Protecting your holiday home: top winter tips

Posted on February 26, 2015 by Guest Writer
Spanish holiday home

In this age of unpredictable weather conditions, you can never be sure what to expect when you visit your holiday home after leaving it unattended during the winter months. One thing’s for sure – you and any visitors to your holiday home will want an enjoyable stay, without having to deal with problems such as burst water pipes and storm damage that extreme winter weather can bring.

With this in mind, we have put together some useful home safety tips to help you reduce the risks to your holiday home, particularly at times when you leave it empty.

Burst water pipes

Burst water pipes are a common problem in winter when temperatures drop to freezing point. If you get burst pipes when your holiday home is unoccupied, the damage can be costly and widespread, so you will be glad you have taken out the right Holiday Home Insurance to cover the cost of repairs and putting right the water damage caused. However, the best option is of course to make sure the damage doesn’t happen in the first place, saving you the worry and hassle of sorting everything out after the event.

Holiday Home Insurance in the UK requires you to have your property’s pipes properly insulated before you can get cover. Additionally, you will need to switch off all water supplies and drain appliances, or install a thermostatic system to maintain a minimum temperature of 15 degrees centigrade.

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We’re urging all customers to protect their pipes now and make sure their property is prepared. Very often people don’t think it will happen to them but there are few things more frustrating than finding your property ankle deep in freezing water and your carpet, furniture and electrical equipment ruined because of a burst pipe.”

General maintenance

Insurers often require you to take certain preventative measures and failure to do so may well mean that any claim you make could be denied. For the good of your holiday home and your holiday home insurance policy, it’s best to make sure you do the following:

  • If you have central heating, don’t be tempted to switch it off completely when your holiday home is unoccupied. Leaving it on at a minimum temperature can minimise your risk of burst pipes.
  • Insulate your pipes and water tanks well.
  • Know where your water stopcock is as speedily shutting off the water in an emergency can prevent the damage from getting worse.
  • If your holiday home is going to lie vacant in winter, turn off the water supply.

Other things you can do to protect your property are:

  • Have someone you trust visit to make sure there are no problems while you are away.
  • Keep a note of a local, licensed plumber to help in an emergency.

Holiday home balcony overlooking the sea banner2


Strong winds and other storms can cause untold damage to your property. Tiles can also get broken while you are away, without you noticing.

  • Check that the roof tiles and slates on your holiday home plus any outbuildings are secure before you leave. This could avoid leaks through the roof to the house or loft.
  • Make sure any satellite dishes and TV aerials are fixed tightly to the building.
  • Store away garden furniture and keep trees or bushes well pruned and maintained.
  • Make sure gates and window shutters are securely closed to avoid them slamming, causing breakages or flying off their hinges in high winds.

Theft and intruders

It’s important to remember that burglars are always on the prowl, winter or summer, no matter where your holiday home is located. Simple security measures will go a long way towards proper home protection and could save you the distress of getting your things stolen and having to make an insurance claim.

  • Fit locks to all external doors as well as to any easily accessible windows.
  • Lock your doors and shut ground floor windows at night.
  • Fit iron grilles on windows or roll-down reinforced shutters which can deter thieves.
  • Never leave keys in obvious places – under the doormat or a plant pot, for example. Leave them with an agent or friend to open up for guests when they arrive.
  • When you purchase a new holiday home, make sure you change the locks as you never know who might also have the keys to your new home.
  • If you are storing garden furniture, ladders and tools in a garage or outbuilding, make sure they are well locked up, so that they can’t be used by thieves to break into your house.
  • Fit an alarm system which connects with a local security firm for added protection.
  • Bear in mind that some insurance policies do not cover you for theft if your property has been unoccupied for over a certain period of time, so it’s best to check your policy documents for details.

Blocked drains and gutters

They are a common winter problem because leaves and dirt block drains easily. They must be cleared regularly to avoid any overflow which can result in dampness and flooding, particularly on walled balconies where water can gush under the door and into your home instead of down the drain.