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How to protect your home (and keep your house safe) while you're on holiday

It's fair to say it's not been a great start to the British summer.

Storms, rain, wind and a definite chill in the air during June will have almost certainly made you yearn for some sun, sea, sand and relaxation.

But if you are planning a trip away this summer, one major factor that can impact on your relaxation is worrying about your property.

And it's not just homeowners who should be taking steps to protect their homes during holidays.

Whether you're a landlord letting out a buy-to-let or tenant renting a property, when it's empty, it can be a worry.

But with some planning ahead, you can ease those concerns. Here are our top tips for making sure your home is safe and secure while you're away...

Things to do before going on holiday: A checklist

1. Check your insurance

Whether you're a renter, landlord or homeowner, one thing you should all have in common is insurance.

Of course, tenants need not take out buildings insurance as this is covered by your landlord, but contents insurance for renters is hugely important.

Homeowners, and landlords with furnished properties, should have both contents and buildings insurance in place.

But if you've had your policy in place for some time, it can be worth checking it before going on holiday to ensure there are no clauses that could make the policy void.

For instance, some policies have stipulations about how long properties can be empty for before a policy is void.

Other insurers, meanwhile, may require notification that the property will be empty, or that someone else will be living there while you are away, for instance a family member or friend house sitting.

Run through your policy and you're unsure about anything, contact your insurer in good time before you go away.

2. Make your house look occupied

Burglars are cleverer than you might think.

Many will scope out a property for many days before deciding whether the risk is worth the reward.

So, for peace of mind, make sure you take these vital steps to deter anyone who might thinking your property is a target.

* Leave your curtains and blinds open and put some lights on timer switches to come on during the evening.

* Cancel any deliveries like milk, newspapers or online retail. A burglar who sees the same pint of milk on the doorstep for two consecutive days will know you are away.

* When it comes to post, another giveaway that you're not at home is piles of letters untouched on the doormat. Ask a neighbour to pop round and collect your mail...

* ... and if they don't mind, they could water your plants, too. Yes, wilted plants in an otherwise tidy garden is another sign you've gone away.

* With the plants in mind, mow the lawn the day before you go away and make sure all washing (outside and inside) is off the line or drying racks that can be seen through windows.

3. Keep valuables out of sight

So, we've already established burglars are cleverer than they appear.

But that doesn't mean they'll be happy to spend a lot of time seeking out your most valuable possessions. Doing so, even in an empty property, is just too risky.

So, make sure all of your things are well out of sight.

And by out of sight, we don't mean in places like clothes drawers or behind the tins of beans in the kitchen cupboard.

Burglars are clever, remember? They know every trick in the book. Well, almost every trick...

If possible, don't leave any valuables in the property at all.

But if you must, distribute items around the property, including in the loft, as burglars are unlikely to look anywhere that appears hard to reach.

Some people even choose to leave a small amount of money on the dining room table, simply because most burglars are opportunists and will grab one or two items of value before getting out as quickly as they can.

This approach could help protect your more valuable items.

4. 'We're going on holiday, everyone!'

Don't do this. Ever.

Of course going away is exciting.

But letting the world and his wife know when you're going by posting about it on social media is basically telling every villain in the area that your house is an open opportunity.

Moreover, even if you do take that incredible picture for Instagram while you're away, don't post it until you get back.

Social media privacy has certainly increased in recent years after a number of high-profile incidents, but remember: Even if you know who is reading your updates, you don't know who they are telling and who the people they are telling are telling!

So keep quiet and save all your great holiday tales until you get home.

5. Inspect your locks / security measures

Before going away, take some time to test out all the locks on windows and doors in your property.

Yes, it's a bit of a tiresome task. But it could pay off if you find a lock or window that is in need of repair before you venture off on your trip.

6. Check the roof and pipework

This is particularly important if you are going away during the UK winter.

The last thing you'll want is to return, or worse get a phone call while you're away, and find a leaky roof or burst pipe has flooded your property.

Take a look at your roof and look for loose or broken tiles.

And venture into the loft to make sure all lagging on pipework is securely in place.

If you are going away in winter, set the heating to come on at a low heat each day as this will keep the water in your system moving and help prevent frozen pipes.

7. Switch off your electrics

Other than those lights on timers we discussed earlier, it can pay to switch TVs and other electrical items off at the mains.

Not only will this save you some money on your electric bill (devices on standby still use up electricity, you know!), it can also help prevent electrical fires.

8. Clean the house

'How will this help prevent destruction or burglary?'

It won't. But returning from a holiday to a house that needs cleaning from top to bottom is the last thing you want, particularly after a long flight with jet lag setting in.

Give everything a good clean before you go and it should, bar a bit of dust, be in the same welcoming condition when you return.

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