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
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.