking friends or neighbours to check in. Regular visits make the property appear occupied, keeping up to with your property maintenance and all helping to deter criminals. Visitors can also turn lights on, collect post, and park their cars outside to give the appearance of occupancy.
Keep a record of dates and times the property has been visited, and if anything untoward was noticed at the time. Your insurer will expect you to have a record and if you do make a claim it can be helpful to narrow down when the loss occurred.
Inform your neighbours and local authorities
You may want to inform your neighbours of your property’s unoccupied status and provide them with your contact information or a spare key. In case of emergencies or suspicious activity, they can reach out to you promptly or pop around and take a look for you. Additionally, notifying local authorities or the neighbourhood watch can help increase vigilance around your property.
Visitors can also help quickly spot any damages or issues, such as leaking pipes, to help minimise damage and long-term complications. If you cannot arrange for someone to visit the property, consider hiring a property maintenance professional.
Maintaining the property’s exterior is equally important. Thieves and vandals often look for signs of vacancy, such as overgrown gardens or accumulated waste. Regular waste removal and site clearance can deter intruders by making the property appear occupied.
For extended unoccupied periods, consider turning off utilities to reduce the risk of significant losses. Shutting off the stopcock and draining your heating system can protect your property from water damage. However, during winter months, maintaining a minimum temperature (usually around 15°C) can prevent pipes from freezing and bursting. Your insurance policy may have additional requirements for it to be valid while the property is unoccupied, so be sure to check the policy conditions.
Advancements in technology for property have helped introduce various smart home devices that can prevent or minimise property damage. Leak detection devices, for instance, can notify you of leaks or freezing pipes and automatically shut off the water supply when necessary.
Smart home security devices can remotely monitor your property, internally and externally. Video doorbell devices can notify you when someone is at your door or outside your home, allowing you to communicate with them through built-in speakers and microphones.
Utilise timers and smart plugs
To create the illusion of occupancy, use timers and smart plugs to control lighting and appliances within your home. Program them to switch lights on and off at different times, mimicking the patterns of an occupied property. Many smart plugs can be controlled remotely through smartphone apps, allowing you to adjust settings as needed. You should also consider improving your property’s EPC rating in conjunction with these types of smart plugs and lights. This could be as simple as checking that all of the lights within the property are energy saving.
If your property will be vacant for over 60 days, your home insurance may not be valid. In such cases, purchasing unoccupied house insurance is advisable. These policies offer cover for periods of inoccupancy and provide competitive rates.
A build-up of post outside your property is a clear sign of vacancy. You can use Royal Mail’s redirection service to forward your post to a different address temporarily. This service not only helps maintain the appearance of occupancy but also protects your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
Implementing these tips and taking proactive measures can reduce the risk of theft, vandalism, or damage. Planning and preparation are key to ensuring your property remains secure while you’re away; it’s essential to invest time and effort into ensuring all aspects of your property are protected and well-maintained. In doing so, you’ll safeguard your home and have peace of mind during your time away.