With the onset of summer, many Canadians are focused on vacation plans. An international survey by travel company Expedia.com found that about two-thirds of Canadians (61%) are planning to go big on their next trip with a “no regrets” style of travel. This may suggest they are looking forward to getting out and exploring again after two years of pandemic restrictions, whether that’s at the cottage or on camping junkets, RV trips, Caribbean cruises or jetting off to distant locales.
But in the excitement about getting away, it’s important not to lose focus on protecting your home. You need to make sure you secure your home, so there are no nasty surprises upon your return or emergency calls while you’re away trying to relax.
“So many people have been forced to spend more time at home and to some their home may have become even more of a sacred and safe space than before the pandemic,” says Nick Fuad, managing director of House Sitters Canada. “Homeowners love their homes and home security has always been important but possibly even more so now.”
Tips to protect your home
Whether you’re planning a long or short vacation, here’s a general checklist to ensure the home you return to is in the same shape as the way you left it.
- Unplug appliances and devices that use water, can cause a fire or drain energy (e.g. dishwashers, microwaves, toasters, coffee makers, blenders, TVs, computers, and routers).
- Turn off the main water supply to the house to avoid a burst pipe or any potential floods.
- Adjust your thermostat so it’s more in line with the outside temperature, and your air conditioner or heating system isn’t working overtime during your trip and leading to high energy bills.
- Turn off your water heater, or lower the temperature on it.
- Put timers on your lights so thieves will think someone is home.
- Check your fire alarm to make sure it’s working properly.
- Check the home security system, and even let the alarm company know you’ll be gone.
- Pay all your bills (e.g. cable and electricity) before leaving.
- Have someone pick up the mail, or stop the delivery of mail completely while you’re away.
- Have someone cut the grass and water the garden, and tend to any indoor plants.
- Arrange for pet care if you’re not taking your pet with you (see housesitting tips below)
- Make sure the trash is taken out and hauled away to avoid unwanted animals.
- Clean out the fridge of all foods that might spoil during the time you are away.
For longer vacations, you may need to take additional precautions to protect your home, such as hiring a house sitter or having someone check in periodically.
- For pet care: A home sitter, either someone you already know and trust or someone found through a service such as House Sitters Canada (which connects homeowners and house sitters), can keep your pet safe and cared for in their own environment. “Pets are going to be more comfortable staying in their own environment with their familiar routines,” Fuad says. “It’s much less stressful than a pet boarding motel, and cheaper.”
This option can give vacationers peace of mind as well, says Angela Laws, social media and community manager with Trusted Housesitters. “Sitters who are living in their homes give daily updates, or as often as owners request. Nothing is left to chance.”
- For home security: If you’re going away for a while, someone staying at your home rather than just dropping in to check on it can make sense – to protect against any possible damage and to make the home look lived-in to ward off thieves. This is especially important to prevent the possibility of an insurance claim. Here are some additional tips from Gene Myles, agency manager with Allstate in Sudbury, Ont., on how to secure your home while you’re away:
- Make sure whoever is watching your place checks on high-risk areas for flooding or breakdowns (e.g. water pumps, bathrooms, appliances, and the furnace).
- Ask them to check all windows and doors for signs of forced damage, and keep an eye out for anyone who might be testing if the home has alarm sensors.
- Make sure they have a way to contact you while you’re away and know what steps to take if there was any insurance issue. Provide this person’s name and contact information to your insurance company to help expedite any contact needed should something happen in your absence.
Do you need to contact your insurance company?
Myles says if you’re going to be away less than 30 days, you usually don’t need to call your insurance agent. “However, you do need to arrange for somebody to check inside and outside of your house daily to confirm that everything is fine,” he says. “For example, if a toilet starts leaking or a pipe bursts in winter, you may have damage going on for days unnoticed. In this case, your claim for damages could be refused or reduced if you did not have your house being monitored regularly.”
If you’re going to be away longer than 30 days, the risk to your property increases, says Myles.
“In these situations, it is a good idea to contact your home insurance company to see if you need to get special coverage and to inform them who is making daily visits to the home while you’re away.” You might not need any extra coverage, but your insurance company will likely require daily visits by someone to check on your home.
“A good suggestion is to have a monitored alarm system installed,” Myles says. “This may also, in many cases, allow you to be eligible for a discount on your policy.”
The whole point of a vacation is to get away from daily stresses and enjoy yourself – and knowing your home and property are well protected during an absence can help ensure your holiday is as enjoyable as possible.
“It’s a lovely feeling coming home from your vacation to a yard that’s been cut, the house cleaned and your pets happy,” Fuad says.
This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.