Take a break without worrying about the safety of your home while you’re gone. Here’s how.

  1. Make sure your household insurance is up to date and remains valid for the time you are away. Also, check for any exclusions that may render the policy void, such as whether you are away for more than a certain number of days and if you should notify your insurer of a house-sitter.
  2. Take the time to ensure that all the windows are secure and that all the doors have been locked. Fit ground and basement windows with locks and make certain all doors have deadbolt locks.
  3. Secure sliding glass doors with a deadbolt or wooden dowel placed in the groove of the door tracks. It won’t stop burglars from shattering the glass, but it will make this a less desirable entry option.
  4. Make sure there are no noticeable signs that your home is unoccupied. Before leaving, mow the lawn, remove washing from the line and take in the refuse and recycling bins.
  5. Having curtains drawn throughout the day may appear suspicious, so leave them exactly as you would when you’re at home. Make sure any valuables such as laptops are not visible from the window.
  6. Give your home the impression that it is occupied by installing timer switches to turn lights on and off. They are inexpensive and easy to operate. Some can even be programmed remotely using a smartphone app.
  7. Consider installing motion-sensitive lights on your property, and if you have these, make sure all the bulbs work before you leave.
  8. If you have a Neighbourhood Watch in your area, let the members know your plans so that they can help keep an eye on your property.
  9. Test your alarm and monitoring just before you go away to make sure it is working properly. Also, be sure to call your security company to inform them that you’ll be away, so that any alert gets taken seriously immediately.
  10. Not everyone has the financial means to hire a house-sitter but we all have neighbours and friends. Ask someone reliable to check in on your home every now and then. Provide them with your contact information and give them a key so they can take in the post or gain access if there’s an emergency.
  11. Under no circumstances should you ever leave the keys to your home under a doormat or plant pot outside.
  12. Unplugging certain home electronics, such as the desktop computer, television and kettle, eliminates the worry that you’ve accidentally left them on, and protects them from damage by any power surges that may occur while you’re away
  13. Consider hiring a live-in pet-sitter. Not only will your pet be happier at home than in a kennel, but your house will be safer. Include the plants as ‘pets’ so they get watered!
  14. Avoid discussing holiday plans with strangers as you never know who they might pass the information on to. Likewise, don’t post detailed plans of your holiday on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
  15. Secure important documents and valuable items in a safe place within your home or deposit them in a bank.
  16. Never leave an answering machine message indicating that you’re not home. Rather say that you cannot take the call at that time.
  17. If you are flying, don’t attach the labels to your luggage until you get to the airport check-in.

Holiday checklist

Keep this holiday checklist handy for your next trip away from home.

  • Check and review household insurance
  • Secure all windows
  • Lock deadbolts on doors
  • Lock sliding doors
  • Mow the lawn
  • Take washing off the line
  • Remove refuse bins from the street
  • Stow valuables out of sight
  • Test timer switches
  • Test motion-sensor lights
  • Test security system
  • Notify security company
  • Notify Neighbourhood Watch
  • Leave a set of house keys with a trustworthy friend
  • Leave contact details for house- or pet-sitter
  • Unplug appliances (excluding fridge and freezer)
  • Store important documents and valuables safely