It seems that the news is full of reports of break-ins at empty houses. Thieves are going after anything they can sell, from brass chandeliers to copper pipes, to aluminum siding.
If you’re a landlord with a vacant rental property, or are remodeling a property to prepare it for leasing, you may be concerned about break-ins.
Here are a ten tips to keep thieves or drug users out of your vacant property:
- Install an alarm system. Some landlords sign contracts with alarm companies, and then adjust the rent to include the monthly service fee. If you have an alarm system, be sure to lock the electric meter box. Otherwise, criminals could turn off the power and enter the house after the back up battery dies. Some systems work only off of batteries and cell networks, so there are no electrical wires to worry about.
- Do-it-yourself surveillance systems with several cameras and motion detection are available for less than $500. They feature Internet and smartphone monitoring and will alert you through email or text of any activity at your property.
- Post signs that the property is under camera surveillance. Whether you use cameras or not, it may encourage thieves to move on to another property and leave yours alone.
- Your first floor is most at risk. Try installing “Protected by Security System” window stickers and exterior signs near the doors that mimic alarm company signs.
- Savvy criminals may not fall for the fake signs, but many would probably not risk it.
- Install sturdy solid wood or steel-wrapped wood entry doors. If the door has a window, install double cylinder deadbolt locks—the type that require a key to open or lock them on both sides. Be sure to check local ordinances, however—for safety reasons. A door that requires a key to open from the inside could be dangerous during a fire or emergency. You can always switch to single cylinder lock after your tenants move in.
- Buy a “FakeTV,” a small device that mimics the changing light and colors of a television. From outside, it looks like a television is on. Just plug it in and set the timer.
- Leave a radio on. Make sure it’s loud enough to hear from exterior doors and windows. You may wish to put it on a timer and set it to switch on for several hours and then switch off late at night.
- Leave some lights on. Buy a timer and have them come on in the evening, and turn off around midnight or so. Install motion-detector floodlights that cover the front, back and sides of the house. Not only will the sudden light startle would-be thieves, it will also warn neighbors that someone is outside your vacant rental property.
- If you know any of the neighbors, ask if they would like to use your driveway for one of their vehicles. They will probably appreciate your efforts to ward off thieves.
Another tip for vacant homes: turn off the water meter at the street, in case thieves do break in and steal pipes, valves or fittings.
No property is 100% theft-proof, but the more deterrents you put in front of criminals, the better chance you’ll have of encouraging them to leave your vacant rental property alone.