If you own a second home in France, you're lucky enough to have a relaxing retreat where you can go to get away from the stresses of daily life back home.

It's probably perfect for spending quality family time together and soaking up some summer sunshine - but it's also important to make sure that the property is properly maintained and financially covered with comprehensive holiday home insurance.

Owners of properties abroad should protect the property by taking precautions such as installing strong locks and suitable alarm systems, and make arrangements for regular upkeep to continue - even when you aren't there.

In addition, it's important to ensure that homes conform to any regulatory guidelines that are applicable in the country concerned.

For example, in France, swimming pool safety is extremely important and there are a number of laws that must be adhered to. Now that winter has arrived, it's the perfect time to start thinking about making sure your property conforms to the rules, as you probably won't be swimming for the next few months.

While the new rules came into force at the beginning of 2006, it seems that many owners haven't made the necessary adjustments, and they could be facing fines of up to 45,000 euros if they are found out.

According to Lost in France, all in-ground swimming pools are required to have a suitable security system in place - and it doesn't matter if the pool is for private or collective use.

The security system must meet with standards set out by the Association Francaise de Normalisation (AFNOR), and one of the most popular solutions is to install a safety fence or barrier with self-closing and self-latching gates.

Other options include alarms and rigid safety covers - and these should be activated every time the pool is left empty, even if it's just for a few minutes.

Alarms are available in a range of types. Floating pool alarms, for example, sound whenever the surface of the water is disturbed. However, these can be unreliable, as they may not sound if somebody enters the water carefully.  Meanwhile, infrared beams may also be used. They work in a way similar to a burglar alarm and detect movement around the pool perimeter.