How do I protect my vacant property?

Do you have an empty house that is not well protected? Vacant houses are the most popular targets of theft, which makes it really important to properly secure them.

Your first line of defense is deterrence: Lead thieves and vandals to believe the house is being lived in or at least being watched. Don’t make their “job” easy for them.

Locks & Door Reinforcement: Properly secure your property. Doors and windows should be locked with sturdy hardware. Consider reinforcing your exterior doors by adding metal door jamb shields and hinge shields.

Neighbors: Getting to know your neighbors can be a big benefit. Good relationships with your neighbors allow you to have “eyes and ears” around your investment property. They should feel free to call you if they see anything suspicious.

Inspections: Driving by regularly and making sure the house is still secure is important. If you notice the house has been broken into, call the police and don’t enter the house until an officer arrives. Squatters living in vacant houses is a common problem and no way to know if the intruder is still in the house.

Yard and exterior maintenance: Maintain the outside appearance of the house, cut the yard, maintain landscaping, as well as any repairs that may aid in the house looking vacant.. Make sure that you also keep the mailbox from filling-up with mail. Newspapers stacking up on the lawn and mail flowing out of the mailbox is an indicator to a thief that nobody is at home.

Lighting: A well-lit exterior will discourage thieves from approaching your house at night. Lights should be placed at a height where it’s not easy to disable them and consider using motion detector lights that instantly light up an area, startling a would-be thief. Lighting the inside of the house is critical too. Using lights on timers in various rooms may make your vacant home look and sound occupied dissuading potential thieves and vandals.

Board-up: When appropriate and required you should board-up your property. Use the best method available to you that is also compliant with local codes. Remember, insurance policies will often require, as a security measure, that vacant houses are boarded-up.

Alarm Systems: Posting a sign on the front window or in the yard indicating an alarm is monitoring the house is a great deterrent, however actually having an alarm is better.

Check your insurance policy: Insurance companies are justifiably concerned about the liability a vacant home presents. You’ll want to contact your insurance company to find out how your coverage might change once the house is vacant. You should also ask if there are specific precautions you must take to secure your home, and how long the policy will cover your vacant home.

These are just a few measures that should be taken to protect your vacant investment property. The more you can do the better since a vacant house is a sitting duck for theft, vandalism, and squatters.