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How to secure your home when you’re on holiday

By Rebecca Milligan

Most burglaries occur when there is nobody at home. So it’s really important to secure your home effectively when you are away on holiday.
suitcases, camera and sunhat waiting by an open door

A house that advertises that it’s empty is an open invitation to opportunist burglars. Don’t make it easy for them. There are simple steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of burglars targeting your home.

Lock all the doors and windows: ensure all your doors and windows are fitted with insurance-approved locks. All windows must have key-operated locks. Remove the keys from all locks and hide them from view, while letting key holders know where they are. If you need a higher level of deterrent, window grilles act as a visual deterrent and a physical barrier to entry. A locksmith can advise you what locks will work best in your property. Look out for locksmiths who are a member of their trade association, the Master Locksmith Association. 

Find a Which? Trusted Trader endorsed locksmith in your area now.

Don’t tell everyone you’re going away: you might be excited but announcing loudly in the local shop, or on social media, that you’re off to Puerto Rico for three weeks is not a good idea. You don’t know who is listening. Equally, don’t leave messages on answerphones explaining that you are away. Try to restrict information about your whereabouts to trusted friends and neighbours.

Cancel any deliveries: newspapers piling up on the doorstep or poking out of the letterbox are a clear sign that nobody is home. Ask a neighbour to remove free newspapers and post from your mat, particularly if it can be seen through a glass panel. Royal Mail’s Keepsake service will hold letters and parcels for you for up to 66 days while you are away.

Remove or conceal your valuables: don’t leave valuables where they can be seen through a window. Avoid obvious hiding places in your home such as your sock drawer, or a fake can filled with valuables in the fridge – burglars are wise to these tricks.

Larger items of value, such as paintings, should be hidden from obvious view and perhaps placed in the loft. Put car keys, valuable jewellery and items of sentimental value in a safe or leave them with trusted neighbours.

Installing a safe to protect valuables could be a smart move. While you get what you pay for in terms of quality, a good quality digital or key-operated safe only costs around £250, plus the cost of a locksmith’s labour. We can recommend locksmiths in your area.

If you must leave valuables in the house, then distribute them around several hard to reach locations and leave a small pile of money and inexpensive items in an obvious place. Opportunist burglars may take the fake hoard and pass over more valuable items.

Keep the garden clear: mowing the lawn before you leave will not only prevent you from returning to a jungle but a tidy well-kept garden makes it look like the property is occupied. Bring in washing from the line and from drying racks that can be seen through windows.

Ensure you lock away any garden or DIY tools that could be stolen or used to break into your home.

Leave curtains and blinds open: curtains drawn during the day are a giveaway to burglars. Ensure all valuables are removed from plain sight but keep the curtains open.

Install lights on a timer: lights going on and off are a clear indication of occupancy. Which? Trusted Traders has electricians in your area who can help. You can also install photosensitive bulbs that switch on when it gets dark externally, or buy timer plugs that will switch lamps on and off.

Enlist the help of your neighbours: if you can get somebody to come into your house on a regular basis and turn some lights on and off, open and close curtains, remove any post, move your car a bit, or leave their own on your drive and water your plants, this makes the house look lived in.

Check your household insurance: ensure your cover will be valid while you are away. Many policies have clauses that do not allow you to leave the house vacant for more than a certain time. Notify the insurer if you have a house-sitter or non-family member staying in your home.

Find the best policy with our comparison of best and worst home insurance.

Install and use an accredited security system: an alarm system in your home acts as a deterrent. ‘Once you have a visible deterrent on your house burglars generally move on to a property without an alarm system' says Vince Hillis from Hillis Security Systems. 'You need to have a good understanding of the difference between detection devices before making a choice of system, An engineer providing a free survey at your home should explain these to you clearly, in jargon-free language'.

An alarm system is made up of three basic parts, an alarm control panel, an external siren and a door contact. The door contact goes on the entrance door of the property. In addition, you can choose movement detectors or shock sensors (or both) to provide detection devices to make up the system. Movement detectors activate the system when movement is detected within a room or area coved by the sensor. Shock sensors detect the vibration associated with a door or window that is being attacked and activate the alarm while a burglar is still outside.

Most home alarm systems are wireless (nothing to do with your broadband) and have either a speech dialler or text-messaging facility built into the control equipment. The alarm system can be connected to your home telephone line to inform up to four contact telephone numbers if your alarm system is activated. If you don’t have a landline, a separate mobile phone module can be installed to provide the same service.

'There is a lot of confusion about how monitoring works,’ said Vince. ‘Some companies will charge an annual fee for receiving a call from the alarm system they have supplied, when the system can call a customer directly anyway. They will call this service a monitored system. But this is not the same as a system that is monitored for police response.

If you want a monitored system for police response, the alarm company and the alarm receiving centre will both need to be approved and accredited by either the Security System Inspection Board (SSAIB) or the National Security Inspectorate (NSI). Look for an approved alarm company with SSAIB or NSI accreditation when using the Which? Trusted Traders website if you require a professionally audited company.'

Find Which? Trusted Traders security companies in your area now.

Most importantly – enjoy your time away and try not to worry. Burglary rates have been steadily falling across England and Wales for the last 20 years according to the Office of National Statistics. If you’ve done all you can to deter burglars you should feel free to relax and enjoy your holiday.

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