Eight things you need to do before leaving your property empty
A recent study by HomeProtect on unoccupied homes has revealed that there are in excess of 200,000 properties across the UK sitting empty.
This could be due to them being bought as an investment, used as a holiday home on AirBnB, or simply being left empty while they’re up for renovation or sale.
Whatever the reason is for the property being vacant, there are a few things to consider when leaving a home unattended.
If you’re about to travel long-term, are closing your business or have renovation work planned, here are a few things you should do before leaving your property empty.
1) Upgrade your security
When a property is left empty for a prolonged period of time, it becomes vulnerable to thieves, vandals or even squatters, so it’s important to make sure that the building is as secure as possible.
This may mean upgrading the locks on doors and windows around the property if the current ones are old or insubstantial. Grilles can also help to further secure windows, especially at ground level.
For high-risk areas, you may also want to think about installing some more advanced security equipment, such as a burglar alarm or CCTV system. Even when not active, CCTV cameras can work as a deterrent for potential intruders.
2) Inform a trusted neighbour
It’s worth informing a trusted neighbour and providing them with a spare key when you’re going to be leaving your property empty for a period of time, as they’ll be able to react much quicker in the case of an emergency than a friend who lives further away.
They may also be willing to pop by to check on the property from time to time, to ensure everything is in order.
3) Adjust your central heating
If you’re going to be leaving your property unoccupied during cold weather, set the boiler at a low temperature for at least an hour at night to avoid your pipes freezing.
Frozen pipes can be incredibly problematic, as not only will they leave your property without running water, but it can also lead to a pipe bursting. Burst pipes can cause flooding and further damage to the property as a result, in addition to steep water bills accounting for the amount of water lost during the leak.
4) Turn off the water and all electrical appliances
A further way to safeguard yourself from water damage is to turn the water supply off entirely at the mains. There will be no need for it to be on while the property is not in use, and this can prevent any issues occurring.
There’s no need to turn off the entire property’s energy supply, however. In fact, it helps to keep this on so that you can set timer lights around the home to give the impression of somebody being in. Instead, turn off all electrical appliances at the wall.
5) Keep the property well-maintained
Nothing will draw people’s attention more to the fact a property has been left vacant than a poorly maintained exterior. If you have a front garden, this will be the biggest giveaway. Making sure that the lawn is regularly mown, and overgrown weeds are trimmed back can help to give the impression that the property is occupied. The same goes for post gathering on the doorstep.
If you’re not able to visit the property on a regular basis to do this, it could be worth enlisting the help of a neighbour or a gardener to keep it looking presentable.
6) Remove all valuables
Even if you’ve worked on securing your property to the highest possible level, it’s still sensible to avoid leaving anything of value in the property. If possible, keep anything worth a lot of money or of sentimental value to you in an alternative secure location, such as in your current home, with somebody you trust or in professional storage.
7) Consider unoccupied home insurance
If your property is left unoccupied long-term, it’s likely that regular home insurers won’t be able to insure the property while it is empty, due to the increased risks that come with it being vacant.
Before leaving the property, contact your current insurer to inform them of the change of circumstances as there is a chance they may be able to adapt your policy.
If this isn’t the case, however, there are specialist home insurance companies that offer unoccupied home insurance to protect you from risks such as fire, vandalism and water damage.
8) Check if you need to pay council tax
If your property is unoccupied you will usually still have to pay council tax, however, some councils offer a discount for empty properties. This varies between councils and the size of the discount is up to them to decide.
Likewise, if your property is empty for over two years, you can be charged up to double your council tax.
Photo by Andrik Langfield