Home Alone

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Not everyone has the same integrity when looking after someone else’s property. Your children, for instance, are not necessarily the best candidates to look after your home while you are on holiday. Only the very naïve would say that their adolescent child would never throw a party and you won’t believe what havoc 50 inebriated teenagers can cause in your home. Movies have been made about this.

Unfortunately some potential house-sitters, despite butter not melting in their mouths, have also seen the movie and will revert to puerile party behaviour as your car disappears over the horizon.

The fact of the matter is that you need to carefully vet anyone who is going to be looking after your home while you are on holiday. Your only other option is to leave your home vacant, with all the attendant dangers of finding an unfurnished house on your return.

Crime increases during holiday periods, but not only in coastal holiday resorts. Criminals are fully aware of the potential pickings available when most inhabitants of inland regions migrate to the coast. Asking the police to keep an eye on things while you are away is to assume that the police have little else to do with their time and, with corruption statistics as they are, may be like asking the cat to watch the canary. You’d be best advised to check what your insurance company stipulates regarding leaving your home unoccupied.

Unless your neighbours own their own security company, asking them to mind the property is not only grossly unfair; in most cases it is completely ineffective. The upshot of the matter is that the best solution is to have someone reliable house-sit your property, leaving you free to enjoy your holiday.

A growing number of people advertise their services as professional housesitters. Although this option is potentially viable, beware the potential risks involved. Housesitting is not a regulated industry, so bear in mind you are literally giving strangers the keys to your home. The moral of the story is: check them out carefully. Word of mouth appears to play a significant role in the choice of housesitter used, however, it is always wise to vet any candidates carefully, including undertaking extensive background checks to ensure that the housesitter you are employing is an honest, reliable person.

Those who are going to utilise the services of a housesitter need to remember the following:

• Notify your security company that someone else is residing on the property.

• Familiarise any animals with the person staying on the property.

• Leave written instructions as to how and when animals must be fed.

• Ensure that your insurance covers the housesitter for personal injury whilst in your home.

• Warn the housesitter of any potential hazards around the property.

• Supply a written list of rules as to what may and what may not take place on the property during your absence.

• Inform the neighbours that someone else will be staying on the premises.

House-swapping between friends has also become an increasingly-popular way for homeowners to enjoy their annual break. Apart from the cost effectiveness of the entire exercise, it ensures that both properties are occupied in peak crime season. Although viewed by many as an effective way of ensuring that the property remains safely occupied during their absence, the same steps should be taken to ensure that everything runs smoothly while the homeowner is away.

Holidays are a time to de-stress. By taking the right steps and putting the right people in your home you will go a long way to ensuring that you return home refreshed and ready to take on the world for at least another year.

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