Guest contributor Julia Rodgers of Specialist Lettings Agent, Foskett and Rodgers gives advice on property security particularly applicable for the Christmas period.
If you are going away for the festive period
If you are leaving your property empty for a few days or a week or more, whether you are jetting off to somewhere exotic or going to see friends and family in this country, here are a couple of things that you should bear in mind before setting off so that you come back to the property you left, not a nightmare.
Insurance and Tenancy Agreement
Firstly, if you are going away for a break, look at your tenancy agreement and see if you need to let your agent/landlord know that you will be away. Some tenancy agreements ask that you let your agent/landlord know if the property is going to be left empty; sometimes this is a week and sometimes longer. It is worth checking your tenancy agreement and taking the necessary action.
If you hold an insurance policy, check that also to see if it has any conditions written into it about leaving your property empty.
Security is super important. This is the time of year that theives are most active. Therefore, ensure all doors and windows are secured to prevent easy access into your home. If you are still lucky enough to have milk or papers delivered, make sure you cancel these so that you don’t announce to the world that you’re not there. If you are going on an extended break, have someone collect your mail if it is delivered to a communal area or if it is visible from the outside of the property.
Also, don’t leave valuables on view through windows and doors.
Similarly, don’t boast on Facebook that you’re going away.
Safeguard your property as much as possible by unplugging all unnecessary electrical appliances. Obviously you need to leave your fridge and freezer running but unplug all your small electrical appliances and especially things like Christmas lights.
Burst pipes are no fun so turn your water off at the stop cock before leaving. This will avoid serious water damage should the pipes freeze while you’re away.
If you are away when there is a risk of pipes freezing, you should set your boiler to a frost setting. If you haven’t got a frost setting leave the heating on low.
Ensure that your neighbours/relatives have emergency numbers
If you don’t have these already, enquire with your landlord/agent so that these are up to date and leave them with a responsible person. A neighbour who is having Christmas at home is a good bet as they weill be on the spot should anything go wrong and need urgent action.
If you are staying at home
Avoid burst pipes by leaving the heating on low.
Leaving your heating on a constant low temperature, say about 13 degrees C will keep the water moving along the pipes and will prevent it from freezing. When pipes freeze they expand and contract which can exacerbate an already exising invisible problem.
Check your smoke alarm: This should be done routinely but check it again to ensure everything is in working order.
Inspect your Christmas lights each year to ensure they are in tip top condition. Discard any with frayed cords, cracked lamp holder or loose connection. If you are replacing bulbs, be sure to use the correct voltage and wattage. ALWAYS turn your Christmas lights off when you are leaving the property or going to bed.
If you are using outdoor lights, never use more than one extension lead to make things reach. Do this with one long lead and ensure that it is adequately protected from damp and water. Use only those lights that are specifically designed for outdoor use.
Be careful with fires and candles. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without candles but make sure that candles and fires aren’t left unattended. Even if you are in the house, don’t leave a room for hours with lit candles. It may sound draconian but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Foskett and Rodgers Limited is a specialist lettings agency based in Amersham, Bucks. 01494 772772