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Advice for leaving house unoccupied (3-6 months)

(18 Posts)
GHouse Mon 14-Dec-20 10:34:27


I would like to have some advice regarding leaving my house unoccupied for a few months. I'm going abroad for work and was wondering how to prepare my house to stay safe and sound while I'm away. I'd appreciate any tips, whatever small.


OP’s posts: |
JollyAndBright Mon 14-Dec-20 10:42:11

I used to do this regularly.

Turn off all electrical plugs and turn off boiler,
I would often turn off the gas at the meter and I would turn off the water at the stopcock.

Invest in a couple of timed light plugs, or use harmony to set your lights to come on and go off at certain times, so that it isn’t clear the house is empty.

You can buy additional window safety locks if you are concerned about security.

cheekaa Mon 14-Dec-20 10:44:25

Pls check your home insurance cover. Most do not allow for properties to be left vacant for more than 30 days.

bigbluebus Mon 14-Dec-20 10:45:52

You will need to speak to your insurance company - most standard policies only cover for property to be empty for 30 or 60 days. When my DM'S house was empty we had to have all the water systems drained.

Bitchysideisouttoplay Mon 14-Dec-20 10:46:28

In addition to the PP I would also get a royal mail keepsake set up, they then dont deliver your mail for you until your home so it doesnt pile up.

August20 Mon 14-Dec-20 10:47:55

#1 tip is don't - have a trusted family member or close friend move in and housesit for you.

If that is not possible then there are some things to do.

- stop mail and deliveries to the house
- arrange a gardening service or neighbour or relative to make sure the outside stays tidy and looks occupied
- alarm system
- check your insurance, it may have a vacancy clause
- leave your curtains and blinds open, but make sure valuable are locked away or at least out of sight
- you may want a light that comes on on a timer in the evening, say from 6-8pm. Or this might be too much hassle/excessive. If you do, make sure the timer can't be seen from the road. Alternatively you might consider have a radio on.
- Over winter you might need to consider turning off the gas and water or examining if you need to do anything to stop pipes freezing/bursting. Don't forget hot boiler.
- turn off heating etc
- empty fridge and perishables and bins. Either empty and turn off freezer or leave it running.
- move pot plants outside if they are hardy or give them to friends to looks after

Ideally even if you can't get a trustworthy housesitter someone will agree to pop by the house 1-2 times a week.

If possible you want a trusted neighbour to know you are away so that if they see people at the address or if the alarms go off they know to ring the police. However you don't want to tell everyone that your home is empty

SillyOldMummy Mon 14-Dec-20 11:02:35

Review your insurance and make sure it is adequate. If you are in the UK, you need to inform your insurance company as a regular household policy does not allow you to leave the policy vacant for so long.

If there is a chance of cold weather you need to consider damp and frozen pipes. Turning the heating off altogether is not a good plan if there is a chance of pipes freezing. A family friend went away for 8 weeks on a holiday of a lifetime over winter, leaving the house under supervision of a friend. She left the heating on with the thermostat set low so the house should not freeze- but despite those precautions, something went wrong. The friend didnt visit for a while, the pipes froze and burst and the house was wrecked, ceilings came down due to the leaks, it was uninhabitable for months. It cost them a fortune as they were uninsured due to not having advised the insurance company of their absence.

Also do you have a garden with a lawn? You might need to engage someone to mow the lawn if you will be away in warmer months, but they would need access to a power supply and you may need to give access to a shed with your lawnmower in, if they don't bring their own gear (check with them). There is no point having lights coming on and off at regular times if there is a foot of grass and weeds where you normally have an immaculate lawn.

I would also say, don't turn the fridge freezer off completely. Entirely empty it, and clean it, but it will stink if you turn it off, no matter how well you clean it.

It is also a good idea to give someone trusted a key and ask them to visit the property ideally every few weeks. You should instruct them to air the property. You should also ask them run the taps for a good long period of time in ALL the sinks and baths, and flush the loos. This is because of a tiny risk of legionnaires, and also because the water in the loo can evaporate which will cause the bathrooms to stink. This person could also deal with your mail. Try and review all your bills and switch as much as possible to online. Put up a notice on the door that says "no junk mail, advertisements or newspapers please". If possible, set up a mail redirect to a trusted UK address for a few months eg to your parents or a good friend.

Personally I might be inclined to move any very valuable items or personal documents to a safer place - eg in my case, my parents or if that isnt possible, a bank safety deposit box.

SilkiesnowchicksandXmastreecat Mon 14-Dec-20 13:19:01

We had to change insurance when we did this and unoccupied insurance often has lots of exclusions and sometimes things you need to do. If there's anywhere else you can store valuables I would.

We left heating on low, turned water off and let neighbours know. We haven't had any one check on it as we can get down each week but if you can't would be best to get someone to do that. Also council tax need to know and forward post.

GHouse Mon 14-Dec-20 13:40:10

Thanks so much for all the valuable advice.

Some questions:

- If I need to leave heating on low so that the pipes wouldn't freeze, would this mean that I wouldn't be able to turn off the water/ electricity and boiler?

- What about beds/ mattresses, sofas and the like, is it advisable to cover them in plastic sheets to avoid dust, etc. or is it better to leave them as they are?

OP’s posts: |
SilkiesnowchicksandXmastreecat Mon 14-Dec-20 13:48:22

We had to get specialist insurance but it covers very little - OK for us as very few contents.

We leave boiler and electrics on with heating set to 15C to avoid issues. Water if we were not able to visit once a week would be turned off. The insurance company had a list of rules you had to follow and if you didn't all claims were invalidated.

movingonup20 Mon 14-Dec-20 13:56:36

I would seriously consider asking about trusted friends and family and see if someone can house sit. Otherwise I would leave heating on coming on only in the evening for a couple of hours with the thermostat turned down to minimum, or on frost setting if you have time that (it kicks in at a set temperature). If you have a drive and a neighbour has multiple vehicles, get them to park on your drive and ensure the neighbour has the phone number of a person who can act on your behalf if there's an issue eg you parent/sibling and they have a key, your insurance is unlikely to be valid or you need to pay extra

GlowingOrb Mon 14-Dec-20 14:05:52

My father does this every year. He has a house alarm that calls him if certain conditions are met, like detecting moisture or the temp being too low. He has someone local lined up to then visit the house and deal with the problem. He hires someone to remove snow so that it’s not blatantly obvious the home is empty. My ILs who live on a more temperate area also have a house alarm for their annual 6 week trip.

At his other home freezing isn’t a problem, so the house gets sealed up tight with special shutters against storms and insects. He has someone local who will come by and check the house is still intact after hurricanes.

Rainallnight Mon 14-Dec-20 14:14:19

If you have even the slightest hint of clothes moths, deal with them before you go. We learned this one the hard way.

PerseverancePays Mon 14-Dec-20 14:28:56


If you have even the slightest hint of clothes moths, deal with them before you go. We learned this one the hard way.

Please do tell how you dealt with the moths. I have this problem and have tried lots of things bar fumigation. There are fewer, but still there. We are moving house next summer and I would really like them not to come with us!

Rainallnight Mon 14-Dec-20 21:25:03

I’m afraid I don’t have the answer. It’s an ongoing problem. We knew we had a couple and then we had to leave our house unexpectedly and at short notice just before the first lockdown (long story - dying mother in another country). I had had the presence of mind to bung some anti-moth things in the wardrobes before we left and they were actually ok, but the moths migrated downstairs and ate a rug and several coats and scarves that were hanging up in the hall. Disaster.

It’s a lot better now there are people back in the house but I’m still thinking of getting professional help.

murbblurb Tue 15-Dec-20 13:03:59

you can get professional house sitters, or indeed amateur ones; I did this a while back. I don't know how you avoid creating an inadvertent tenancy though.

fridges/freezers; empty, clean, dry, turn off and LEAVE PROPPED OPEN. The last is essential or it WILL go mouldy.

GHouse Tue 15-Dec-20 14:51:16

Hi and thanks all very much.

Other questions:

- If I leave the heating on, this means I won't be able to turn off the water as I have radiators, right?

- If no one turns on the taps regularly and flushes the toilets, what would happen? and what should I do to avoid any problems without having anyone to turn on the taps, etc.?

- Any ideas about sofas, mattresses, etc.?

Thanks in advance.

OP’s posts: |
TheTeenageYears Tue 15-Dec-20 15:13:54

Insurance - most standard household policies will allow for 30 or 60 days unoccupied. You can sometimes get around this if you can get someone to stay overnight for one night. Check details very carefully though. You only know how unbelievably useless insurance is when you go to make a claim and they tell your you weren't covered because of X, Y, Z. There are specialist insurers who will ensure empty houses but you will still have to have someone do a visual check every 30 days.

The insurer will stipulate central heating system is either left on 24/7 with thermostat set to a particular temperature between some day]the in Oct and April. The temp can vary, I've had 15 and closer to 20. It's the most ridiculously expensive and bad for the environment clause. If you were in the house there wouldn't be a stipulation to have heating on all the time. Insurers haven't moved with the times and recognised that technology like a Hive system can be set to Frost protect so heating will come on if temperature drops below a certain temp. Generally the only way around all this is to have the entire heating system completely drained and then turned off as well as water off. If the system isn't drained pipes can freeze so it has to be drained to be covered. We have a Hive which means I can set the heating temp from afar depending on the temperatures outside. Tend to have heating on an hour overnight and another in the day when house is unoccupied just to keep everything ticking over.

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