10 things to protect your home while you are away

24 Feb 2016

| Insurance

Coming home from your holiday can be gloomy. 

But learning that something has gone wrong in your absence can be devastating. Here we provide 10 things you can organise before you leave home to help prevent catastrophes or to at least help put you back in the position you were in before you left.

1. Check your home insurance cover and limits of cover

Many home and contents policies will have clauses about how long you can be away before cover stops for some claims or they may charge an additional excess for claims after a certain period. This can often be 60 days and after that you may not have cover for theft or fire among other things. Talk to your insurer about your planned absence and you can often have them amend your policy to cover longer absences.

2. Ask for help

Sometimes the simple solutions are best - like asking a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on your house while you're away. It can also be beneficial to leave them a key to your car in case it needs to be moved for any reason. And the obvious is to give them your contact information and a copy of your itinerary in case of emergency. If you have a security alarm you should really consider leaving the code with them as well and provide the police and alarm company with their name and phone number.

3. Don't broadcast your absence

It’s surprising how many people advertise to their whole network that they are going to be absent from their home, where they will be and how long they will be away. Sometimes there are hundreds of complete strangers receiving these updates and it doesn’t take long for the savvy criminal to work out where you live once you talk about your favourite local coffee shop and post photos of the new hedge you have out the front.

4. Curtains

There is no right or wrong answer on this one. Some people believe that leaving them open assists in neighbours and friends being able to see any ‘criminal’ activity happening. Others believe that closing them prevents criminals seeing you are away and also what you have that’s worth taking. The decision is up to you but what would seem to make sense is to leave them exactly as you normally do. Uncharacteristic changes to your house coupled with a lack of coming and going and normal everyday noise could be enough to tip off thieves and vandals.

5. The lights are on but no one's home

Don't be tempted to leave your lights on the whole time you are away. Your electricity bill might end up more than you expect and lights on all the time can appear odd. It will be much cheaper to plug some lamps into a switch timer that can turn your lights on and off automatically according a schedule you set. Potential thieves will assume that someone is home and doing the switching. A switch timer can cost as little as $10-$15– far less than your electricity bill if you left the lights on for length of your trip.

6. Stop your mail

Having mail build up is an obvious sign that no is home. If you can’t arrange someone to collect your mail while you are away you can place a hold on your mail through Australia Post. You can do this online if you have your Medicare card or licence handy. Your mail will then be delivered on the first business day after your hold period ends.

7. Pull the plug

Unplug all appliances before you leave – toasters, TVs, PCs and chargers you don’t take with you. You might save a little as many appliances still draw some power on standby but more importantly you may protect your home. Power surges, spikes or lightning strikes could potentially start fires as happened in the UK in 2010 when 71 homes had appliances catch fire after a massive power surge.

8. Remove your spare key

If someone does work out you’re not home – don’t make it easy for them. Remove that spare key from the flower pot (survey says the most popular hiding spot), on top of the back door frame, hanging in the garage, that poorly placed fake rock, garden gnome, in the letterbox or even - believe it or not – under the door mat. And remember to store your car keys in a safe place should you leave these at home as well.

9. Tip off the police

Consider notifying your local police station if you are going to be away for a while. They may even drive by while they are out on patrol. But they will appreciate if you have an alarm going off as well and you have also given them the number of someone with a key and a copy of the code.

10. Pay your bills

You may want to consider paying some bills in advance - particularly the electricity. You will need that power for your switch timers and also your security system if you have one. This is less relevant if you receive all your notices online – but let’s be honest - who wants to be paying bills while you are on holiday?

Consider setting up direct debits for all your regular bills and arrange online accounts or statements. This will ensure all payments are up to date and reduce the amount of mail sent to your home.

Home and Contents Insurance

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This article is intended as general information only and has been prepared without taking into account the personal financial situation, objectives or needs of the reader. Before acting on this information, you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should always seek professional advice or assistance before making any financial decisions.