How to keep your home safe and secure when you head down south for the season

Securely lit home for winter holiday

If you’re planning on moving south to escape the winter weather, check these 10 things off your to-do list to protect your home while you’re away.

  1. Secure the windows and doors. Check that all windows and doors in your home are locked (don’t forget the basement, the garage, and the shed), and consider putting security bars inside your window frames on main-floor and basement windows so they can’t slide open. You could also install a company- or self-monitored security system for added protection.
  2. Make your home look lived-in. Think about your regular habits. Do you usually watch TV for a couple of hours in the evening? Do you always leave a light on in the hallway overnight? Set timers to power up your lights, TV, and radio at the times you’d normally have them turned on.
  3. Ask a trusted friend or neighbour to come over and inspect your home every few days. Have them walk through each room (including the basement) and make sure there are no signs of trouble. Be sure to leave a phone number where you can be reached, as well as other emergency numbers they might need (including your plumber and your licensed home insurance broker).

    Tip: Your insurance company may have specific rules that outline how often you’ll need to have someone come in and inspect your home when you’re away.  Talk to your broker to find out what’s required under your policy.
  4. Drain the pipes. Turn off your home’s water supply and drain the pipes to prevent them from freezing (and possibly bursting) while you’re away.
  5. Empty your fridge, freezer, and garbage cans. Even though the fridge and freezer may seem like safe places to leave food until you come home in the spring, they won’t do you much good if they stop running (during a power outage, for example). It’s safer to empty your fridge and freezer when you’ll be gone for an extended period of time to avoid any surprises when you come home. Don’t forget to empty your garbage cans, too.
  6. Test the back-up battery on your sump pump. Most sump pumps rely on electricity to operate, so if your power goes out during a heavy rainfall or the spring thaw (when you need your sump pump the most), you’ll be out of luck. Make sure you have a working battery backup system or generator in place in case of a power outage.
  7. Put a monitored alarm on your furnace. If your power goes out or your furnace dies while you’re away, a smart-monitoring system will let you know there’s a problem so you can have it repaired to restore your heat and prevent further damage to your home (like frozen pipes, for example).
  8. Forward your mail and stop your newspaper deliveries. Nothing says “we’re not home!” quite like an overflowing mailbox or a month’s worth of newspapers piled up on your front porch. Cancel your newspaper deliveries and arrange mail forwarding to keep your mailbox empty and make sure you don’t miss any important bills or letters.
  9. Arrange for snow removal. Plan to have a neighbour (or a snow-removal service) come to your house to shovel and de-ice your front porch, sidewalk, and driveway on a regular basis. Not only will this help make your house look lived-in, but keeping these areas free of snow and ice could help prevent slips (and the liability claims that tend to follow slip-and-fall incidents).
  10. Store valuable jewelry in a safe or take it to your safety deposit box at the bank. A jewelry box is a thief’s dream come true. If you’re planning on leaving any valuable jewelry or other small items behind, store them in a fireproof safe or in another secure location, like a safety deposit box.

    Tip: Did you know that most home insurance policies have special limits for jewelry coverage — and these limits could be lower than you might expect? You may need to purchase additional coverage if your collection goes above the limit set out in your policy.

Every insurance company has unique requirements you need to keep in mind when you’re going to be away for an extended period of time. Contact your broker to find out what’s required in your situation.

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