The number of vacant homes in the U.S. has risen from 14 million in 2008 to 19 million the first quarter of 2010. The Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) says it’s important that property owners take measures to protect vacant homes or businesses.
Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO says property protection measures are crucial for vacant buildings. IBHS provides guidance to property owners taking care of vacant homes.
Rochman says homes left unattended have appliances and pipes that can leak or burst.
Shutting off the main water from the house is really important. Because, that way if you have a toilet that overflows or leaks, or the cellanoid on your icemaker goes out, or a washing machine hose leaks, or your hot water heater burst, or whatever. If you have interior water damage that can be just as terrible as if you have wind-blown water coming in from the outside.
Rochman says it’s important that you try to make the property appear occupied.
If there’s a lock-box on the front door that indicates that maybe a realtor or property manager is coming or going, that’s a good thing. If the shades are pulled so people can’t look in to see that there are fixtures just waiting to be taken out, or copper to be taken out by vandals, that’s a good thing. Making sure that mail and newspapers don’t pile up, that the lawn is cut. Anything that you can do that if somebody drives pass casually, to think that somebody cares about and is tending to that property is going to go a long way toward reducing potential loss.
Rochman says there are other simple things you can do to reduce the risk of vandalism or other crime.
It is a challenge with a vacant property to keep people out who shouldn’t be there, either because they want to occupy the building or because they want to damage the building. So making sure that deadbolt locks are installed and that they’re actually turned so they are locked, that windows are closed all the way, or that the garage door is down and can’t be lifted up, anything that can be done to secure the perimeter, all the openings of the house, is a good thing.
Home and business owners can reduce their chances of damage to unoccupied properties by asking a friend or neighbor to help keep watch of any unusual activity.
It’s always a good idea for people to keep an eye on each others’ property, make sure you know who’s responsible for that property, if a bank owns it or if a neighbor is simply out of town, and have contact information in case something happens to that property, so someone can come and secure it if something happens.
For more hints on keeping your property safe when you’re not there, visit the IBHS website.