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Rental properties are at their most vulnerable when they are empty, which can become far more of a problem for landlords in the summer months.
July and August are, of course, peak holiday season for many, with people jetting off to warmer climes for a few weeks or staying put in good old Blighty. It’s also the school summer holidays, meaning many parents use it as an opportunity to take their kids and get away from it all for a while.
As a landlord, you may have tenants who fit this bracket. Your rental homes could be filled with families after a much-needed break, young professionals jetting off on city breaks and heading to festivals, or students returning home for the holidays. This will leave your home unoccupied and potentially at risk. What, though, can you do to mitigate these risks and keep your property safe while your tenants are elsewhere?
We take a closer look…
Don’t leave things on display
If tenants are going to be away for a while, make sure they don’t leave valuable items – such as jewellery, iPads, games consoles, smartphones and expensive watches, etc – that could tempt an opportunistic burglar. Most burglaries are opportunist rather than pre-planned, so tenants should be advised to keep valuable items hidden away or out of sight. Blinds and curtains are a good way of stopping people looking in to a home, although closed blinds and curtains may also have the reverse effect in suggesting that the home is empty.
Whatever steps you take, ensure nothing that might lure a burglar in is left on display.
Set the burglar alarm
If your rental property possesses a burglar alarm, make sure tenants know about it and, even more importantly, know how to use it. If they know they are going to be away for a few weeks (or longer), ask them to set the alarm before they leave.
It’s also vital that you know the security code, too – after all, if there’s an emergency you will need to be able to gain access to the property without alerting the police.
Use the neighbours
A certain well-known TV programme said good neighbours can become good friends, and it’s certainly a wise idea for you and your tenants to develop a friendly, cordial relationship with those who live in the homes either side. Neighbours can also prove valuable when your tenants are away, keeping a watchful eye on the home, reporting any suspicious behaviour and even taking steps (if they and your tenants are happy for them to do so) to create the illusion someone’s still at home.
This might include putting the bins out on the appropriate day, pushing post through the door if it’s stuck in the letterbox (a sure sign that no-one’s in) and maybe even mowing the lawn or looking after the garden to create the impression that the home is still occupied. What’s more, if they have a key to the home, they could open and close the curtains each day to keep opportunist burglars at bay.
Keep things on the down-low
In this modern, social media-dominated age, people like to share their whole lives online, in particular when it comes to holiday plans and holiday snaps. Tenants, however, need to be wary of sharing too much on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as this could advertise to other people that no-one is at home.
As a result, it’s wise to warn your tenants to be selective about who they share their upcoming holiday plans with. As criminals use increasingly sophisticated methods to track potential targets, posting holiday pics and updates online could mark a tenant out as someone who is not at home. This, in turn, could leave your rental home potentially vulnerable to a robbery.
Seek advice from the experts
If your rental property is set to be unoccupied for a period of time, lean on the support and guidance of your local letting agent, who will be able to offer top tips and advice on how to keep your home safe.
Make it seem like someone’s home
The majority of burglaries take place when a home is left empty. As a result, it makes sense to ensure your rental property appears as if it’s occupied even when it isn’t.
There are a number of clever tricks you can employ to make this so, including setting timers on internal lights and maybe even a radio to give off the impression that someone is in. In addition, getting your tenants to cancel any newspaper deliveries while they are away and, depending on the length of time they are gone for, temporarily redirecting post could both help to bat off issues. Post stacking up behind the front door can be a particular issue if a home has a porch or a door made from glass.
Pop in a few times
If your tenants are away from home for a period of time, it’s a wise move to check up on the property to ensure everything is present and correct and nothing untoward has taken place. This doesn’t mean you have to visit every day, or even once a week, but visiting every so often will give you and your tenants’ peace of mind that the home is well-protected.
Ensure the home’s locked-up
This might sound obvious, but it’s still something many people forget to do. Locking all parts of a home before they leave should be a priority for tenants, but it’s a good idea to remind them of their responsibilities – all lockable doors will need to be locked, all windows and internal doors closed, and checks made to ensure all locks are secure and fit for purpose. If a fire were to start while the property is unoccupied, closing the internal doors will help to stop it spreading rapidly.
If the rental home has window locks, make sure that keys have been provided to tenants and that they are aware that they will be expected to use them when leaving the property for a period of time.
Doing a quick sweep of the home before they leave the house will help tenants to know for sure that they have locked everything up.
If you would like further guidance on buying or selling a property in North London, East London, Hertfordshire or Essex, we would be delighted to help. You can get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook or contact your local Kings Group branch.
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