This time of year, when the weather is cold, is peak season for break-ins whether your property is occupied or vacant. There’s also risks from freezing water pipes and floods, so landlords need to be watchful and prepare / educate their tenants as well.
The experts at Belvoir give here seven simple steps to help protect an empty property throughout the holiday season.
Whether your tenant is planning an extended break over the festive season, or you’re currently experiencing a void period, it’s important to make sure your property is protected.
Vacant properties can quickly become problem properties so keep yours safe and secure this holiday season with these seven simple steps:
1. Visiting rights
“If your property is going to be empty for an extended period of time it’s essential that you have access in case you need to troubleshoot emergencies, such as a burst pipe or burglary,” says owner of Belvoir Bury St Edmunds and Belvoir Norfolk Patsy Day.
“Regular visits to the property will also enable you to assess and rectify issues as they arise and prevent them from escalating.
“If the property is tenanted find out what your tenant’s plans are for the Christmas break and, if they are going to be away, seek permission to enter and inspect during their absence.”
2. Maintenance MOT
“Thinking ahead is also important and there are a number of maintenance issues that you should be looking out for before the property becomes vacant,” says Patsy.
“Firstly, make sure your property is water-tight and weather-proof. Roof tiles should be secure and guttering and drains should be clear and debris-free.
“Ensure outside taps are lagged so they are protected if a frost does fall, likewise pipes in the attic should be adequately insulated too.
“Also make sure the property is secure and all locks are working properly. Perhaps add window locks and locks on gates if there currently aren’t any.
“If your tenant pre-pays for fuel, as part of your maintenance MOT you may also want to check that there is enough oil in the oil tank or enough gas and electricity already paid for. This is particularly pertinent if timers are going to be used while the property is empty.”
3. Lights, camera, action
“Intruders like dark hiding spaces and places so help protect your property by ensuring it’s well lit,” says Patsy.
“Perhaps provide internal lamps on timers. These can be placed in different rooms and are inexpensive and simple to install.
“Outside lighting is helpful too. Lights with motion sensors that detect movement are especially effective.
“To counteract crime and monitor activities at the property while it is empty there are also a wide range of intruder cameras available to purchase,” she continues. “Additionally, if the property is fitted with a burglar alarm, make sure that it’s in good working order and your tenant knows how to use it.”
4. Possession lessons
“Many of the break ins that occur over the Christmas period are carried out by opportunists so it’s vital that your tenant doesn’t tempt them to your property by leaving expensive possessions on display,” says Patsy.
“Of particular interest to opportunistic thieves are laptops, iPads and jewellery as they are small, portable and easy to sell. Make sure your tenant understands that these should be stored away safely before the property becomes vacant. If they have items of high financial or sentimental value perhaps these could be taken off the premises too.
“In addition, providing slatted blinds that can be tilted can be useful. They effectively restrict the view into a room without having to draw the curtains which simply draws attention to the property being empty.”
5. Neighbourhood watch
“Another useful ally in the fight against opportunistic crime are the neighbours,” says Patsy.
“They can keep an eye on the property, listen out for any unusual activity, plus regularly pop in if they hold a key.
“Understand all the signs and signals that indicate a property is empty and ask the neighbours to help create the illusion that there’s someone home.
“Many neighbours will be happy to turn the lights on and off, put the bins out on the correct day, pick up post that’s stacking up behind the door, plus remove any mail or newspapers that have been left hanging out of the mail box.”
6. Under cover
“Having good insurance cover is crucial at any time of the year and is of particular importance when the property is vulnerable throughout the cold winter months and when it is vacant,” says Patsy.
“Check your policy to make sure you’re adequately covered for all potential issues. Check the small print too. Some insurance policies stipulate certain conditions that have to be met if a property were to be left empty for an extended period of time.”
7. Experts on hand
“To help ensure your property is kept safe, secure and setback-free it’s also useful to utilise the services of your local letting agent,” says Patsy.
“If a letting agent is managing the property for you they should be able to carry out regular inspections, troubleshoot emergencies and arrange specialist contractors if needed, such as locksmiths, electricians and plumbers.
“We are industry experts and will also be able to provide advice about how you and your tenant can help protect your property over the festivities,” she concludes. “We can help you create a check list of simple steps to take before your tenant locks up and leaves and explain how these can be executed effectively so that happy holidays don’t turn into horror story homecomings.”
Belvoir website at www.belvoir.co.uk
Belvoir offers winter security advice… https://t.co/VLezPoJNAP
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) December 22, 2016