Enjoy your summer vacation without worrying about the safety of your home by following the advice of our experts: Gemma Broderick, executive director of the Crime Prevention Association in Toronto; Terri Ste-Marie, director of Prevention NDG in Montreal; and Jonathan Motyka from On Side Restoration in Squamish, B.C.
1. Secure it. Take a walk around your property. Do you see any way to get in? Purchase a good lock with a reputable brand name ($100 to $150 at a local hardware store) and lock up ladders, patio furniture, recycling bins and anything else a thief could use to gain access to a second-storey window. And never hide a key anywhere outside. Most burglaries are crimes of opportunity, so a home that's well protected is less likely to attract the worst kind of attention.
2. Keep it living. Your home is less likely to catch the attention of a thief if it looks like it's being lived in, so it should reflect your regular schedule and give the indication that someone is home. If there are normally children's toys in the yard, leave a few out. Also consider placing extra shoes at the front and back doors. Inside, tune the radio to an AM talk station, so there are voices to be heard, turn down the volume on your phone – constant ringing is a sure sign that you’re away – and don't forget timers for your lights.
3. Maintain it. A home that's well cared for is a less attractive target for thieves. Trim hedges that exceed window-height and cut evergreen branches up at least three feet from the ground to eliminate hiding places on your property. General maintenance also decreases the risk of other problems, especially water damage. Hot water tanks, toilets and pipes are the usual culprits, so keep them in good repair as prevention.
Page 1 of 2 -- On page 2, learn how to out-smart would-be burglars from entering your home cheaply and effectively.
4. Shut it off. If you're going on vacation for more than a few weeks, turn off the water to your home and drain the lines (turn on your taps for a few minutes and flush your toilets). The less water and pressure there is, the safer your home will be if a pipe, toilet or tank happens to burst. With the water on, even a tiny leak can cause devastating damage in a short period of time. Also shut off the gas and pilot lights in your furnace and electric appliances to minimize the chance of ignition if ever a gas leak occurs or the pilot light blows.
5. Make a friend. Find a friend or neighbour you trust to keep an eye on your home. Have her cut the grass, park a car in your driveway, pick up your mail and even put out some extra garbage on garbage day. Inside, she can occasionally adjust the blinds or other visible property. Guardians can also check for any water, fire or wind damage and stop it from spreading. Most insurance companies require someone to visit the home every 48 to 72 hours for your policy to be valid, so be sure to discuss the requirements with your broker before leaving.
Tips and tricks
• Homes with dogs are less likely to be broken into. No canine companion? Put a dog dish by your back door so a thief will think there is an animal living in your home.
• In the case of a leak or flood, water will cascade down walls or follow electrical paths; place important artwork in the middle of a bed with nothing around it to minimize risk of damage.
• Water always settles in the basement or crawl space. Make sure everything that's stored there (especially family photos) is in a waterproof container.
• Take a photo or video record of your valuables and your house. In the case of theft or other damage, the record will help the insurance company, police and/or contractor recover your possessions or restore your home to its original condition.
Page 2 of 2