Canada's Condominium Magazine

Going away on holiday? Renting or selling your vacant condo? Ten tips to keep your property safe.

One of the perks of high-rise condo living is that freedom to leave for a holiday or extended stays without worrying too much about the homestead.  Most condominiums have a concierge, secure entrances, secure parking, watchful neighbours, and camera surveillance. Also, you don’t have to worry about cutting the lawn or putting timer’s on your lights to make your home look lived-in. This is one reason globe-trotters prefer condo living. Or, if you’re a lucky “snow bird” you might have a condo in Toronto and one in the south for the winter.

 

Break-in artists can and do come in from balconies and unlocked windows. Although high-rises make break-ins less likely, they do happen.

 

Even though vacant-for-the-holiday condos are typically more secure and safe than vacant detached homes, it will be hard to relax if you are worried about your vacant condo. Here are some tips for maximizing safety while you are away:

#1 Tell a neighbour you are away

Assuming you’re on good terms with your neighbour, tell at least one of them you are away.  Of course, this should be someone you can trust, and someone you can reciprocate with when they go on holiday.

 

Today, there are many low cost IP cameras that can be connected to free or low-cost apps on a smart phone or tablet. With these, you can monitor your home while on holiday.
Today, there are many low-cost IP cameras that can be connected to free or low-cost apps on a smartphone or tablet. With these, you can monitor your home while on holiday.

 

#2 Install a low-cost IP camera

Today there are dozens of companies offering bundled IP cameras with free apps for your phone. These enable you to see what’s happening at home. The low cost and ease of use make this a must-install for peace of mind. You can also record any activity.

#3 Alarm System

True, condos are safer and more secure than detached homes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t install or activate a security system. Ideally, today, with costs relatively low, consider installing at least a basic monitored system. This can often be bundled with IP cameras (see #2).

#4 Do not mention your holiday on social media

Until your return with your incredible photos, avoid mentioning your holiday on social media — and also in general. Many thieves use social media to locate targets — with holiday-goers being the number one target.

#5 Make your condo look occupied

Some thieves scout condo buildings from the outside, looking for “dark” windows. Always have at least one light on, ideally several on timers to make your condo look lived in while you are away.

#6 Put a hold on your mail

Either put a formal hold at the post office on your mail, or ask your friendly neighbour (#1 above) to empty your mailbox. Professional thieves look for overflowing mailboxes.

#7 Check with your insurance company

Make sure your policy covers your vacant condo for the length of your holiday. Many do, but some do not. Some policies will give up to 7 days coverage. However, if there is water damage (from a faucet left on) you may not be covered. Some policies require you have a trusted person inspect daily. The average time insurance companies will allow a condo to be vacant (either if you are on holiday, or trying to sell/rent) is only 96 hours. Usually, you can improve the coverage by asking. Be sure to follow their rules.

#8 Inform the concierge and building management

You’re friendly with your concierge, right? Your concierge and building managers need to be informed so that they can detect unusual activity — especially today, with the increasing popularity of short-term rental services.

#9 Lock windows

It may seem obvious, but some condo owners believe windows can be left safely unlocked because they are not at ground level. Take the extra precaution of locking your windows — if only to be in compliance with your insurance policy.

#10 Housesitter

If you have plants or pets, chances are good you’re already set with a house-sitter, but if not, consider one — ideally someone you know and trust.

 

Needless to say, don’t forget to double check all appliances and unneeded electrical items are turned off and unplugged and that faucets are off. Insurance companies report most flood damage occurs when home-owners are not home.

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