Whether you are a home owner, a tenant or a landlord, there will undoubtably be times when you will need to leave your property vacant. Be it holiday periods, void periods between tenancies or moving out of a house prior to selling, the period of vacancy could range from a few weeks to a number of months. Crime statistics show that around 50% of all burglaries occur when a house or a flat is unoccupied. Government statistics also show that more than 600,000 buildings are currently empty in the UK and 200,000 of which have been idle for over 6 months.
So, what should you do to ensure that your property is kept safe and secure in any vacant period? Here are our top tips, most of which are simple to implement.
Insurance – ensure that that your home and property insurance covers you for vacant periods. Where the property is going to be vacant for a prolonged period of time, you should consider specialised insurance to cover this.
Security – Before leaving a property vacant, check all windows and doors to ensure they can be securely closed and locked. 30% of all burglaries start with an unsecure window as an entry point so if the property doesn’t have them, fit window locks. Keep all keys for doors and windows out of visible sight.
Water – Where you are vacating a property, especially over winter months, you should consider isolating the water at the mains so if any pipe freezes or burst that damage is minimised.
Heating – if leaving a property vacant over winter months – consider leaving the heating on at a low level.
Smoke and fire alarms – check that all smoke and fire alarms are working and consider changing out batteries before vacating the property.
Electricity – turn everything off at the socket and unplug all unnecessary items. Not only will this reduce the risk of fire and protect appliances from surges but it will also save money on energy bills.
Publicity – don’t advertise that the property might be vacant by positing all over social media that you are heading on holiday. Why not wait until you get back to share all the photos on Facebook.
Presentation – Don’t make the property look like it is vacant. Attend to gardens before you leave, don’t close all curtains and blinds, arrange for lights to be placed on timers and if possible, have a neighbour pop in and pick up the mail from in front of the door or alternatively use the Royal Mail's 'Keepsafe' service.
Stay smart – consider installing some smart technology like home monitoring systems, burglar alarms, outdoor sensor lights, CCTV etc. The majority of these security systems are easily self-installed, run over WIFI and do not require hard wiring or cabling of your home.
Don’t leave a key under the plant pot – it’s surprising how many people still leave a key under the door mat or a near plant pot. It’s the first place a thief will look. Leave a key with a neighbour or consider installing a key lockbox.
Advertise your security – even if you don’t have a home alarm system, buy a dummy box and place it outside the house. It will cause a thief to “think twice” and move onto an easier target.
Don’t give burglars the tools – do leave ladders and tools lying around that can be used to break into your property. Ensure all sheds and garages where any tools are stored are locked.
Vacant property management – if you are going to be away for a considerable period of time, consider appointing a property manager such as Aspire Residential to visit your property at agreed intervals and provide you with updates on its status and security.
For landlords who have vacant periods between tenancies, please see our checklist of what action you should consider taking to manage your property risk in this period.