November and December see the number of burglaries across Britain increase by up to 25% each year*, sparking a need for homeowners and tenants to make their properties safe this Christmas.
"As the nights draw in, burglars are likely to try and take advantage of the darkness", says Steve Coyle, Operations Director at Edinburgh property lettings and management specialist Cullen Property.
"To prevent the upset and damage caused by break-ins, both owners and tenants can take a few simple measures to make their home safer, especially if they are planning to go away for a few days."
Cullen Property's tips include:
1. Locking up properly
It may sound obvious, but leaving without fully locking doors makes burglars' work easier. To be safe, use both Yale and mortice locks whenever possible. Never leave your keys under the door mat or a plant pot. Leaving spare keys under the mat is contributing to a rise in home burglaries. Official police figures show more than 6,000 burglaries in 2014 involved intruders using keys to gain access to the property, as opposed to breaking and entering.
2. Don't assume your flat is secure
Top floor flats and those above the ground floor are often more likely to be broken into rather than less so. Burglars will often target the last flat door on the top floor so that they won't risk being disturbed by anyone walking passed them, or climb up drain-pipes to reach open bathroom windows (this actually happened to one of our staff a few months ago!)
3. Safeguarding your valuables
If you're planning to be away from home for any length of time, consider taking valuables such as jewellery, laptops and cameras with you. If that's not practical, storing them in a safe deposit box may be an option. There are plenty of facilities locally that offer both large and small storage space.
4.Securing your windows
Closing all of the property's windows and engaging any latches makes it harder for burglars to enter your home. Where possible, also lock your windows for added safety.
5. Switching the lights on
Putting one or two lamps on a timer switch helps make the flat appear inhabited whilst you're away. Choose times when you would normally be home, such as afternoons and evenings to programme the timers.
6. Bringing your property in from the cold
Consider storing bicycles which you normally keep in a communal stair inside your flat, especially if they won't be used during colder weather. If that's not an option, check your home insurance policy to ensure they are covered for theft.
7. Telling someone you trust
Ask your landlord, a neighbour or a friend to keep an eye on the property whilst you're away. If you know them well enough, it's worth leaving a key (without your address listed on it) with them for emergencies.
8. Not telling everyone
Who can see your social media profile? An announcement that you are off on holiday may be just what the burglars have been waiting for, so unless you are sure that your page cannot be seen by the general public, keep your absence quiet.
*According to a survey by over 50s insurance provider RIAS. Click here for more information.