En­sure peace of mind on hol­i­day

Chris­telle Fourie pro­vides some in­sight on why it is so im­por­tant to se­cure your home be­fore you set off to re­lax

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

FOR most South Africans, De­cem­ber means hol­i­day time as con­sumers be­gin to wind down from the stresses of work. How­ever, while peo­ple tend to be more re­laxed dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son, the re­al­ity is that they face an in­creased risk of bur­glary from their homes at this time of year.

Last year UK su­per­mar­ket group Sains­bury sug­gested con­sumers were more likely to suf­fer a bur­glary dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son, with its records show­ing that the num­ber of house­hold in­surance claims were about 37% higher dur­ing the first week of the year com­pared with a typ­i­cal week.

The same is true in SA, with more claims tend­ing to be sub­mit­ted for smaller items dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son than at any other time through­out the year. A rea­son for this in­crease is that many in­sured homes are left un­oc­cu­pied as most pol­i­cy­hold­ers go on hol­i­day for an ex­tended pe­riod, dras­ti­cally in­creas­ing the like­li­hood of a bur­glary oc­cur­ring.

There are tell­tale signs a thief can spot to iden­tify whether or not a house is oc­cu­pied, such as cur­tains not be­ing opened dur­ing the day, lights be­ing left on 24/7 and an over­flow­ing post box. These are clear in­di­ca­tors to a would-be thief that there is no ac­tiv­ity at the home.

It can be a good idea to en­sure that the gar­den is main­tained in your ab­sence through a gar­den ser­vice. It is also sen­si­ble to speak to your neigh­bours to in­form them of your plans; very of­ten where there is a strong sense of com­mu­nity there are fewer bur­glar­ies. How­ever, many peo­ple sim­ply lock up and go with­out in­form­ing any­one of their moves.

An ef­fec­tive and proac­tive risk man­age­ment mea­sure is to em­ploy a house-sit­ter or a do­mes­tic worker to look af­ter the prop­erty. Not only can this re­duce the chance of a home be­ing bur­gled, it also pro­vides a mea­sure of re­as­sur­ance from a main­te­nance per­spec­tive. For ex­am­ple, if a geyser bursts any re­sul­tant wa­ter dam­age is min­imised.

How­ever, it is im­por­tant to re­alise that if you em­ploy some­one to look af­ter your home they must also take the pre­cau­tions out­lined in your in­surance pol­icy, which in­cludes set­ting the home alarm sys­tem if spec­i­fied by your in­surer. If your house-sit­ter goes out for the day and is not able to set the alarm then there is a high risk that a claim will be re­pu­di­ated.

Un­der­stand­ably, some home­own­ers may feel re­luc­tant to pro­vide their alarm code to a hous­esit­ter or a do­mes­tic worker, so an­other op­tion is to pro­vide a re­mote con­trol unit that can set the alarm once some­one leaves the house. If you can trust some­one with your home keys then you can trust them with an alarm re­mote con­trol unit.

Be­fore go­ing away it is im­por­tant to en­sure that the alarm sys­tem is tested, as well as the backup bat­tery. If a theft takes place due a faulty alarm or bat­tery the claim is likely to be re­pu­di­ated.

For high net-worth in­di­vid­u­als in par­tic­u­lar who may have ac­cu­mu­lated ex­pen­sive jew­ellery or art works, there are cer­tain steps that sim­ply must be taken if they are leav­ing their home un­oc­cu­pied, with or with­out a hous­esit­ter.

Nowa­days, most poli­cies re­quire that any jew­ellery over a cer­tain value that is not be­ing worn must be kept in a locked safe. It is vi­tal that val­u­a­tion cer­tifi­cates on all ex­pen­sive jew­ellery items are kept up to date. Most in­sur­ers re­quire doc­u­ments less than three years old at the time of loss.

An­other im­por­tant safety as­pect for home­own­ers to be aware of at this time of year is the in­creased risk of an armed rob­bery, ei­ther at your own res­i­dence or at a hol­i­day home.

Dur­ing the sum­mer many peo­ple en­ter­tain out­side, mak­ing it rel­a­tively easy for armed rob­bers to scale a wall and sur­prise their vic­tims with­out any risk of set­ting off an alarm or any need to break into a prop­erty.

The De­cem­ber hol­i­days are the per­fect time to re­lax from the pres­sures of the year, and by tak­ing ad­e­quate pre­cau­tions to se­cure your home be­fore you go away you can rest as­sured that your be­long­ings are safe while you are ab­sent.

Chris­telle Fourie.

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