Home security in Spain seems to be a really hot topic at the moment on the Eye on Spain message boards. I don’t really know why so much at the moment but my feeling is that many of our members are completing on their properties and making many of the common mistakes which makes them and their properties vulnerable.
In this article I am going to cover some of the basics which you should bear in mind when taking possession and moving into your property in Spain.
Change Your Locks!!!!!!!!!!
This is probably the most important thing you should do when taking possession of your new property in Spain and so often over-looked – CHANGING THE LOCKS!
Think about it. Whilst your property is being built how many people have had access to your front door key? The builders themselves, contractors, etc. Not only could some of those have made a copy (which is known to happen) but some may simply have kept a key and then reported it lost.
Most new front door locks come with 5 keys to begin with. I would be surprised if anyone gets 5 keys to their front door when they complete. In fact in many cases the developer keeps a copy of the key even once you’ve completed so that they can sort out problems that arise. So with “missing” keys, the developer’s key, other possible copies who knows how many people could potentially have access to your property.
So on day one you need to get the front door lock changed. It’s really easy and you should be able to do it yourself. The only catch is that you will need to remove the barrel (the only part that you need to replace) and actually take it to a local DIY shop (ferreteria) as there are different lengths available, so you need to get an exact fit. Obviously leave someone behind minding your place whilst you’re out!! If you can’t do it yourself then ask your neighbours or search online for a locksmith. Expect to pay probably 50 – 80 Euros for this service. Buying the lock yourself should set you back about 25 Euros.
I believe that by law the windows of new properties must be fitted with bars on the ground floor. If they’re not fitted then I suggest you do this straight away too. If you’re not on the ground floor and wish to fit bars then remember that you will need to get the community to agree this before you do it, unless they’ve already agreed it beforehand including the style you should use. Remember, you cannot change the outside of a property in a community without all the other owners consenting to it.
Obviously alarms are a valuable deterrent but you need to have a decent system installed to really make it effective. You may find that soon after you move in to your property that you will be paid a visit by a representative selling you an alarm system.
The decent systems are not cheap. By decent I mean one connected to a main control centre where if your alarm goes off then they will either contact you or send the police round. This is handy if you are not permanently residing in the property.
If you do insist on having an alarm system in place then I suggest that you don’t cave into pressure from door-to-door salespeople and do some research and compare costs, as you would normally do anyway.
Many properties now come fitted with window blinds as standard. The problem is that not all blinds are made equal. Some truly are very flimsy whilst others are designed to be impenetrable. You may choose to actually upgrade yours if you don’t feel they offer enough security to your home.
Either way blinds aren’t just there to keep the sun out. They are there to stop intruders too. Make sure every time you go out that you close ALL the blinds fully in the property. If it’s hot this will also help keep your place cool too so make sure you do it.
Portal and Garage Doors
If you’re in an apartment there are a couple of things that you and all your neighbours should always do. Close the door to your block “portal” or “bloque” behind you at all times and make sure that after taking your car in or out of the garage that the garage door fully closes and that no-one walks into the garage whilst it is open.
The problem with an apartment block is that you are dependant on your neighbours following the same precautions as yourself. For example, in our apartment block I always find the main door left open just inviting anybody to come right in, and it only takes a second to close a door. The same with the garage, although unfortunately we can’t actually close ours at the moment as the builder installed such poor garage doors. There is always easy access to all the apartments through the garage as the door in the garage leading to the apartments cannot be locked for fire reasons.
Also, if there is an intercom system don’t just let anybody in because you cannot understand them. Lots of people do this!
This one is a really common problem and again often over-looked. It mainly happens to people when they arrive on holiday and they are busy moving their luggage from the car into the apartment. It’s a particular problem when the car park is a walk away from the apartment. When people are on holiday they’re not always immediately concerned about security and that’s what thieves prey on.
People tend to leave the apartment open or unlocked whilst they’re fetching the luggage. It only take a few seconds for an experienced thief to jump into the apartment and steal whatever looks valuable, particularly small bags and money.
So be advised when on holiday. Always lock the front door even when you’re just fetching things from the car, and don’t leave all the windows open particularly if you’re on a low level.
Whilst You’re Sleeping
In the heat of summer the last thing you want to do is close your windows at night whilst you’re sleeping, unless you’ve got the air conditioning on. But you are at your must vulnerable whilst sleeping off the day’s sun and sangria.
In extreme cases where people have left their windows open at night, someone has crept in and gassed them whilst they slept and then proceeded to empty the property of all valuables. The gas makes sure they don’t wake up. These are extreme cases but they have and do happen. Unfortunately tourists are a prime target as they often come on holiday with lots of cash and credit cards.
So whilst sleeping, if you want to leave the windows open then at least roll down the blinds. Don’t leave patio doors open, unless you have a locked gate securing the entry. Buy a desk-top fan it you are really struggling with the heat and for just 20 Euros it will keep you cool whilst you sleep, without the need to leave any windows open.
Just Have Your Wits about You
Most of these unfortunate instances fortunately only happen to a small minority and all I can really advise is just that you use your common sense. Just remember that being on holiday actually makes you more vulnerable.
I hope some of the points in this article will have made you think about securing your property sufficiently. It is by no means an exhaustive list as all properties and areas are different but hopefully it’s given you some factors to consider to help make your Spanish dream just that!