Peace of mind: Securing your property while you’re away

b1‘This is the season! The year is winding down, and many of us are eagerly anticipating slipping out of the rat race for a couple of weeks of rest and recuperation. Beaches and mountain chalets and game reserves and the wonderful prospect of nothing-to-do beckon. The last thing we want is a frantic call that ‘something is wrong’ at home…

Going on holiday means leaving our most valuable assets – our homes – and their contents unsupervised. It’s no surprise that crimes tend to spike over holiday periods. The festive season, with many households spending generously and going away for extended periods, opens up the risk of housebreaking and burglaries.

Shaun Luyt, Manager of Rentals Operations at Harcourts Maynard Burgoyne says that while these risks are real, there is much we can do – as property owners and property renters – to protect ourselves.

“There are two key principles,” he comments, “Don’t make it obvious, and don’t make it easy.”

The best deterrent to an opportunistic burglary is the belief that the property is occupied. Managing the news that you’ll be away is the place to start. A lot of crime thrives on snippets of information collected from unwitting sources. Being unguarded about your plans can provide the wrong people with information you’d rather they didn’t have!

Recently, concerns have mounted about the risks inherent in sharing information on social media. Announcements about your departure – “See you all in two weeks!” – or holiday snaps tell a great deal about where you are, and more importantly, where you are not. Think carefully about who might be reading your posts. Perhaps sharing those holiday memories is something best done after the holiday. After all, that was how we did things a mere 20 years ago…

Be careful, though, about how you try to mask your absence. Leaving lights and television sets on for the duration of your holiday can do a pretty good job of making it clear that you are not there. However, there are devices such as light switch timers that can create a rather convincing impression of activity within the house.

There may be times when these efforts aren’t enough. Fortunately, homes can be secured. Make sure that your standard security systems are working. Test your alarm, and make sure that all doors, windows and security gates are locked. A tip is to fit sliding doors with bolts as this can stop burglars from lifting the doors off their rails.

It is a good idea to have a small safe installed in your house, attached to a wall in a discrete location, such as the back of a cupboard. Here you can store your valuables and irreplaceables – jewellery, passports and birth certificates and so on.

It’s also a good idea to remove keys and gate remotes from the house. In the event of a break-in, doing so may limit the criminals’ ease of movement, and what they are able to remove.

Having someone to check on the property regularly is advisable. A friend or relative would, for example, clear the postbox, and check that all is in order – not just regarding criminal activity, but also checking for maintenance problems. This provides enormous peace of mind. Even better might be to engage a housesitter, who would occupy the property. However, expect to pay a considerable fee for this service, and be sure to check references and set clear groundrules. The wrong person in your house can be far more trouble than he or she is worth.

Perhaps, though, the best security feature for our properties – owners and tenants alike – is in deploying a sense of community and mutual assistance. Do we know our neighbours? Do we have their numbers? Can we rely on them to keep an eye on our homes while we’re away? Can we provide one another with a sense of security?

Indeed, this is surely a big part of what the festive season is about!

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Errors and omission excepted. (E&OE)