8 keys points to consider when leaving your property empty
If you have a property that is to be left empty for any length of time then you’ll need to consider how you go about protecting your unoccupied home. Our guide, updated for 2018 goes through key topics that should be considered if you are going to be responsible for an unoccupied property.
The increased risk of an incident
If a property is left unoccupied it immediately increases in risk compared to a standard occupied one. Without the regular to and for from the property, it can quickly become obvious that there is something different about your property. There are a number of internal and external risks that can impact such a property that we go over below.
1) Threat reduction
Reduce the threat to your property by making sure that you frequently visit. During these checks you should make sure that all security devices are working correctly. You could also consider using timed lighting to make it appear that someone is at the house at different times of day. This is particularly useful after dark. Make sure that post is not left piled up in doorways and that the garden doesn’t become overgrown. This is because these are both tell tale signs that a house is not being lived in.
2) Keeping thieves out
It is vital that you check your insurance policy to familiarise yourself with any special clauses. Some insurers will require the installation of specific high safety rated locks.
ADT are market leaders in producing and installing home security devices around the world. They have produced this useful guide to help you check the crime rate the area that your unoccupied property is situated in. Obviously there are no guarantees that a low crime area means you will not fall victim to a burglary. However, if there is a higher crime rate in your property’s area then you may wish to install some additional security to decrease the risk.
Many modern burglar alarms provide the option to link directly to the police should a break-in occur. If you are particularly concerned, or your property is in a high crime area, then investing in this additional service could certainly be money well spent.
3) Escape of water
If the water is left on while your property is empty, there is always a chance that water may escape through leaks or burst pipes, causing considerable damage to the property and the contents within. As many unoccupied properties are left vacant for extended periods of time with limited access, any leak could go undetected for a long period of time.
Before leaving your property, ensure that the water is either shut off at the main stopcock, or potentially look into fitting leak control valves that detect drops in water pressure and automatically shut off water flow as a precaution. If you’re away during the winter months, ensure that all external pipes are wrapped in insulation to stop them bursting.
If you’re concerned about leaking pipes and would like more information about protective measures and products, LeakSafe as specialists in water leak detection and prevention systems.
Should an emergency occur WaterSafe can help you find an industry-approved plumber local to your property. If an external pipe bursts, you will need to contact your water supplier as soon as possible. If you’re unsure who your supplier is, check Water UK.
Before leaving your property, ensure that everything that could encourage wildlife, insects or vermin to visit your home. Make sure that all your doors and windows are closed and that seals are in place and intact. Make sure that any food is properly stored, and dispose of any food which a short lifespan. It’s also best to ensure that no access can be gained by birds or bats through roof cavities.
As with all building maintenance, prevention is better than cure, but should your unoccupied property become infested with vermin, Citizens Advice has some useful information on dealing with them. You can also contact a number of major companies who deal with infestation before the problem gets uncontrollable, such as Rentokil.
5) Neighbourhood watch
If you can’t be there to watch your property then joining a neighbourhood program can be your eyes on the property. A neighbourhood watch scheme is an excellent way of protecting your unoccupied home. Providing your contact details and instructions on what to do it any activity is seen at the property can head off any events before they occur. More information on neighbourhood watch schemes can be found on the dedicated OurWatch website here.
6) Property maintenance
Some of the top telltale signs that a property has been left unoccupied for some time are an overgrown garden, the buildup of mail and newspapers, flaky external paintwork and broken glass. It is recommended that you maintain the property on a regular basis. This will avoid giving off any impression that your property is vacant.
This could be done by yourself. However, if you don’t have the time or availability to regularly visit the property you could also look at specialist services. Simply hiring a gardener to maintain the property gardens can maintain the visual quality. It also gives the impression that the property is fully maintained and occupied.
Anyone who has gone through the process of trying to remove squatters from their property will know the time and financial cost of doing so. On top of this, there is the often considerable cost of repairing the property after the squatters have been evicted. Maintaining your property security is essential to reduce the opportunity for squatters to see your property as a potential target. For more information on squatters rights and other squatting matters you cna visit the Government website here.
8) Using technology to maintain security
The prices of security systems are reducing every year. Therefore, why not look at the possibility of installing a security system that allows you to monitor the property remotely via CCTV? There are many affordable and easily installed systems that can now be used via smartphone to keep protecting your unoccupied home. This means you can check on your property at any time and from any internet-enabled device. This can also reduce the impact of any issues as a daily check can spot potentially costly issues early on.
High-value items left at unoccupied properties are incredibly tempting to thieves. They will often not be fully covered by unoccupied property insurance. If your property is unoccupied it may be worth removing any valuables and storing them somewhere safe. This helps to decrease the risk of damage or theft.
If you are still worried about security at your property and you know it is likely to be unoccupied for a substantial period then it may be worth contacting security specialists such as Secure Empty Property. They work nationwide to protect buildings and promise to only provide the security measurements that are necessary. Plus you can call them out for a free quote to assess your particular security needs.
If your property is going to be left unoccupied for a long time then you should consider a specialist insurance policy. If you want to protect your property and possessions whilst leaving your property unoccupied, we are confident we can quote for you.
Protecting your unoccupied home summary
- Maintain regular visits to the property, checking all front and rear main access points, including windows.
- Install and maintain an alarm
- Give the impression the property is lived in and there has been activity – ruffle the curtains, remove any post from inside any visible doorway, have lights on timers, etc
- If you have a trusted neighbour, you could look to leave a key with them to carry out some activities on your behalf (only give a key out to someone you fully trust).
- In winter, drain down the central heating system – avoid frozen/burst pipes.
Making sure your property is correctly insured whilst unoccupied is critical. Take a look at our unoccupied property insurance to get a comparison of insurance results.