Vacating your property, even for a short amount of time, leaves it open to abuse and damage from vandals and criminals.
Protecting your property from burglary and arson

From burglary within a residential property while the occupants are on holiday to arson in vacant offices which results in their total destruction, there are numerous ways in which theft and arson can be an issue to property owners. In this article, Gallagher look at both the issues posed by these crimes, and how an adequate insurance policy can respond.1


Arson - a widespread issue

Half of the fires started in the UK are done so deliberately, totalling 70,000 last year. The consequences of these are significant, with 90 people killed and 2,000 injured per year. As well as the tragic loss of life, there is also a significant impact on businesses. Worryingly, 80% of businesses never fully recover from the impact a fire has on their operations.

To help prevent arson attacks from occurring, you should ensure that unauthorised persons or vehicles cannot easily access the site and that buildings are checked on at least weekly to ensure they are still in good condition and secure. For larger sites, security guards can be utilised but otherwise CCTV or a movement detection system is advisable.

Holiday snaps are giving burglars the green light

While many homeowners are cautious to give the appearance that their home isn’t empty while they’re on vacation, by leaving a light on or sending a neighbour over for example, their social media feed may be revealing more than they intended. Burglary is a common crime, with 816,000 incidents taking place while the owner was on holiday. Research by Admiral states that 1 in 20 burglaries2 reported to their team happened while the owner was on holiday, while the Home Office reaffirms this with 80% of burglaries occurring while the house is empty.

Despite this, 19% of people in the UK post holiday photos and updates on social media while on holiday, and 9% let their followers know they’re going away3. Criminals use this information to find a window of opportunity within which they will attempt to access your home; ADT found 78% of burglars rely on socials to gather information about potential victims.4

As a result of this, if your insurer deems the information you posted as reckless then this could invalidate your policy and lead them to refuse to pay out any claims. Not all insurers will penalise you in this way, but it pays to be cautious.

With extended holidays which may leave the property unoccupied for a long amount of time can significantly affect your home insurance. Generally once the property has been vacant for more 30 days, the insurers will automatically treat the property as being unoccupied and restrictions will apply. The important thing here is communication. Speak to your advisers as often once the circumstances are understood the policy cover can be increased. It is about taking a common sense approach.

You could have a family member house sit, you could arrange for a neighbour to regularly visit or there are specialist companies that will provide house sitters. All of these will be treated as a positive feature. If the property is going to be unoccupied for a long period consider either draining down the water and switch it off at the stop cock, or maintaining the heating at a minimum temperature. After theft, water damage is one of the most common issues with unoccupied properties and if you are away for some winter sun frozen pipes can be a major issue.

The important thing is to not draw attention to the property so ask neighbours to remove post and junk mail if this could be visible, have the lights on timers if possible, if they are prepared to do it get the neighbours to cut the front lawn.

Prevention is important

Maintaining a social media blackout is one way to reduce the risk of crime, but homeowners should also ensure they have good quality window locks and strong deadlocks – these measures make a property five times less likely to be approached.5

New technologies are increasing meaning that you can keep an eye on your property remotely. It is now possible to view CCTV via a mobile.

Think before you share information about your travels, keeping privacy settings high and taking care to avoid posting your address or photos of where you live. Never be specific about dates. John Terry, for example, was victim to a £400,000 burglary after posting pictures of his family on a skiing holiday. He isn’t the only celebrity to fall foul of this either, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Hillary Duff, Alanis Morissette and Scott Disick have all been targeted in recent years.6, 7

How can insurance help protect unoccupied buildings?

A home that’s vacant due to the owner being on holiday and an empty office may appear wildly different, but they’re united by one common factor – the consideration for insurance.

Often your current insurer can provide assistance, the more common sense things that can be done by you to help mitigate the potential for a claim can mean generally insurers may provide far more cover than their policy would automatically provide. The more they understand the circumstances and the reasons for the non-occupancy the greater they are able to assist.

There are occasions where existing insurers just cannot assist, normally where there is going to be a period of a year or more and in these cases there are now specialist insurers that provide policies for unoccupied properties.

If you would like to discuss how to protect your property or properties in more detail or have any questions related to your policy, simply contact your usual Gallagher representative to find out more.