It’s time to get ready for “vacay” - that is, vacation-related vacancies! While not all tenants might choose to vacation in the summertime, it’s undeniable that the majority of the working population prefers getting away in the warmer weather. As numerous tenants prepare to leave for their summer vacations, it’s important to start thinking about the common risks and major issues that vacant (even if only temporarily) homes are uniquely vulnerable to, and prepare accordingly. Especially for independent/isolated properties and ones that are left vacant for considerable lengths of time, taking steps to prevent break-ins, maintenance emergencies, resulting damage and other unpleasant “welcome home” surprises is a fundamental priority that property owners and managers should make sure to plan for. This week’s checklist will go over the most important to-do’s that landlords and tenants should work together on completing before anyone leaves for their vacation.
The first and most important step is reaching out to tenants to stress the importance of checking in and communicating planned vacations. Property managers and owners should keep track of vacancies to then monitor and take care of the property while the tenants are away, and address any issues that would otherwise go unnoticed…and worsen significantly over time. It’s also fundamental to explain to tenants that this is in their best interest.
Empty houses are preferred by burglars, since breaking in is easier when they are undisturbed. In the summertime, break-in rates soar. Burglars will stake out entire neighborhoods to identify and target houses that appear vacant. Here are some tips for making a property seem occupied, which keeps it from catching the eye of burglars, and avoiding the resulting loss of thousands of dollars from damage.
- Advise tenants to pause or stop any mail or magazine subscriptions, which would otherwise pile up and suggest vacancy. Another option would be to offer picking it up for them.
- If vehicles are left at the property, advise tenants to completely empty their interiors, or park inside a garage or protected lot. Vehicles remaining parked on the property and in the same spot for long periods of time can suggest vacancy.
- Arrange for landscaping services to be scheduled. An overgrown lawn also suggests that the property has been vacant.
- Install bright, motion-activated night lighting. These lighting systems are a great safety feature as they create a spotlight effect that discourages burglars from attempting break-ins.
- Keep in mind that a wide variety of security system types exist. While some are more sophisticated than others, more affordable types are still a great safety tool, which can even sync with your smartphone to relay real-time updates.
Unexpected breakages are common, and a flooded home can easily become reality if adequate precautions are not taken seriously before leaving for vacation.
- Locating and shutting off a home’s water valve makes it possible to turn off water supply to appliances and pipes. By doing so, any kind of breaks or issues resulting from faulty appliances won’t ultimately lead to leaks and floods, which can be a costly consequence.
- Remind tenants that there is no need to heat the house while it’s vacant: most water heaters come equipped with a “vacation mode” switch that should be activated before leaving for vacation. This energy-saving mode ensures much lower bills.
Bonus tip: A property can easily turn into a off-putting hub of foul odors when the garbage disposal is not properly cleared. It’s important to remind tenants to clear their garbage disposal by turning it on for a few seconds and making sure that all leftover scraps are flushed, which makes it so they don’t remain stuck in the sink’s piping to rot and produce foul smells.
- Remind tenants that unplugging all electrical appliances will allow them to both save money and prevent all the major issues that could arise from short circuiting.
- Let tenants know that in the summertime, setting the thermostat in “vacation”/“away” mode or adjusting the indoor temperature to match outside temperatures will allow them to save energy and thus money.
- It’s always good to touch bases with tenants and verify that even the most obvious precautions and steps have been taken. Was the garbage taken out? The fridge emptied? Are pets going to be taken care of?
- Checking smoke detectors and other safety alarms to make sure they’re working is another important step.
- Setting up a timer for indoor lights is an optional step that can help with making a home look occupied and less likely to get burglarized.