by Dakota Murphey
There are many different reasons why you might find yourself with a vacant property. Maybe there’s been a bereavement leaving a property empty and you need time to sort out the estate, or it’s a rental property without a current tenant, or perhaps you’re spending some of your time abroad, or it’s a bug out property that you can’t live on full-time because of work or some other reason.
Whatever the reason, protecting vacant property can cause a real headache, especially when you’re not in the vicinity to keep a check on what’s going on. Fear of vandalism, arson, squatting or theft can be a constant source of worry, but there’s plenty you can do to keep potential problems at bay.
- Keep the garden pruned, and waste and post collected
Nothing draws more attention to a vacant property than an overgrown garden and a whole load of waste sitting outside the front door. It doesn’t take long for waste to build up around the building from littering and adverse weather conditions. That, coupled with a pile of post on the doormat, gives a sure signal to unwanted intruders that the property is unoccupied.
Consider employing a friend, neighbor or local gardener to regularly keep weeds and rubbish cleared from your garden and doorstep, as well as to collect any post. The tidier your garden and property look, the less likely the property will appear unoccupied. If there’s a sense that the property is occupied, that in itself is a great crime deterrent.
You may wish to set up mail re-direct to avoid excess post accumulating. There’ll still be some junk mail delivered, along with advertising leaflets and possible the local newspaper, so it’s still worth asking a trusted neighbor or friend to pick that up.
Remove any expensive garden furniture and bins as these provide something a criminal could climb on to. Cut down high bushes and hedges as these provide places for thieves to hide and stake-out.
You may want to consider an exterior clean and inspection before you leave your property vacant. Cleaning gutters will help with upkeep and ensure there are no minor maintenance issues with rainwater drainage while the property is empty.
- Keep doors, windows and outbuildings secure and locked
Make sure you have approved locks on all doors and windows. If you regularly have contractors entering the building, consider changing the locks after the work is finished. Keep a track of who has a set of keys. Check your gates, garage and sheds to make sure they are also secure and in sound condition.
- Neighbourhood watch and Guardians
Getting trusted neighbors to keep an eye on your property is an excellent idea. Ask them to contact you (or a designated guardian) if they notice any suspicious activity or weather damage. That way you’ll be able to deal with any problems straight away. For example, dealing with a broken window quickly could prevent squatters or theft. A regular visitor parking on the driveway can create the illusion that the property is occupied. You could even ask a neighbor if they have more than one car if they would park one of them on your drive.
- Warning signs
Sometimes it’s pretty obvious that a property is empty. You may, for example, have extensive work being carried out or have had the windows boarded up. In this case, you’ll need other deterrents. Even if you don’t have an alarm, a warning sign that you do could be enough to ward off potential intruders. Even a sign saying Beware of the Dog could make the difference between someone choosing to break in or not.
- Alarm and CCTV
Paying particular attention to security is definitely worthwhile. While signs alluding to an alarm will go some way as a deterrent, there’s nothing like the real thing for peace of mind. Alarm systems with movement sensors will help to alert you of any intruders, so the situation can be dealt with immediately. CCTV will not only act as a deterrent, but could provide useful evidence if you do find yourself the victim of property vandalism or theft.
Monitored alarms is one thing you may wish to consider, although this will add to the cost of the upkeep of your vacant property. However, it does mean that someone will notify you and/or attend the site to check for any security breaches.
If your vacant property is in a remote or industrial area, security fencing may provide some of the protection your property needs. It will make it harder for intruders to break in. The more you do to prevent crime, the less likely it will be to occur. The visible presence of a security fence, coupled with signs, may be enough to deter an opportunist.
- Barriers and bollards
If there are large open spaces around your property, you’ll want to protect against fly-tippers, vandals and intruders. Blocking vehicle access is important as the getaway options for thieves will be high on their agenda. There are many different types of barriers, from concrete road barriers to plastic, water-filled options. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be arranged to best protect access to your vacant property. Simple metal bollards are also an option in preventing vehicle access.
Bio: Dakota Murphey is an independent writer, working with Protect Vacant Property to put together these 7 tips to help keep your bug out property protected from crime and damage.