Do you own a rental home in Baltimore County?
If so, then you probably know that although the county’s vacancy rate is at an impressive 5.89%, far lower than the state’s average of 6.49%, your home will sit vacant at one point or another for an extended period of time. That is simply the nature of owning a rental property.
What you may not know, however, is how susceptible that vacant property becomes to would-be thieves and acts of vandalism during its vacancy. After all, empty homes are the easiest to break into and there is usually a relatively low possibility anyone will even notice.
6 Steps to Protect Your Vacant Rental
Although rental properties can be great investments, they can quickly become security nightmares if you do not take the necessary steps to safeguard them.
Costly property damage can put you back thousands of dollars. Replacing stolen appliances can dent your pocket even more. And let’s not forget the loss in rental profits you will experience while repairing your home so that it is livable again.
It is important that you understand the loss that can occur by not properly protecting your vacant rental property.
Luckily, there are several things you can do to protect your investment property from a break-in.
1. Ask Your Neighbors for Help
If you know your rental home will be vacant for some time, consider asking your neighbors to keep an eye on the property for you.
This is especially easy in areas such as Essex that have tight-knit communities where people tend to know each other, or in neighborhoods that have a Neighborhood Watch Program.
Ask them to report any suspicious people or noises to you or the authorities and be sure to thank them with a small gift around the holidays or by letting them park their car in your extra space.
2. Maintain Signs of Activity
There are plenty of small things you can do to make it appear as though a tenant is living in your vacant rental.
- Keep up on your yard’s landscaping – Lawn maintenance and tree care should be one of your first priorities when it comes to protecting your vacant rental. An unkempt lawn is the first sign that no one is living in your property. Mow the lawn, trim the trees and shrubs, watch for trash in the yard, and fix broken sprinklers. If your rental property is in between tenants for the time being, grooming the yard is something that should be handled anyways to maximize your ROI by placing a high-quality tenant in it. Plus, it will make your neighbors happy.
- Light up the exterior – Consider installing motion sensor lights on the exterior of your home to deter criminals from breaking into your vacant home in the dead of night. It is also recommended that you install timed lights on the exterior of your home. If you simply leave the porch light on 24 hours a day it will become obvious to someone scoping out your vacant property that it is indeed vacant.
- Use your window coverings – This gives the appearance someone is home. Try leaving the downstairs ones closed and the upstairs ones open.
- Regularly inspect the property – Check all locks on your home, including the garage door and all windows.
- Get an alarm – A security alarm will add peace of mind knowing someone will be alerted should anyone attempt to break in. Further, you can post signage around your home that your property is armed to prevent attempts.
3. Visit Often and At Different Times
Visiting your vacant property regularly will do two things for you.
First, it will give the impression to anyone watching that someone lives in the property.
Second, it will allow you to inspect the home for any signs of a forced break-in or property damage. Check all locks and look for broken windows.
Make sure you visit often and never on a regular schedule. Always showing up on a Saturday morning will tip off anyone watching that you do not reside there.
4. Screen Potential Tenants
Though you should be using Baltimore County’s best property management company around, if you have potential tenants contacting you directly regarding your vacant rental that is available, be aware how much information you divulge. Compromising specific details about your vacant rental over the phone to a stranger may set your home up for a break-in.
If you own an investment property in regions such as Dundalk or White Marsh try taking advantage of Bay Management Group’s thorough tenant screening process to avoid handing your vacant property over to a thief.
5. Stop Advertising with Visible Signage
If your rental property is in Catonsville or Towson, you undoubtedly experience more turnover than the average landlord. Though not your fault, these student-populated areas have an influx of tenants moving through town on a regular basis.
It would seem easiest to place a ‘For Rent’ sign in the window or yard of your vacant rental to advertise that the property is available. Yet this only signals to those wanting to break-in that you are not around and the home is free to rummage through.
Try using Bay Management Group for marketing your available rental home. Not only will your property only be exposed to the best tenants Maryland has to offer, they can get your property leased quickly so it does not stay vacant for long.
6. Get Vacancy Insurance Coverage
Understanding the insurance coverage you have on your home, especially while it is vacant, is essential when it comes to protecting your vacant rental. While Baltimore County defines vacant as “…any unoccupied structure that is unsafe or unfit for human habitation or other authorized use,” your insurance company may have a different definition and not cover you in the event of robbery or vandalism to your ‘vacant’ property.
Insurance companies typically allow 30-60 days for the owner to find another tenant before cancelling the primary coverage policy. After the allotted time to find a new tenant expires, your insurance company may deem the property ‘vacant’ and require an additional, often more expensive policy, to cover damages incurred while the home is unoccupied.
Make sure you check with your insurance company so that if the unthinkable happens you are adequately covered.
Living in a place such as Parkville may offer you extremely low turnover rates because tenants tend to lease for longer periods of time while they raise their families. However, tenants do move at some point and will leave you with a vacant rental. By heeding the actionable tips mentioned above, your vacant rental property will be better protected and less likely to incur you costly damages due to break-ins and vandalism.
But do you want to better your odds of having a protected vacant rental?
Consider Bay Management Group for all of your property management needs. Priding themselves in quick rentals through their dedicated marketing of properties, chances are your rental home will not be vacant for long anyways.
In addition, Bay Management Group can provide you a whole host of other management services after your investment is leased that will give you the peace of mind that everything is taken care of.