This summer was very different from the normal experience. Although there are air bridges in place for tourists (so they don’t have to quarantine themselves after returning from holiday), many people will be avoiding an overseas holiday this year due to the pandemic and also for cost reasons. More of us did holiday in the UK, and perhaps for a shorter time than we would normally. There were many empty homes around the UK this summer and with house burglars largely inactive during lockdown, there was an expectation of a rise in houses being burgled this year.
Some people feel a false sense of security when holidaying in the UK, as if being in the same country makes you less likely to be the target of a burglary. Remember that an empty home is a target for a burglar whether you’ve gone away for a month or an hour. You should take the same precautions for a weekend away as you might do for a long cruise.
The classic signs of an unoccupied house are:
- No cars on the driveway
- Curtains always open, or always closed
- No lights on
- Uncut lawns
- Piles of post behind the front door
- No sight or sound of life
It makes sense to leave a car on the driveway, or ask a neighbour or friend to park a vehicle there while you’re away. Ask a trusted neighbour to open and close your curtains every day and pick up your post, leaving it somewhere secure and out of sight from prying eyes through the windows. Another good idea would be to find someone to cut your grass, or hire a gardener while you’re away. The average person doesn’t think much of a slightly overgrown lawn, but a burglar sees an easy target.
Use timers to set your lights to come on and off, but ideally use a smartphone app that controls your lighting to set up varied routines for each day – if a burglar is scoping out a property and the lights always come on at exactly the same time each day this would clearly indicate that there’s no-one home. It’s also good idea to unplug your landline or turn the ringer volume down, so that an unanswered phone doesn’t give the game away. Ideally, route all calls to your mobile so you can still answer them while you are away. A radio on a timer switch is another good way of making the home seem occupied, as the voices will give the impression that there are people in the house.
If you’re concerned about leaving your home for a holiday, consider signing up to house-sitting or house-swapping services. A house swap means you switch homes with another household for your holiday, which means both homes are occupied and you still get a holiday (with free accommodation!). House sitting is the ideal solution to keeping your property occupied while you are away, and if you have pets this can be an attractive option to avoid having to arrange pet boarding.
Finally, remember to leave your contact details and itinerary with your trusted neighbour so they can contact you if they need to in the event of a fire, burglary or flood.