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Travellers' questions that don't fit anywhere else This is an opportunity to ask any question, and post any notice you wish that doesn't fit into one of the other sections.
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  #1  
Old 7 Sep 2009
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How to leave an empty house?

Looks like I could be away for 6-8 weeks and I'd like to know if anyone else here has learnt from the experience of leaving their home empty.

There's the obvious stuff like unplugging the tv, emptying the fridge, bins, etc, but it's the not so obvious stuff that could end up being important, so anything you found out would be appreciated. Everything's paid by direct debit, so bills are ok and it will be winter so I'm leaving the central heating to come on for an hour or so once a day. I'll also leave a main light on. Neighbours will know I'm away so will keep an eye out and a friend will be passing by about once a week to collect and deal with the mail - but apart from that, there'll be no-one there. So, if there is anything I should know, no matter how small, it will be appreciated. It seems leaving needs as much planning as going. Thanks.

ps - I searched the site in the hope of finding a 'leaving home checklist', but no luck.
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Old 7 Sep 2009
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You could put a few lights on a timer, so they can come on in the evening for a few hours and then go off instead of staying on permanently. You didn't make mention of a garden, but overgrown grass is a tell tale sign, newspapers collecting at the front door is another one.
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  #3  
Old 7 Sep 2009
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I've got a 'light-sensitive' switch somewhere, which seemed like a good idea when I bought it years ago - just never fitted it. Have a plug timer too. Will fit that to a bedroom light. Cheers.

To be accurate, it's not actually a 'house' but a two storey 'maisonette' on the second and third floor, so no garden. One door in, one door out, with just a kitchen window to look through for anyone passing along the outside walkway. I actually call it a flat, but just said 'house' for convenience. Good point about garden though.

Just thought about going on the 'no junk mail' list too - and I'll talk to the postman to make sure all mail is pushed right through the door.

Really need to write this stuff down. Cheers.
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Old 7 Sep 2009
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The Water

I always turn the incoming water off at the street if I'm gone for more than a weekend, . Had the incoming pipe from the street (underground) crack and leak once while I was gone for a short time. A friend's high-pressure washing machine hose burst on another occasion, flooding the utility room and running the water bill up.

Water off = no possibility of flooding the house.
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  #5  
Old 7 Sep 2009
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Originally Posted by walkstx View Post
I always turn the incoming water off at the street if I'm gone for more than a weekend, . Had the incoming pipe from the street (underground) crack and leak once while I was gone for a short time. A friend's high-pressure washing machine hose burst on another occasion, flooding the utility room and running the water bill up.

Water off = no possibility of flooding the house.
+1. I know someone who had a pipe burst in their house while they were gone, screwed up their house big time. But another tip: when you turn the water back on, don't turn it on full force at first, let the water trickle back into the pipes for a while to minimize the risk of bursting a seal somewhere (DAMHIK).
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Old 7 Sep 2009
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We were gone for four months out of a five month journey through Europe when our house burned down! A mouse had chewed through a wire that ran under the floor of the den. That brought us home early. We left the bike with a friend and flew home. After buying a new house and furniture we returned to Spain, repacked the bike and continued the trip.
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  #7  
Old 8 Sep 2009
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I would set the heating on constant but at a low(ish) temperature.

If you've got a water-tank in the loft, leave the loft hatch open a bit just to make sure some heat gets up there. I've done a few complete rebuilds of houses because of a tiny split in the cold main in the loft. Pipe lagging doesn't keep your pipes warm and if you aren't there to draw some warmer water through then they just get colder.

Turn off any circuits you aren't using at the consumer unit (fuse-board)

Timer / photo-cell switches are a good idea. Also if you've got a driveway or allocated parking spot that is obviously yours, ask your neighbours if they can park their car on it while you are away.

I suppose a lot of it depends where you live. My mum and Dad never lock their doors (just in case the postman has a parcel or a neighbour wants to borrow something while they are out)

They did have a crime wave a little while ago though; an old chap had his push-bike nicked. It made the local newspaper and there was much talk of the country going to the dogs.

The bike turned up a few days later next to the wheelie-bin at the pub.......Just where he's left it !!!

Have fun and don't worry too much. Any sh*t that happens can be dealt with when you get back.
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Old 8 Sep 2009
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Originally Posted by Big Yellow Tractor View Post
Pipe lagging doesn't keep your pipes warm and if you aren't there to draw some warmer water through then they just get colder.
Top Tip!

I suppose one of those garden water timers thing'ma'whatsits could be set to open a tap during the day for a short while, just to keep the water flowing a bit.

I would get your, friend to alter the times on the timer switches to fit more with dark, and altering bedtime. We use a number of timers all set differently in different rooms.

As for the postman, unless you know him/her well enough I'd not bother telling them the house is empty! They are a good source of information to the 'wrong' people, espcially if they are christmas temps....

Best check with your insurance company too - it's common for the insurance to be void if the house is unoccupied for x week/days. Mine is 28 days, but it can vary from three weeks to years. Maybe you could arrange for someone (sister/brother/close friend etc) to stay over once in a while ?


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Old 8 Sep 2009
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Forgot all about the insurance. I've got it and I do think I'm covered for that time, but best find out for sure. And good point about the postman. Had him for years and dead reliable - but I will find out if the Post Office themselves have any advice/procedures. Thanks.

Will prob set the heating on full-time but lowest setting. Also, turning off unused house circuits is so simple, but brilliantly obvious and exactly the stuff I needed to know. Will ask my friend to run all the taps for a minute when she collects the mail. Seems houses aren't to be trusted when left to their own devices. I'm not as worried about security as I am about fire, flood and stuff that affects others nearby.

Keep it coming please. This is proven stuff from people with experience and is very much appreciated.
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Old 8 Sep 2009
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For mail, I just had a neighbor drop by once a week and scoop up the pile which had accumulated inside the mail slot and put it in a big box I'd provided. Had great fun going through it all when I got back!
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  #11  
Old 8 Sep 2009
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Originally Posted by motoreiter View Post
For mail, I just had a neighbor drop by once a week and scoop up the pile which had accumulated inside the mail slot and put it in a big box I'd provided. Had great fun going through it all when I got back!
Thanks. Pretty good idea in itself and I will ask my neighbours to push through anything they see. My friend who will be sorting it each week is also my book-keeper. She'll open everything and email/text me if something really needs a personal decision, though she'll probably just deal with it. I'm very lucky to know her really. Cheers. It's going on the list.
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Old 11 Sep 2009
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Our flat in France is sometimes left empty for months at a time - particularly out of the rental season and over the years I've evolved from the make it look occupied approach (lights on timers, heating on low etc) to switching absolutely everything off.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly if its off it can't malfunction. Some years ago we had the ball valve on the toilet leak and start a flood. As the flat is in a block it affected others. They complained to the management agents who came in to turn it off - and charged us.

Secondly, while that episode didn't need to go through the insurance co, they told us it wouldn't have been covered. They were not happy about any systems that could cause a claim if they go wrong being left on auto for months. Ok for a few days / weekend but not for months.

Peace of mind counts for a lot as well. If you've turned everything off you know it can't go wrong. Leave the fridge door open though (having thrown away the food!). Even with it empty you get mould build up if the door is shut and the smell is awful when you come back. Don't ask me how I know
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  #13  
Old 11 Sep 2009
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And don't forget to clean out your kitchen rubbish bin and leave it also open.
Things will grow in there and give you a nasty shock when you return.
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  #14  
Old 11 Sep 2009
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Originally Posted by onlyMark View Post
And don't forget to clean out your kitchen rubbish bin and leave it also open...
And also cleaning the whole place as well now I think about it. Things, sometimes food, have a habit of rolling out of sight at times. Leaving it a few days is one thing - two or three months, something completely different.
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Old 11 Sep 2009
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stop the mail and paper if you can. In the USA you can fave the mail sent to another address or P.O. box you may have the same thing there.
turn off power (and/or gas) to any thing you can at the fuse box.
turn off power (or gas) to the hot water heater.
turn off and drain the water in the house if you can, if you can not open up area under the sink and drip a bit out of the faucet so the pipes do not freeze.
clear out the frig/freezer and unplug it food will be old when you get back any way, any dry food can be bined as well.
lock all doors and windows.
dump in bleach or some cleaner in to the toilets.

I like to have something like caned food ready for me when I get back so have that out and a way to cook it. Also have the place look like you gust went out for a bit. Clothes out on the floor and a unmade bed most house thefts are not going to spend the time to look in the trash and do not turn on the lights. Think like a theft how can get in this house quiet using the least amount of time. Keep any thing of value out of sight. I like cardbord boxes old blankets on top in the box, in the back of rooms under a table with a table cloth over that set items on top of that.
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