Most rental properties undergo a vacancy period at some point, whether they’re between tenants or yet to be rented. Vacant property is a frustration and concern for landlords because the owners aren’t earning income during this time, and the house becomes at risk for potential problems like vandalism. A study by the US Department of Justice revealed that 4.4% of homes in 2005 were vandalized. Vacant homes tend to be more likely to be affected, but there are a variety of ways to protect vacant properties from vandalism:
Keep the Property in Great Shape
A vacant property should have the yard maintained regularly, as this appeals to potential renters and unit also signals that there are people frequently moving in and out of the property. Property owners should tend to the grass and gardens, keep sidewalks shoveled in the winter and remove leaves from the gutters. Add a few personal touches, such as welcome mats or seasonal flags, so the property does not appear vacant.
Leave the Lights On
Lighting is another important factor in keeping vandals away. The small cost of keeping utilities on between tenants allows the lights to be kept on, deterring vandalism, and makes it easier for potential residents to tour the property. Outdoor motion-activated lights flooding the yard and a few interior lights create the illusion that the house is occupied.
Install a Security System
Installing a security system can be pricey, but compared to having vandals destroy a home, this initial investment can actually save you money in the long run. According to the FBI, property crimes in 2012 resulted in an estimated loss of $15.5 billion. Future tenants can also use a monitored security system, adding to the property’s value and giving landlords an additional feature to promote.
Monitor the Property
Security systems are valuable, but nothing beats a real, live person. Landlords need to visit the property often and not on a predictable schedule. Potential vandals may watch the property for a few days before the actual crime takes place, so the landlord making random checks is an important deterrent. Stop by at various times to make adjustments to which lights are on, check that all the window latches are locked and note any projects that may need attention. Also, gather up mail or flyers at each visit and ask the showing agent to assist in getting rid of these flyers as well. Junk mail building up is a shining beacon to those looking for vacant properties.
Ask the Neighbors
Neighbors living near a vacant property are probably just as anxious to see the property filled as the landlord. It’s always a good idea for the landlord to make positive connections in the community, so let the neighbors know of your plans to find a new tenant and ask if they can assist in watching the house. Leaving a business card with contact information is a good idea so your information is readily available.
Vacant properties are not the stuff of landlords’ dreams, but they are a natural part of the business. Signs of activity, security systems, lighting and personal visits help prevent vandalism to vacant properties. Landlords should remember that marketing strategies, well-written rental ads and a presence on rental websites are important in making sure that the property does not stay vacant for long.
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