The holiday season is your time to leave your worries behind and come back home relaxed and ready for the year ahead. No matter how great the trip is, coming back to your familiar surroundings should be a treat too – so make sure you take basic steps to keep the home you’ve created safe.

There are basic common-sense precautions to take, and when you live in a flat you have neighbours on hand to keep an eye on the place.

Physical security

Shutting and locking windows and the door to your flat when you go away hopefully goes without saying. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because you have a main front door to the building. That door can only be as good as the people who use it: does everyone know to shut it behind them every time and are you all careful about who you let into the building? Delivery drivers, for instance, should have no trouble reaching the people they are delivering to, and shouldn’t need to ask you to buzz them in. Meter readers and other officials will carry ID cards.

Fire and flood

Do you switch off the water supply to your flat when you go away? It’s an especially good idea if your stopcock is inside your flat where neighbours cannot get to it in an emergency. It only takes seconds to turn the water off and make sure that if any pipes or hoses come loose or burst, you won’t come back to a soggy apartment. Just as important, you won’t have damaged downstairs’ ceiling … or worse!
If for any reason you don’t know where the water stopcock for your flat is, now’s as good a time as any to find out!

We are probably all more on the ball when it comes to switching off appliances and not leaving them on standby since energy prices shot up, but do take a few minutes to check and switch off as many as possible before you set off on your travels.

Fridges and freezers will usually be left on, but have you considered what would happen if there was a power cut and they were left for days or weeks defrosted, all because of a power cut that may only have lasted a few minutes? If you have RCD sockets fitted for your appliances make sure those protecting fridges and freezers are passive (also known as latching) which will trip out if there’s an electrical fault and surge current but won’t disconnect the device in a power cut, so your fridge or freezer will come back on as soon as mains power is restored. (Active RCDs should be used with devices like power tools as an extra safety measure so they cannot just switch back on automatically. Make sure you have the right type.

Don’t forget to give the smoke alarm battery a quick check before you go. If neighbours know you are away, the alarm could alert them to a problem at an early stage before a fire can establish itself.

Make sure that you have one or more smoke alarms. In a smaller block, the mains-connected device on your ceiling could be a heat detector that raises the alarm for the whole block. It is the smoke detector that will alert you early on and possibly save your life when you are there.

Intruder alarms and cameras

Low-cost Wi-Fi and DIY alarm systems can be effective deterrents but may only serve to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.

If your building doesn’t have an automatic door entry system and you’ve chosen to install camera doorbells, check they are set up and positioned so you don’t end up putting neighbours under continuous surveillance. The law is quite strict but, if your cameras don’t capture images beyond the property boundary, the data protection laws won’t apply. However, be sure you aren’t annoying the ground-floor residents by filming them all the time! Even the basic camera doorbells should allow you to adjust the field of view.  Find out more HERE.

Who to tell

You may or may not be bosom buddies with your neighbours in your block, but it is still a good idea to let someone in the building know you are going to be away when you will be back, how you can be reached, and who has a spare key and can be contacted in an emergency. Even better if the key holder lives in the building.

Maybe your building has a website of WhatsApp Group where you can log this information. If not, perhaps the block manager or Residents Management Company could set up a free block Gmail account where people can quickly log contact details.

It’s especially important to tell the block managers if you are going to be away for an extended trip – lucky you! Insurance policies usually place a limit of around 45 days on unoccupancy and ask to be told if a flat will be empty for longer. Usually, they simply ask that arrangements be made for someone to pop into the flat to check all is well from time to time.


Not going away but enjoying summer at home? Then, on the assumption that we get some decent weather, you are likely to have open windows and be spending more time in the garden, possibly leaving doors unlocked behind you.

The watchword is caution! Be aware. Ground floor and basement flats are easier targets for burglars, as are low-story balconies, so residents there need to be especially careful.

Remember, your insurers have your back – but you do have a role to play and a duty of care to take reasonable precautions.

Wherever you are, have a great summer.


The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.