Articles and Advice
Improved Home Security
Insurance companies are not renowned as philanthropists. If they see any added risk, they're very quick to exclude a particular situation, decline cover altogether, or charge a loaded premium.
This is exactly the case when homeowners leave their home unoccupied, especially for extended periods of time. And there's a good reason for this. Insurers have found that the risk of break-ins, burglaries and property damage through robbery and vandalism increases exponentially when owners are away.
Incidentally, an insurance policy is a contract uberrimae fidei (of the utmost good faith), and for it to be binding on the insurer, the insured party must disclose any material changes in conditions. Leaving your house empty for 30 days or more would certainly fall into this area. Without notification, and acceptance of the risk, you could find yourself uninsured!
While some locales are worse than others, the break-in and vandalism situation has deteriorated all over in the last two or three decades - in fact, even in just the last five years.
Check with your local police, security company and insurance adviser, and they'll undoubtedly confirm this.
Therefore it's very advisable NOT to leave your home empty for any length of time. This is despite deadlocks - have you seen how easily they can be broken open with the right tool, and just a couple of taps with a piece of wood? - despite window locks, and despite alarm systems. (Though all of these things are of some value, and may save on your insurance premium.)
Sure you can have a friend or neighbour keep an eye on your place, remove newspapers, letters and junk mail, and even open up occasionally (if they have a key). But if you want maximum protection, and to retain full cover, there's just no substitute for having somebody live in your home for as long as you're going to be away. There's absolutely no doubt about this.
The first person you think of to ask may be a relation or friend. But do you really want people you know well nosing around your papers and things? And what if something unfortunate happened - like an expensive Lladró piece getting chipped? How would you both feel?
Besides, do you honestly want to impose on your friend to mow your lawn on their weekend, collect your mail and pick up the junk mail every couple of days, water your plants (indoor and out) - when all the time there are house sitters available who WANT to care for your home for free!
And here's something else to consider: God forbid it should happen, but how would the two of you feel if anything happened to your treasured pet while you were away?
Just as it's usually not a good idea to lend money to family members and friends, neither is it the best practice to ask someone you know well to move into your house while you're away.
House sitters come to the rescue!
The simple fact is that it's always easier when you're dealing with a person at arms' length. And while you can certainly expect a friendly relationship to develop between you and your sitter, they are, in essence, working for you. In return for rent-free accommodation, they agree to carry out certain tasks, take care of your home, and leave your house and garden in the same condition in which they found them. It's much easier to resolve any unfortunate incidents with an arms-length person, than with someone you're emotionally attached to.
On the other hand, imagine that you left your house empty - even for, say, three weeks. Now suppose in that time there's a blackout, and some of your electrical items need to be restarted, or even reset. For example, perhaps your plasma TV needs to be switched on within a certain period, so it can save its own settings. Otherwise all the settings will be lost, and you may even need a technician to come and reset everything.
Or your freezer may not restart automatically, and you arrive home to a room-temperature freezer full of furry, decomposing food!
Or suppose a hail storm breaks a tile or a window, and it stays broken until you return. One smashed window may attract the local vandals, who generously decide to give you a few more. A broken tile left unfixed can result in your ceiling and wall needing major repairs and repainting.
And even if nothing untoward happened to your pets, suppose your bored or anxious dog began howling night and day, once his feeder/walker (whether a high-priced professional, or the neighbour's children) had spent their half-hour and left? Don't be surprised to find some very hot-under-the-collar neighbours lined up to tell you about it! Whereas with someone there, Rover would probably been perfectly content to drowse in the sun.
Obviously, we don't suggest all or any of these unpleasant things are bound to happen. But without a doubt, it's much less likely to end in tears if anything DOES happen and you've got a house sitter there to take care of things, keep your house and yard in good order and deal with any problems.