Justin Freeman, Technical Manager of the Master Locksmiths Association, offers expert advice to ensure that thieves walk away empty-handed from your property
Empty properties can present a potential thief with an unmissable opportunity; if a homeowner is perhaps working abroad or on holiday for a few months there are tell-tale signs of an uninhabited home that a thief will look for – and look to exploit.
Even if you are in the process of seeking a new buyer or tenant for your property and it is empty, the threat is still present; just because a home is without inhabitants does not mean it is devoid of value, and thieves may potentially seek to ransack a house to find anything they can profit from. The advice detailed below will help to ensure that thieves walk away empty-handed from your property.
Check all doors and windows, including garage doors and rear entrances, and make sure they are in good condition
Make sure to check for broken window frames, rusty locks or damaged garden gates – signs of neglect act like red flags to potential thieves, whilst also presenting an easy point of entry. A local MLA-approved locksmith will be able to check that your locks meet insurance requirements and upgrade them if needed.
Don’t forget about the outside of your property
Make sure to cut back large or overgrown plants that provide cover and keep wheelie bins and other large objects away from walls and fences, where they can be used as footholds to help thieves to enter. The noise of crunchy gravel can be a great deterrent too. Meanwhile, spikey plants, such as berberis, pyracantha or holly bushes, will make it harder for thieves to gain access. Make sure that your garden is – or at least looks – regularly maintained. Overgrown grass, plants and borders are an easy tell, so think about planting low maintenance plants – or employing a gardener. Finally, to keep intruders out, make sure gates and outbuildings are securely locked with Sold Secure locks or chains.
Install an alarm and consider using a remotely-monitored CCTV system
This will allow you to keep an eye on your property using your laptop, tablet or smartphone, from anywhere in the world. As well as alerting you to issues, alarms and security systems can also act as a good visual deterrent. Homes with a security system are 300% less likely to be burgled.1
Make neighbours aware that your property is empty
Consider leaving a spare key with a trusted neighbour and asking them to pop in a couple of times a week to check your property. You could even ask if they want to park their car on your drive, which will give the impression that someone is in. It may also create good relations, which means they are more inclined to keep a vigilant eye on your property. Also, consider asking them to stop newspapers and post from building up in your porch or hall. A sizeable pile of local newspapers and circulars underneath your letterbox is a sure sign that the property is long-term vacant – or that no-one visits regularly.
Know who has access to your property
Would-be thieves don’t always need to force their way into your property. Workmen, letting agents and past tenants may still have keys to your property. Even if you ask for all the keys to be returned, there’s no guarantee that they don’t have copies. A patented lock system is a simple, cost-effective way to limit the number of keys in circulation and prevent keys from being cut without proof of ownership.
Install preventative measures
Dusk-till-dawn security lights around the property will help deter thieves from attempting to gain access whilst alerting your neighbours at the same time of any unusual activity. Timer lighting systems inside your property are simple to use and create the impression that someone is home. Fake televisions also work on a timer and emit multi-coloured LED lights, just like a real television. But make sure that a fake TV is used upstairs, where burglars can’t see that it’s not real.
Invest in good-quality security fixtures
Quality locks and security measures not only reduce the likelihood of theft, the increased lifespan of the products will also save money in the long term. For a list of rigorously tested security products, visit www.soldsecure.com.
Don’t be tempted to DIY
If you have concerns about the security of your property, hire a professional – the average cost of fixing botched DIY jobs is £323. Your local MLA-approved locksmith will be able to provide a thorough and independent safety and security assessment, offering advice and installation services on all security upgrades necessary to meet insurance requirements.
Out of sight, out of mind
Drawing the curtains or blinds seems like an obvious way to make sure no one looking in can tell the property is vacant. However, it’s also a giveaway if every window in your house is covered by curtains or blinds; consider leaving the upstairs windows uncovered, which will also allow the light from any fake TV’s to be seen more easily.
If you aren’t sure, consult
If you aren’t convinced that your house is secure or that you’ve done enough to deter thieves, contact an MLA-approved locksmith. A locksmith can conduct a site survey to ensure that your house is as protected as it can be and that you have peace of mind when leaving your property vacant.
1 Home Security Month, 2017 (Yale). Home Security Month, http://www.homesecuritymonth.com/may-day-infographic-ins-outs-diy-3/