How to keep your empty property safe and secure
Summer means lots of things to different people. The World Cup. Wimbledon. Barbecues. Days at the beach. Summer holidays. As a landlord, those last two words should strike you with some trepidation, if not fear. When your tenants go on holiday, your property sits empty; a potential target for vandals, burglars, and squatters.
Here are our tips for landlords to keep their property safe while tenants are away on their summer hols.
1. Make sure the doors are locked!
I know it sounds stupid, but you should remind your tenants to lock the doors and windows before they go on holiday. This means all doors: front and rear house doors, shed doors, and front and rear gates. You’ll be surprised how many people fly to the summer sun and forget to do so.
When you know the date your tenants are due to be away on holiday, call them or email them to wish them a good, relaxing break – and mention the doors and windows.
2. Arm your property with alarms
An alarm system on a buy-to-let property could command an extra rent payment – everyone wants to feel safe and secure. It’s also a big deterrent against burglars.
If you have provided an alarm system, make sure that your tenants know how to use it, and that they have provided you with the code for emergencies while they are away. An extra tip here: make sure the alarm box is placed in a visible position. The majority of burglars don’t want the problem of disarming an alarm before they enter a property.
3. Make it look like someone is at home
This is probably the best deterrent of the lot. Providing your tenants with a few light and television/radio timers is a small investment compared to the security they provide. Show your tenants how to set lights to come on and off at regular intervals, so that it looks like someone is at home and moving around the house.
Setting a radio or the television to come on in the evenings provides an audible misconception that someone is home.
4. Redirect post
Depending on how long your tenants are due to be gone and the amount of post they usually receive, it could be a good idea for them to have their post redirected while they are away. A pile of mail on the doormat is the biggest giveaway that a property is ripe for burgling.
5. Warn your tenants about the antisocial side of social media
Social media, such as Facebook, is great, isn’t it? You get to keep in touch with your friends, and let them know what you’re doing, with whom, and where.
Warn your tenants that if they post their plans on social media, they are telling the world and his dog that their home – your property – is going to be empty. That’s asking for trouble. Tenants should tell people what a great time they had after they have returned, and not what a great time they are hoping to have before they leave.
6. Check your insurance policies
Most landlord insurance policies have conditions about how long your property can remain empty before the policy becomes invalid. Check how long your tenant is likely to be away, and then check with your insurance provider that cover will remain intact. If it won’t, then the provider may be able to switch you to a vacant property policy.
7. Have your property inspected before and during the tenant’s holiday
A pre-holiday inspection gives you, or your investment property manager, the opportunity to run through some of the security measures outlined above. It’s also a good idea to get the tenant’s permission for a ‘mid-holiday’ inspection. This gives you the right to enter the property and ensure that all is as it should be. A dripping tap can quickly develop into a damaging flood.
An inspection also puts a car on the drive, again making it look like someone is home.
Put it all in writing
As you can see, there are many precautions you should take to keep your property safe when your tenants are away on their summer holidays (or other times of the year, too). It’s in your tenant’s interests to do all they can to help you.
By providing items such as alarms and timing switches, you will give them the tools to secure their property. My last piece of advice is to include clauses in the tenancy agreement that ensure your tenant employs reasonable precautions when they go on holiday to ensure their home is safe.
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