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Holiday Home Security Tips: How to Beat the Burglars

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Holiday homes are a prime target

Although many of us have a perception that the idyllic rural locations where holiday homes are located are virtually crime-free, this is a mistaken perception that may cost you dear if you don’t take precautions.

A break-in is probably one of the most dreaded scenarios imaginable for any holiday cottage owner. Unfortunately, these factors make holiday homes particularly attractive to burglars and criminals:

  • Most burglaries happen when a property is empty and as holiday homes are only used for on average 30 weeks a year and are empty for long periods during the low-season, they are a prime target for thieves.
  • Both holiday home owners and holidaymakers arrive with an array of expensive gadgets, jewellery and money which attracts thieves.
  • Many second homes are located in relatively rural and isolated areas – this isolation means burglars can operate without being noticed.
  • Holiday properties are typically equipped to a relatively high standard and contain expensive electrical equipment which is easy to steal.
  • Due to guests coming-and-going, it may be difficult for neighbours to identify when strangers are authorised to be around the property and when they’re not.

Very few burglaries are spontaneous or opportunistic. Most burglars will stake out a home before trying to gain entry. The more security measures you put in place, the more likely the burglar is to think twice and walk away to an easier target.

Here are some simple security adjustments you can make to deter burglars and secure one of your biggest investments.

Windows, doors & locks

Most burglars will use the front door, a first-floor window or the back door to gain entry, so it’s essential you pay particular attention to these areas.

  • All windows should be closed when your property is left unattended, as even a small opening may be enough to allow a thief to gain access. This sounds obvious, but it’s so easy to forget.
  • Fitting key-operated window locks that conform to British Standards can be another line of defence, especially to windows that are on the ground floor or are accessible (e.g. from a flat roof).
  • Exterior doors should be sturdy, high-quality and be fitted with modern locking systems. Five lever mortice deadlocks are usually recommended.
  • If a key is lost, the locks should be replaced as soon as possible and new keys cut.
  • Don’t ‘hide’ keys for guests or workmen in places like under the doormat, a rock, on the door frame or under plant pots. Burglars know where to look! Use a key safe or smart lock instead (more information below).
  • When moving into a new holiday cottage change the locks as you don’t know who has a set of the existing keys.
  • Your keys should never be labelled with your address in case they get lost or are stolen.
  • Keys shouldn’t be left within easy reach of a door or window.
  • Remember to ask guests to secure all windows and doors when leaving the property and when guests check-out it’s essential to check that they haven’t left any windows open or doors unlocked. 

Security lighting

The majority of thieves operate at night, as they can easily go unnoticed in the dark. Motion-triggered security lights are a key deterrent to thieves who don’t want to be seen by others. They can also alert people inside the property that someone is lurking outside.

Secure the outside

  • Don’t leave tools lying around which thieves can use to break into your home, such as forks or spades.
  • Your garage, shed or outbuildings should also be secured with high-quality padlocks.
  • Consider marking expensive garden furniture and tools with your postcode using an ultraviolet pen, so they can be returned if recovered by the police.
  • If you have a ladder stored outside, make sure it is safely locked away or secured down with a padlock and chain so it can’t be used to gain access to the property.
  • High walls, trellising on fence tops, prickly hedges and thorny bushes can be enough to deter thieves as they slow down a quick getaway. 

Collaborate with neighbours

If you have a good relationship with the neighbours, ask them to keep an eye on your holiday home when it’s empty and check for any signs of damage or suspicious activity. Also, register your property with your local neighbourhood watch scheme.

Personal possessions

Owners and guests should avoid displaying valuables such as laptops, tablets, and phones in downstairs windows. It signals that there may be other items inside which are worth breaking in for. Install a hidden safe to lock up valuables whilst you or guests are at your holiday home. Bolting it to a wall or concrete floor will make it less easy to steal. 

Secure your property with smart home technology 

Smart security systems are more sophisticated than ever, offering advanced features and smart technology to remotely monitor and control your property when you aren’t there.

Burglar alarms are one of the most effective ways to deter burglars. They’re easy to spot and can emit both sound and light when they go off, which is often enough to prevent any burglar from trying their luck.

A smart security system allows you to monitor your holiday home when it’s empty, you can also arm/disarm it remotely.

There is nothing more frustrating than receiving an alert and not being able to verify if there is a security risk at your property. Cameras allow you to have eyes on the property all the time. In the event of a break-in, you’ll have a much better chance of catching the intruder if you can capture them on camera and alert the police.

Smart home surveillance cameras are much slicker and less of an eyesore than they used to be. They are easy to install, some detect motion, can be integrated with smart home systems and can be operated remotely using mobile apps.

Cameras are a major deterrent – former burglars revealed that they are less likely to break into your home if you have CCTV cameras.

However, some guests may feel that cameras are an intrusion of their privacy. So they should only be used if your holiday cottage is occupied by you and your family  – not paying guests. You also need to comply with privacy and data protection laws and ensure that external cameras don’t look into neighbouring properties.

Doorbell camera
Another useful security device is a smart doorbell with a camera installed that automatically notifies your smartphone if someone rings the bell or it detects motion near your door. You can then connect live to the camera to see who is at your door and even speak to them. 

Smart locks
Smart locks are digital locks which are controlled from an app on your phone. You generate unique access codes for guests or cleaners for a specified period, ensuring that only those welcome in the rental can enter.

If you or a guest forgets to lock the door when leaving the holiday home, the smart lock will lock it automatically or you can remotely. They reduce the risk of doors being left unlocked and lost keys.

You can also install wireless door/window and motion sensors inside the property. Once movement is detected, you’ll get notified straight away on your phone.

Convince thieves someone is home
Burglars usually target empty homes as it’s less likely they’ll be caught. If a burglar thinks someone is home, there’s a much smaller chance they’ll try to break in. Therefore, take steps that give the impression that someone is in the house.

Use smart plugs to create a schedule for your lights, radio or TV to give the impression someone’s home. Avoid the same pattern by mixing up the daily times, this can be managed from an app.

Inform your guests

It’s no good investing in security devices if your guests don’t know how to use them. Inform them in detail how everything works and ask them to check that all windows and doors are closed when leaving the property

Insurance tips

Whilst it is good practice to have all the above security measures in place to deter burglars, it’s essential that you have comprehensive insurance so that if you do fall victim to burglary, you will be compensated for any damage and the loss of any items.

To avoid being uninsured, here are some areas that you should check with regards to your insurance and security requirements:

  • Look for any minimum security requirements (e.g. locks) in your insurance policy and ensure that you have the correct security in place. You wouldn’t want to invalidate your cover because your locks aren’t up to scratch.
  • You can’t expect your guests to always lock windows and doors whilst they go out, so look for a holiday home insurance policy that does not require evidence of forceful or violent entry in the event of a theft claim. Some insurers will only cover theft claims if there are signs of forcible or violent entry. That is to say that regardless of whether the property has the correct locks, if there are no signs of a break-in (such as a broken window or forced door), then the insurer is likely to decline the claim.
  • Don’t risk ‘hiding’ keys outside the property as you could also risk invalidating a claim.
  • Although most property owners and agencies take steps to vet guests before they arrive, if a ‘bogus guest’ does decide to empty your holiday home of its contents you will want your insurance to cover it. Check your policy covers theft by persons lawfully in the home.
  • Keep receipts and photographs of items as these can help progress a claim.

To summarise

No property can be 100 per cent safe from burglary, but the more difficult you make it, the less likely you are to be burgled. Following the steps above will make your property seem like a less inviting proposition so they move on to an easier target. Burglary prevention is all about maximising the risk and minimising the reward for the would-be burglar.

Let us know if we have missed any tips in the comments below. 

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  • Harvey |

    it’s obvious that the less inviting a home looks to a burglar the less likely it is to be a target. However inviting doesn’t always mean no burglar alarm and open windows. it can be as simple as a fence-less entryway or easy garden access. Remember not all burglaries are planned, there are many opportunists out there that will see an easy access point and try their luck.

  • Rick Bond |

    Well, that article was a productive way to fill time while drinking my tea! Thank you.
    One tip on key safes: Get into the habit of changing the code. One option which guests also appreciate is to make the code for the forthcoming visitors the last four digits of their mobile phone number. They’ll remember this and you’ll receive far few panic calls from people who can’t find the relevant bit of paper when they arrive.

    • Philip |

      Thanks for sharing Rick – great tip.

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