The Automobile Association

The Automobile Association

July 03, 2013 06:00 ET

Holidaymakers' Empty Homes Going Unchecked

--Only half leave a spare key with a friend or neighbour

--AA urges householders to perform checks before they head off

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - July 3, 2013) - As holidaymakers head off for the summer holidays, research* from the AA's Home Emergency Response service shows that many householders court domestic disaster when they leave their home empty without asking a neighbour to 'keep an eye out' for them.

Disaster has struck 21% of holidaymakers who have returned to a home emergency, such as a burst pipe, power failures or smashed windows.

But an emergency could go unnoticed, as less than half entrust a friend or neighbour with a spare key. Others could be unaware that anything has gone wrong, as only 52% leave their contact details with somebody.

Tom Stringer, Head of the AA's Home Emergency Response Service said: "Some people are really unlucky with some kind of emergency happening to their home while they're on holiday. When you're at home you can either sort it out yourself, or get somebody in to fix the problem. But if you're not there it could go unnoticed unless you have someone popping in to keep an eye on things.

"Nobody wants to come back after a week or two away to find that something's gone wrong like storm damage or a water leak. Unchecked a leak could cause a lot of unnecessary damage," Mr Stringer said, pointing out that 'escape of water' is the most common cause of home insurance claims.

"Other things could affect the security of your home - such as broken windows or doors - and should be taken care of as soon as possible before you get an unwelcome visit from a burglar."

However, he added: "People tend to live further away from their families these days or aren't at home sufficiently often to get to know their neighbours very well. Understandably, they could be less inclined to let somebody they barely know into their home when they're not around."

A quarter of those who'd experienced a home emergency while they were away had a water leak, while a fifth had a pest infestation. Fifteen per cent had their home burgled, twelve per cent had their home flooded and one out of ten experienced a power failure.

The AA offers its top ten tips of things to run through before going on holiday:

  1. Unplug electrical appliances
  2. Turn off your water stopcock in case there's a leak
  3. Don't give pests any snacks - make sure there is no leftover food lying around and wipe away any crumbs
  4. Make sure there is nothing blocking the gutters or drains. If there's heavy rainfall while you're away your drains could overflow
  5. Give a key to a friend or neighbour to check on your home while you're away. They can keep an eye on it and make it home look 'lived in' - opening and closing curtains, for example
  6. Leave your contact details to somebody so they can get in touch in case of emergency
  7. Ensure all windows and doors are locked and secure; don't leave keys in window locks and don't leave them within sight of doors or windows. Make sure your shed and garage are locked
  8. Cancel milk and newspapers and get a neighbour to push post left sticking out of a letterbox through
  9. If you have an alarm, turn it on before you go away
  10. Put a couple of lights on timer switches to give the impression to a potential thief that someone is home
The most common domestic disasters are shown below:
Domestic disaster Proportion of people who have been affected by this issue (as % of people coming home from holiday to any type of disaster )
Water leaks 25 %
Pest infestation 20 %
Burglary 15 %
Flooding 12 %
Power failure (specific to their home) 11 %
Being locked out 9 %
Smashed windows 7 %
Overflowing drain 6 %
Roof damage 6 %
Electrical fire 2 %
Notes to editors
* Research was carried out by ICM amongst a GB representative sample of over 2,000 adults between 8 - 10 July 2011

About AA Home Emergency Response

AA Home Emergency Response cover provides a network of AA Home Assist engineers supported by approved tradesmen available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are no call-out charges and policy excesses only apply to boiler cover and for work carried out under the policy, parts and labour are guaranteed. Cover is available to both existing AA members and non-members.

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