Taking a vacation is always exciting. Whether you’re headed out for an adventure, a visit with family or friends, or unwinding somewhere warm, you may be away from home for a while. Before you leave for your vacation, you should make sure to follow some simple preparation steps for your home, to ensure it is safe and protected while you are away, which can help to avoid any unnecessary home insurance claims. Below we share some of our best tips to keep your home safe while you’re away.
Make it Look Like Someone is at Home
To avoid a home theft or burglary, make it look like someone is at home. You can set timers on your television, lights, and radios so they can be on at various times throughout the day and night. We recommend hiring someone to cut your grass or shovel the snow to keep your property in a condition most similar to if you were home.
Invest in Home Security Cameras
Installing security cameras inside and outside of your home is a great way to deter potential thieves, and if there is a break-in, may be the difference between catching the unwanted person who has broken into your home or not. Most security cameras can be connected to your smartphone to alert you immediately if motion is detected. Having these cameras while you’re away from home can also give you a sense of comfort knowing you can always ‘check in’ at home with a few clicks on your phone. Some insurance companies may also offer a discount on your Ontario home insurance if you have monitored security cameras professionally installed. Make sure to tell the company that monitors your security system when you are planning to be away from home for an extended period of time.
Keep Your Vacation Plans Off Social Media
Posting pictures of yourself away from home is an advertisement that you are away from home, and therefore can leave you vulnerable if that information is seen by the wrong people. It’s important to keep any evidence that you’re away from your home off social media. If you do plan to post, ensure all your accounts are set to private and only allow people you trust to follow you. However, your safest option will always be to wait until you’re back home to post any pictures.
Remove Your Spare Key From its Hiding Spot
Collect any hidden spare keys from around the exterior of your home, even if you think your hiding spot is unique! If you plan to have someone check on your home while away, it’s safer to give them a spare key to keep for the duration of your trip. If you’re away for days at a time, a criminal can take their time looking for a spare key, so no matter where you hide it, there’s a chance it can be found.
Installing a smart door lock is a good alternative as it lets you unlock your door with a special keycode or from your smartphone and grant temporary access with expiring codes. This requires zero physical keys.
Set Your Thermostat
While you’re away, a good rule of thumb is to set your thermostat to four degrees above or below your normal setting. In the winter, this should never reach below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are travelling in the winter, heat must always be maintained in your home so that your pipes don’t freeze and burst. If you fail to do so, and a pipe does freeze and burst, causing damage to your home, your home insurance claim may be denied.
Switch Off and Unplug Nonessential Electrical Items
It’s important to make sure all unnecessary non-timed electrical items are shut off or unplugged to reduce the risk of electrical fires or power surges and to reduce energy consumption. The power used by plugged-in electronics while they’re not in use accounts for 5-10% of residential energy use. You should also close internal doors where possible to help slow the spread of smoke and fire in the event of an emergency.
Have Someone Check Your Home Daily
Ask a trusted friend, family member, or neighbour, to stop by daily to check for signs of attempted entry, burst pipes, or any other potential problems. If it’s winter, many insurance companies will require that your home is checked daily to confirm heat is being maintained. Failure to do so may result in a home insurance claim being denied if the pipes do burst. If you are going to be away from your home for more than 24 hours, it is recommended that you turn off the main water valve to your house, drain the pipes, and turn off your water heater.
Put a Hold on Your Mail
An overflowing mailbox and a pile of newspapers are sure signs that no one’s home. If you’ll be away for a while, you can pause mail delivery, so your mailbox or front porch doesn’t become filled with mail, making your house look vacant.
Protect your Home Against Winter Weather
If you’re travelling during the winter months, you must arrange for someone to remove ice and snow. Each municipality has its own bylaws about snow removal and requires the homeowner to clear snow, often within 24-48 hours of it falling. If you fail to adequately clear the snow and ice from your driveway and sidewalk, and someone falls and sustains an injury, you may be liable. Removing snow and ice will also make your home look occupied and reduce the risk of snow damage. Additionally, you should clear drains to avoid freezing and burst pipes and have your roof inspected because an accumulation of snow or ice can cause water damage and result in a home insurance claim that may be denied if you failed to conduct proper maintenance.
Lock Up Your Valuables
Just in case somebody does find their way through your thorough external security measures, you should always ensure that your most valuable items – jewelry, art, collectibles – are locked away in a safe or stored at the bank in a safety deposit box before leaving for vacation. You may also want to consider including important documents and hard drives. Your most valuable possessions are more vulnerable when you’re not there to look after them. Many home insurance policies limit or do not include coverage for special memorabilia or collectibles so, in order to protect your financial investment, you must speak with your Ontario insurance broker to make sure they are properly insured.
Secure Your Doors and Windows
This is a simple step that’s easy to forget. Check that all doors and windows are shut and locked properly (don’t forget the basement, garage, and shed). This will significantly limit the risk of an unwanted person being able to easily enter your home while you’re away.
Make sure your Ontario Insurance Broker Knows You are Going Away
You will want to be sure your home insurance coverage is structured properly before leaving for vacation. Going on vacation can affect your home insurance policy so it’s important to talk to your Ontario insurance broker about when you will be away and review your policy before you go. Any claims that result may not be covered under your policy if the necessary precautions are not taken.
What Happens If a Home Theft of Burglary Does Occur?
Your basic Ontario home insurance policy will keep you covered if home theft or burglary occurs while you’re away on vacation. Inform the police first, then contact your Ontario insurance broker and file a home insurance claim as soon as you can. The sooner you file a claim the better.
What Will Home Insurance Cover?
Most common personal items will be covered by your home insurance policy. This typically includes your tv, computers, tablets, smartphones, laptops, furniture, and clothing. We recommend that you have a home inventory checklist, which if a fire or burglary does occur, can be helpful in determining the value of your lost items.
Most home insurance policies also include outdoor coverage. This means your personal property in your car and outside your home may be covered. If you fail to do regular maintenance, any claims that result may not be covered under your home insurance policy. Every insurance company has unique requirements you need to keep in mind when you’re going to be away for an extended period. Contact your Ontario insurance broker to find out what’s required in your situation before leaving for vacation.
When you are going on vacation, it is extremely important that you protect yourself, and your investment with travel insurance. Click here to learn everything you need to know about travel insurance. By taking the right steps before you go, you’ll be ready to enjoy your vacation with peace of mind.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as professional insurance advice. The coverage, terms, and conditions of each insurance policy are unique and subject to individual circumstances. The information provided does not guarantee the availability or suitability of any insurance policy for your specific needs. You should not rely on the information in the blog as an alternative to professional advice from your insurance broker or insurance company. If you have any specific questions about any insurance matter, please consult a licensed insurance broker for personalized advice and guidance.