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When the economy slows down, people often resort to desperate measures just to get by. After the 2006 – 2007 housing bubble popped, the United States began to experience an increase in vandalism and theft. With household income down and repair costs going up, landlords and property managers have found themselves walking into properties that have been stripped down.

They took what?

Property managers dread calling their clients with bad news, especially if its going to cost them a lot of money and there isn’t really a good reason why. Most robbers are looking to get in and out quickly, especially if the property is occupied by a tenant. If a home is occupied, the things that are typically stolen would be electronics, jewelry, or anything else that can easily be taken without a lot of effort.

Vacant properties are another story. When robbers know that a home is empty, its like a shopping mall. They can do some window shopping during the day, maybe evening do a showing to case things out. Then they decide to make their final selections and check out during the night. Thieves can take their time when they know that someone isn’t coming home after a long day at work. They are generally looking to take high value items such as the appliances. If they are skilled, they may take things such as cabinets, air conditioning or heating systems, and even doors or door hardware.

What can I do to prevent vandalism?

Don’t be so obvious and setup deterrents. One of the first things a property manager will do when listing a house is to put up a for rent sign. While its easy enough to go online to see what homes are being advertised for lease, a for rent sign makes it much more obvious. Signs can be a useful tool to get your company name out there, but property managers should be careful when putting them up especially in areas that have higher crime rates.

Another helpful tip is to make sure that the window blinds are partially or fully closed. Make it difficult for people to see into the home. If they think someone is living there, it can reduce the chances that the property will be broken into. One trick would be to purchase a small lamp that is set to go on during the night until 10pm or 11pm using a timer.

Checking on the properly regularly will also help deter thieves. One of the first things you will notice about a vacant property is the growing pile of newspapers or advertisements on the front porch. Another charming feature is a massive amount of weeds growing in the yard or the spooky cobwebs around the house. Stopping by the property once a week to check on it and to take clean up any of these pesky items will not only make it less obvious that the property is empty, but it will also help it show better to prospective tenants.

Additionally, security systems can help make the house less appealing to vandals. While most landlords do not want to pay for a security system, that doesn’t mean you can’t put up signs or stickers which can trick someone into thinking there is an alarm system. Although you have to be careful when using this on a vacant property as a prospective tenant may think there is an alarm system and they could be very disappointed to find out later that there isn’t one.

How can I track them down?

Unfortunately, property managers can’t pull out their GPS to find the person who stole the tenant’s TV.  However, the first thing that should be done is to notify the police. Whether or not they can come up with any usable evidence, it is usually required to file an insurance claim which is the second step. Depending on what was taken, the tenant and landlord should contact their insurance company to discuss coverage. Its trickier on vacant properties since some insurance companies do not cover vacant properties, which is becoming more and more common. This is something that landlords should look out for and will be discussed more in another article.

Vandalism and burglary is very frustrating. It upsets the tenants leaving them feel violated and not secure. Landlords can’t stand when it happens because it creates an unnecessary added expense and can even result in delays when trying to lease out their property. The best thing to do is to take preventative steps or to have adequate insurance in the event that it happens to you.



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