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Top tips to help protect your clients’ homes this holiday season

Only Santa Claus should have access to your home over the holidays. Even then, it’s only on one night, and you know he’s coming.

But helping clients keep their homes and families safe during the holidays, whatever they celebrate, is also top of mind for insurance brokers – because risks never take a day off. 

Like Santa, Jeffrey Liu, CIP, senior underwriter, personal lines, with Agile Underwriting Solutions, also has his own list – but rather than naughty or nice, this one is a check list of what your clients should do before they leave town, to keep their home safe.

  • Check every door and window to make sure it is closed and locked, including basement and garage doors;
  • Do not leave any keys lying around, or hidden under a rock near the door: “That’s the first place burglars will look,” said Liu;
  • If you have a sliding window or door, place a metal bar or rod there so even if a burglar can break the lock, they can’t push it open;
  • Make sure a neighbour or trusted friend can pick up mail and newspapers, or suspend delivery of these while you are away, and check on the house while you are out;
  • Give whoever is keeping an eye on your house the security system code so they do not trip off any alarms;
  • Leave your vehicle in the driveway to give the appearance your home is not empty;
  • Set light timers;
  • Keep the heat on, between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius;
  • Have your furnace serviced before your departure; and
  • Clear out storm drains and gutters.

There are other 21st century tips too. Your clients may want to flex that they are enjoying the sun and sand in the tropics while you are hard at it shovelling snow, but Liu cautions: “Keep vacation plans away from social media. A lot of people go on to find a name, and you’ve given (out) public information.

Let’s say you took a photo of yourself in Mexico. Now, people know you’re away. So try to keep your photos on social media shared privately, with certain people you trust.”

While you may appreciate a postcard from a client in the sunny south, encourage clients to reach out before they head off to the airport.

“Most insurance providers don’t need to be told that you’re going on vacation but if you’re leaving for more than 30 days or longer it is best to let them know because it may affect your insurance,” said Liu.

“If you’re gone more than 30 days, for example, some insurance policies, they would exclude water damage, or void some perils a well. But if you have a family member looking after the place and you’re taking preventative measures such as turning off your water system, keeping the heater on a certain heat to prevent the pipes from freezing, then you’re usually okay.”

No Grinch thefts

It is a busy time for shopping – and hiding presents away from kids and family.

A lockbox hidden in a safe place is a good idea. Or, consider a bank safety deposit box.

“The biggest thing is don’t put it under the Christmas tree right in front of your window, at the front of your home,” said Liu, where a burglar can just “window shop.”

While some homeowners may go all out every December with epic Christmas light displays, those twinkling lights may actually be helping deter crime.

“Having lights there makes it a bit harder for a thief to go into a home,” Liu said. Just make sure you don’t overload the sockets, he added.

“The more lighted decorations you have installed, the higher the risk that there is a fire,” Liu said. “You want to use products that meet applicable CSA standards. LED Christmas lights, for example, have a much lower heat output. You should also make sure you don’t connect an excessive number of light sets in a chain.”

Your clients getting their child a new electronic toy might bring a smile on Christmas morning, but best to check online for any recalls of products, so that junior doesn’t have his toy returned the following day.

Party time

During the holidays, when the kids are in bed, its time to entertain.

“Responsible hosts should always make sure that guests get home safely,” said Liu. “The best way, as a host, should be monitoring how much guests are drinking and be aware of any underage drinking, especially who is bringing alcohol.”

Once the party is over and it is time to say goodnight, if guests are intoxicated, a host’s duties are not yet done.

“If they’re driving, invite them to stay over or get them to keep their car there so they can get a taxi home,” Liu said.

Once the New Year has come and gone and everyone gets back to work, like everyone, insurance brokers also face a bulging inbox in the first week of January. Fire and personal injury claims lead the way at this time of year.

“This is the biggest time for identity theft and fraud,” said Liu. “So, you want to make sure that you’ve got your antivirus and malware up to date and working, and don’t purchase anything from suspicious looking websites.”

While the holidays can be a crazy time for everyone, it is also a good time to connect with clients, even if only through an email blast.

“People read them,” Liu said.

To find out more about Agile Underwriting Solutions and its residential insurance products, visit: https://agileuw.ca/products/residential-insurance/