While travel plans might look a little different this year, check these 10 tasks off your to-do list to keep your home safe and secure while you’re away over the winter — even if you’re only headed to the cottage:

  1. Test the back-up battery on your sump pump. Most sump pumps rely on electricity to operate, so if your power goes out during a heavy rainfall or the spring thaw (when you need your sump pump the most), you’ll be out of luck. Make sure you have a working battery backup system or generator in place in case of a power outage.
  2. Put a monitored alarm on your furnace. If your power goes out or your furnace dies while you’re away, a smart-monitoring system will let you know there’s a problem so you can have it repaired to restore your heat and prevent further damage to your home (like frozen pipes, for example).
  3. Stop your newspaper deliveries and other subscriptions. Nothing says “we’re not home!” quite like an overflowing mailbox or a month’s worth of newspapers and packages piled up on your porch. Put your newspaper subscription and other regular deliveries on hold while you’re away. If you’re going to be gone for several months, you may also want to set up mail forwarding to keep your mailbox empty and make sure you don’t miss any important bills or letters.
  4. Arrange for snow and ice removal. Plan to have a neighbour or snow-removal service come to your house to shovel and de-ice your front porch, sidewalk, and driveway on a regular basis. Not only will this help make your house look lived in, but keeping these areas free of snow and ice could help prevent slips (and the liability claims that tend to follow slip-and-fall incidents).
  5. Store valuable jewelry in a safe or take it to your safety deposit box at the bank. A jewelry box is a thief’s dream come true. If you’re planning on leaving any valuable jewelry or other small valuable items at home, store them in a fireproof safe or in another secure location, like a safety deposit box.

    Bonus tip: Did you know that most home insurance policies have special limits for jewelry coverage, and these limits might be lower than you expect? You may need to purchase additional coverage if your collection goes above the limit set out in your policy.
  6. Plan to have a friend or neighbour come over and inspect your home every few days. Have them walk through each room (including the basement) and make sure there are no signs of trouble. Be sure to leave a phone number where you can be reached, as well as other emergency numbers they might need (including your plumber and your group’s licensed home insurancebroker opens a pop-up with definition of broker).

    Bonus tip: Your insurer opens a pop-up with definition of insurer may have specific rules that outline how often you’ll need to have someone come in and inspect your home when you’re away. Talk to your group’s broker to find out what’s required under your policy.
  7. Make your home look lived in. Think about your regular habits. Do you usually watch TV for a couple of hours in the evening? Do you always leave a light on in the hallway overnight? Set timers to power up your lights, TV, and radio at the times you’d normally have them turned on.
  8. Empty your fridge, freezer, and garbage cans. Even though the fridge and freezer may seem like safe places to leave food until you come home in the spring, they won’t do you much good if they stop running (during a power outage, for example). It’s safer to empty your fridge and freezer when you’ll be gone for an extended period of time to avoid spoilage. Don’t forget to empty your garbage cans, too.
  9. Drain the pipes. Take these simple steps to turn off your home’s water supply and drain your home’s water pipes to prevent them from freezing (and possibly bursting) while you’re away.
  10. Secure the windows and doors. Check that all windows and doors in your home are locked (don’t forget the basement, the garage, and the shed), and consider putting security bars inside your window frames on main-floor and basement windows so they can’t slide open. You could also install a company- or self-monitored security system for added protection.

While travel plans might look a little different this year, check these 10 tasks off your to-do list to keep your home safe and secure while you’re away over the winter.

Every insurance company has unique requirements you need to keep in mind when you’re going to be away for an extended period of time. Contact your group’s broker or your insurer to find out what’s required in your situation.

Know someone who’s planning on spending some time away from home this season? Share these tips on Facebook or Twitter to help them avoid trouble back home.