Security and Insurance
Two factors work against the holiday homeowner when it comes to security – guests tend to relax and not take as many security precautions as they do in their own home and holiday properties are more prone to burglary, particularly if they’re in a remote location. That said, there are plenty of ways you can protect your house and belongings through security measures and the right insurance.
Change the lock – when you buy a property, change the main locks (you have no idea how many sets of keys are floating around). It’s also worth changing the lock when you take on a new cleaner or management company.
Check the windows – make sure all windows close securely. If they open with a key keep it somewhere out of view. Window grilles are part and parcel o
f traditional architecture in parts of the Mediterranean, particularly Spain, and come as standard in many homes.
Don’t be obvious – make sure the property isn’t obviously unoccupied: ask a neighbour to collect any post and don’t close the curtains.
Ensure you’re insured – go for a comprehensive policy from a company specialising in holiday home insurance (see Insurance for more information).
Light up – when the property is unoccupied, set up timer switches on lights in the house, say in the living room, kitchen and one bedroom. Install security lights outside to ward off burglars and provide welcome lighting for you and guests when you come home at night.
Neighbourhood watch – ask your neighbours to keep an eye on the property when it’s unoccupied.
Watch your valuables – if your property is empty for long periods of time avoid keeping valuable items in the house. Provide a safe for valuables, but be aware that holiday home insurance policies don’t usually cover personal valuables (see Insurance).
Make your guests aware of any security measures they need to take. This could be part of the guest welcome pack or a notice pinned in a prominent place. Remind them to close all windows and double-lock doors when they leave the property, and ask them not to leave valuables within sight of the windows.
All the security measures in the world will only go some of the way to protecting your holiday home. Damage from burst pipes, electrical faults, floods or lightning is likely to be greater in an unoccupied property. And then there’s accidental damage by holidaymakers, theft by guests – complete clean-outs are rare but not unheard of – and break-ins.
While these eventualities may be unavoidable, you can at least save yourself a lot of money and hassle by taking out comprehensive insurance for your holiday home. Choose a policy catering specifically for holiday lets and your own use provided by a holiday home insurance specialist. Prices vary so it pays to shop around, but make sure you compare like with like – a cheaper option may not provide the cover you need.
A good holiday letting policy covers the following:
Accidental damage – check you’re covered for damage from accidents (breakages, spillages, misuse, etc.). If you allow pets make sure the policy includes damage caused by them.
Building and contents – the policy should cover the cost of rebuilding the entire property from scratch and replacing all contents. Work out the cost carefully and make sure you don’t underestimate the value. If necessary use the services of a professional (e.g. chartered surveyor) to help you calculate the property’s rebuild value accurately.
Employers’ liability – if you employ anyone to work in the property (e.g. cleaner or gardener) make sure you’re covered for employer’s liability. This is a legal requirement in the UK and the minimum recommended amount is £3 million.
Legal advice – choose a policy that includes legal advice and assistance to save yourself time, money and hassle.
Peace of mind cover – malicious damage is fortunately rare, but it’s worth seeking a policy that includes this for ultimate peace of mind. Intasure provides this cover exclusively for LetStayAnywhere.com customers.
Personal valuables – most holiday home policies don’t cover these so make sure you and your guests have alternative cover through your/their own house insurance or travel insurance.
Public liability – check you’re covered for third parties staying in your property. Insurance experts recommend a minimum of £3 million. If you’ve got a swimming pool consider taking out specific cover for this too.
Small print – there might be lots of it but read every word and ensure you understand exactly what your policy includes and excludes before you sign on the dotted line.
Theft – go for full theft insurance covering non-forced entry and theft by guests.
Worthwhile extras – if you’re planning to let your holiday home frequently think about a policy covering loss of rental income. An accident or natural disaster (e.g. flood or earthquake) could make the property uninhabitable meaning you may lose rental income and have to find alternative accommodation for guests. Policies generally cover bookings already taken only but not those you have to turn down afterwards.
Security – some policies include security measures required to guarantee full cover from theft. You might need to provide the insurance company with proof you meet security requirements.
Unoccupancy – policies often exclude cover if the property is unoccupied for over 30 days at a time. Policies may specify that when the property is unoccupied in the winter, the heating is left on and/or the pipes drained.
UK or foreign company?
Holiday home insurance is provided in most countries and many UK insurance companies provide cover for properties abroad. A foreign company may offer cheaper policies and quicker assistance with repairs and damage, but you’re likely to come up against language barriers and insurance legislation is probably different. In the long run, it may be worth paying more for assistance and documentation in English and familiar rules and regulations.