How To Maintain A Vacant Property

Introduction

There are times when you may have to leave your property unoccupied. It may be that you have moved home and are yet to sell or rent your house, or you are going away on an extended holiday. Alternatively, it could be that you are carrying out a major renovation project or you are an investor intending to repurpose a property. Whatever the reason may be, you will undoubtedly want to maintain your vacant property in order to ensure that it remains secure, protected and in pristine condition.

A vacant property will always be vulnerable, and it is at risk of weather damage, theft, vandalism, structural problems as well as wiring and piping issues. Fortunately, there are various solutions to any concerns that you may have, from installing sophisticated security systems to ensuring that you are protected with a comprehensive insurance policy. In this guide, we have covered everything that there is to know on maintaining a vacant property.

  1. Prioritising Security
  2. Deterring Trespassing And Theft
  3. Inspecting The Property
  4. Removing Any Valuables
  5. Protecting Your Investment

1. Prioritising security

Whenever a property is empty for substantial periods of time, security is an absolute necessity. Often, a property that has been vacant for a while can be identified as such, and there may be individuals who attempt to take advantage of this situation. It may sound obvious, but ensuring that the locks are secure is one of the most effective ways you can protect your property. First and foremost, you should examine the state and quality of the locks in person so that you can determine whether they are reliable or not. If there are any doubts, then you should have them replaced immediately.

This doesn’t only apply to your front door and back door, but also to any windows, outbuildings, garages and sheds. The longer a property is vacant the more vulnerable it is, and every potential access point to your property has to be firmly secured in order to mitigate any of these risks. If you or anyone else is frequently inspecting the property, as is recommended, then remember to securely lock any doors that have been opened before you leave. A door can be accidentally left unlocked even in an occupied home, making it a target to opportunists searching for easy entry.

2. Deterring trespassing and theft

Whilst it may be tempting to cancel utility services, you may want to reconsider disconnecting your property’s electricity supply. Lighting, alarms and cameras are an effective way to deter any opportunists from committing trespassing or theft. For example, you can purchase timers for lights that are installed between the lamp and the outlet. Another alternative is timer switches, which may have to be installed by an electrician. Smart bulbs, on the other hand, can be operated remotely and more importantly they won’t require any rewiring.

By ensuring that the lights are periodically switched on or off, it will give the impression that someone is living in or at least visiting the property on a regular basis. Outside, a motion-activated light will offer even more security. Security cameras are discreet and inexpensive, and internet-enabled and cloud-connected devices couldn’t be simpler to install. Once they have been set-up, you can view your empty property from an app on your phone, regardless of your location.

3. Inspecting the property

A security camera will alert you to any unauthorised attempts to access the property, but it won’t notify you of any potential issues such as structural problems or weather damage. By regularly inspecting the property, you can attend to any issues before they become a serious concern. If you are unable to go to the property yourself, then it is always worth asking a close friend or a trusted neighbour. If it is possible, then leaving a key with a neighbour can be helpful if you ever need someone such as an electrician or a plumber to enter the house whilst you are away.

An empty property can be susceptible to various sources of damage such as water damage from leaking or broken pipes, pests such as cockroaches and rodents, invasive mould and fungi, electrical faults or a broken heating system. Assigning someone to collect your letters is always recommended as well, and if this is not possible then having your letters kept at the post office or redirected is a worthwhile alternative. Post that is beginning to pile up or that is not collected is an indication that your property is a vacant target, whereas a property that appears to be occupied because the post is picked up is considerably safer.

4. Removing any valuables

When it comes to deterring thieves, one of the most effective preventative measures is to remove any valuables. Expensive electronics such as flat-screen televisions, gaming consoles and laptops are likely to attract thieves, and this also applies to valuable artwork and luxury rugs. An item may not have even been particularly costly, but if it appears to be expensive then it may be all the encouragement a thief requires to enter.

Even if a property is identified as being vacant, a thief may have less of an incentive to break in if they cannot see anything of value. On the other hand, even an occupied property is at risk of theft if valuables are prominently displayed or easily visible from a window. If you want to leave your property furnished, then it is advised to source some modest second-hand pieces from acquaintances or purchase them from charity shops.

5. Protecting your investment

A property is a substantial investment, and any form of damage or theft can incur a serious financial loss. Whilst a vacant property is more vulnerable, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do. This guide is an excellent starting point when it comes to protecting your vacant property and the money that you have invested into it, but the protection and assurance that is provided by an effective insurance policy is unparalleled.

There is a high chance that your standard home insurance will not cover you if your property is left vacant for more than a month. It is essential that you inform your insurer if your property is going to be empty for a significant period of time, and if they are unable to offer additional cover then you will have to purchase another insurance policy that is tailored to vacant properties. Under your standard home insurance, there is a risk that your insurance cover will be invalidated if the property was left vacant for more than a month when you make a claim. The associated risks with vacant houses have always been higher than occupied homes due to slower emergency response times.

Unoccupied property insurance, however, will protect your property from some of the most serious risks such as theft and structural damage, and you can be assured that your investment is protected no matter how far away you are.

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