Rental properties can be great investments, or security nightmares. Whether you’re a landlord who lives down the street, or an out-of-state (or out-of-country) real estate investor, you have concerns about your vacant property. Read on for five steps that you can take that can help reduce the risk of vandalism, theft, or other crimes to your property.
- Take down the “For Rent” signs. Think about it: you don’t want to advertise that your place is vacant – or worse, that there are new Maytag appliances sitting inside. There are many other ways you can market your home for rent (ads online are a good start).
- Keep up the yard. Maintaining your rental property’s yard makes it appear as though a tenant is living there – even when there isn’t. (And not only will weeds, broken sprinklers and over-grown grass make your property look abandoned; they might also keep potential renters away.)
- Put the lights on a timer. Leaving a porch light on for 24 hours a day is just as noticeable as a property that is completely dark (especially to a criminal). Having the lights go on a regular schedule gives the appearance that someone is home.
- Use the blinds. There is a debate in the law community over whether it is safer to leave blinds opened or closed for better security; I recommend both. Keep the downstairs blinds closed (so that no one can see in) and leave the upstairs blinds open (so that it appears that someone is home).
- Screen interested callers. However you advertise your property for rent, you can’t control who contacts you. Use caution when speaking to interested renters: revealing too much detail up front may compromise the security of your rental property. Is a caller really interested in renting your property or is the caller trying to find out where your obviously-vacant property is located? You can never be too sure – which is why it may make sense to hire an experienced property management company to do the tenant screening work for you.
As a rental property owner you want to attract potential renters, not criminals. Posting a real estate ad with the description “move-in-ready, fully-furnished, new appliances” is going to pique people’s interest – but, you just want to be aware of who you attract.