You always turn off the water and switch off the plugs before you go away, but is there a more sinister threat that you’re not being careful enough about?
It’s an unfortunate fact that every year, thousands of families return home from a relaxing break to discover broken windows, forced doorways and missing property. With reported crimes rates jumping up by 10% this year, it’s so important that you take through steps to prevent your home from becoming another statistic.
Here are the top 10 mistakes that act as open invitations for unwanted visitors.
1. Leaving lights on or off the whole time.
Depending on the season, having lights that seem to be on or off at the wrong time of day is incredibly conspicuous. It alerts thieves to the fact that you’re probably not home, and if they spend any time watching the property for movement it will quickly become apparent that you’re away. Instead, the use of a few simple timer switches can make it seem convincing enough that someone is moving between rooms that would-be burglars don’t take the risk.
2. Letting mail and deliveries build up.
Cancel milk and newspaper deliveries before you go away, or ask a neighbour to bring them in for you. If you’re not comfortable with the same person handling your post, make use of the Royal Mail Keepsafe scheme allowing your local post office to hold your post for a given period of time. Finally, make sure that the growing pile of junk mail behind your front door isn’t visible from outside the property, as it will make it immediately obvious that you haven’t been home in several days.
3. Leaving the spare key out.
Whether it’s under the mat or tucked behind a loose brick, burglars know to check all of the common hiding places for a spare key, and when they find it they can walk straight into your home without leaving a trace. Plenty of households keep a spare key somewhere outside their property, but don’t leave it outside when you go away.
4. Forgetting to check whether all windows and doors are locked.
Few people leave the front door unlocked, but it’s not uncommon for the back door to go forgotten, particularly if it’s behind a locked garden gate. Similarly, doors between the house and garage can go missed, and unlocked windows present an equally simple challenge to an opportunist burglar.
5. Having poor security.
Visibly demonstrating that your home is kept secure can go a long way to deterring burglars. Installing a motion-activated light, security camera and smart alarms are all excellent ways to keep an opportunist at bay, while upgrading the locks on your gates and doors will make it much harder for even a planned break-in to occur. If you’re not sure how to choose the most appropriate locks for your house or garden, speaking to a specialist like Signet Locks can help.
6. Keeping expensive items on show.
Burglars target properties that suggest a high reward, so leaving a nice car in the driveway or a high-end entertainment system in view of the windows are an invitation for trouble. Even small details, like the quality of your garden furniture, can signpost the quality of items a thief might find within your home. Store valuables out of sight, or partially close curtains or blinds to obscure the view inside the property.
7. Not checking your insurance coverage.
Understand the circumstances in which your home is actually insured to make sure that your property is safe while you’re gone. Most policies insist that all windows and doors are locked when you’re not home (including the teeny one in your bathroom), but some also stop covering a building that has been empty for over 30 days.
8. Letting the house looking neglected.
Nothing says “vacant” like an overgrown lawn and wilted pot plants in the front window. If you’re expecting to be away for a few weeks, arrange for a friend or family member to come over and tend to the general upkeep of your home.
9. Updating social media.
Before you post that airport selfie, think about the message that you’re actually sending. Within moments, everybody following your feed will know that your home is empty. While you might reason that your friends and family have no need to steal from you, keep in mind that your information can easily end up in the wrong hands. An increasing number of burglars admit to using social media to work out where a person lives, the kinds of items they own and how long they might be away for. Protect yourself by turning off your location settings when you’re at home, and waiting to share the holiday snaps until you get back.
10. Not informing at least a few people that they won’t be home.
Do make sure that a trusted neighbour or nearby relative knows that your home will be empty for a period of time. They will know to look out for unexpected activity or strange cars in the driveway, and know to call the police if your alarms are triggered.
If you’re looking forward to a holiday, give yourself the peace of mind that you have something pleasant to come back to by leaving your home as secure as possible. Adopting the policy of “better safe than sorry” is the best way to ensure that you can enjoy your trip without worrying about a thing.