Over the summer, when a lot of us Kiwis head away for a break, we often leave our homes and/or our pets in the care of friends, family, or professional house or pet sitters. But before you hand over the keys, here’s a few things to consider.
Are you covered?
House sitters often enjoy all the comforts of home in exchange for making sure everything on the home front runs smoothly in their absence. However, if you engage a house or pet sitter and they steal anything or clean out your home while you’re gone, or damage anything, it may not be covered by your insurance.
Natasha Morgan, Founder of My Home Watch and Home Security Expert says, “If a house or pet sitter, family member, friend or neighbour you choose doesn’t live up to their billing, it can ruin the entire holiday experience for everyone. We hear stories about this daily from our customers.”
Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton told stuff.co.nz in August 2018, “Accidental loss and damage are covered as standard but all insurers will have exclusions for deliberate damage and theft caused by people lawfully on the property, including house sitters and their guests, so be aware who you are getting to house sit.”
It really does pay to check your insurance policy for what is and isn’t covered and if you are in any doubt, contact your insurer for clarification.
6 things to look out for when looking for a great carer for your property and pets
- First impressions count. Experience, skills, and qualifications should be considered along with your gut feeling!. An individual with experience and good skills will be able to look after the home better. They will also be equipped to handle challenges and find solutions to problems. Even the best-maintained homes can throw surprises and they should be capable to handle them.
- Love for pets. Look for a person with a genuine love for pets. Caring for a pet involves extra responsibilities and it is important that the carer is up to the challenge. Apart from providing food, water, and companionship, they also need to be comfortable with general pet care, and, if required, administering medication.
- Reviews or references. Ask for references and contact the people providing the references for peace of mind. Always look for companies with good reviews.
- Flexible with dates. Things don’t always go to plan on holiday so if the house sitter is able to be flexible with dates they will be more able to cater to any changes in your schedule.
- Great communication skills. Choose someone with good communication skills so that you can be reassured that you have left your home and pets in good hands.
- Consider a professional service that’s insured.
Tips for peace of mind when you’re away
- Ensure that your house or pet sitter understands exactly what your expectations are. For instance, are they allowed to help themselves to food in the cupboards? Are they feeding the pets once or twice a day? Are they bringing in the mail or putting out the bins? Do they know where to feed the pets?
- If your sitter isn’t able to meet your pet(s), ensure that they have a description so they aren’t feeding the next door neighbour’s cat!
- Written instructions are helpful as a reminder for the sitter.
- Lock away valuables and move breakables into safer positions.
- Make sure you have stocked enough pet food plus a bit extra so you don’t have to rush out to get food as soon as you get home, or there is enough if you get delayed.
- Ask for the mail to not be put on the kitchen bench or dining table where a huge pile of junk mail can be a heads-up to a prospective burglar looking through the windows that you are away.
- Ask a neighbour, family member or friend to also keep an eye on the house from time to time so that you can address any issues early on. Give their contact number to the sitter in case they are unable to contact you.
- Remember to check your messages regularly while you are away.
- Investing in surveillance cameras is a good way to keep an eye on your property while you are away as many of the modern systems can be accessed by smartphones.
- Ensure that if you are posting holiday snaps on social media while you are away that you are only sharing them with trusted friends and family. Maybe just wait until you’re home to share.
- Show your house sitter where your emergency supplies are kept – just in case.
This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ, with content provided by My Home Watch.
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