Keeping Your Vacation Rental Property Secure
It’s summertime, a time of year when your thoughts probably turn to cottages, camps or vacation properties.
However, in order to enjoy them during the all-too-short summer season, you’ll need to focus some attention on securing these properties when you’re absent. Given that vacation properties, including rentals, are often empty for portions of the year, they are especially vulnerable to burglary.
Don’t Make it Easy for Would-Be Thieves
It’s up to you to ensure that their vacant state isn’t obvious to opportunists looking for a home to plunder. After all, there’s not much pleasure in discovering that your vacation home – an escape from the tensions of workday life — has been vandalized or robbed.
Many people first take steps to secure their vacation homes AFTER they have been burglarized. Why wait? As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Prevention begins by treating your vacation home just as you would your primary residence. You want to take many of the same precautions at the cottage that you do at home.
Create the Appearance of an Occupant
First of all, create the appearance that your home is lived in. Thieves love to target empty properties, since they won’t encounter any resistance. There are many steps you can take to ensure that your home appears to be occupied:
- Keep some indoor lights on a timer when you’re not in residence to create the illusion that someone is home. Lights should be on during the evening.
- Ensure that your yard is tidy year round, whether that means extra trips to the property or hiring a landscaping crew. In winter, you’ll need to have someone shovel the snow regularly.
- Meet your neighbours and identify someone you trust. Ask them to keep an eye on the property while you’re away and call you if they see anything suspicious. Knowing your neighbours has additional benefits: fewer crimes occur in close-knit neighbourhoods, because outsiders are obvious.
- Don’t let mail or flyers build up. Cancel mail delivery if you’re gone for the season, or ask a neighbour to collect it if you’re only at the property on weekends.
- Light the exterior of your home with motion-sensitive lights. Thieves work best in the shadows.
- Ensure that all windows and doors are locked every time you leave. Burglars just love properties that don’t require forced entry; it’s like having a party invitation.
Make Your Vacation Home as Secure as Your Primary Residence
For additional security, consider installing a home security system that includes remote video surveillance, allowing you to monitor your home from your laptop or mobile device. If your second property isn’t within easy driving distance, this is especially helpful. Many of these systems include a monitoring service that can alert authorities if a breach is detected or if there is a threat present.
If your vacation property is one you rent to others, you’ll have strangers coming in and out regularly. This means that there are additional precautions you should consider; the safety of your home may depend on it:
- Don’t put out a For Rent sign listing the weeks available. It’s akin to welcoming a burglar with open arms. Instead, advertise through less visible means, such as a newspaper advertisement or on Kijiji or Craigslist.
- If your advertisement includes a photo, choose a shot that doesn’t highlight the view from the street. Why make it easier for someone to identify the vacant home?
- Become acquainted with your renters by phone or in person before you sign a contract. Determine who will be living in the house and assess their trustworthiness.
- Be conscious of how much information about the house you provide over the phone to potential renters until you know more about them. It could be a thief fishing for information.
- Set ground rules for renters. Make sure they are aware of such information as the local noise bylaw, clean-up requirements and any drinking or smoking prohibitions.
- Document the condition of your home with photos taken prior to rental. The photos can come in handy if you need to file an insurance claim for damage or theft.
- Secure any valuables – or better yet, don’t have any on the property. It’s best to store your valuable items elsewhere if you’ll be renting, but if that’s not realistic, purchase a safe and bolt it to the floor. The inability to break into the safe immediately won’t necessarily stop them from carting it away if it’s not secured.
- Don’t leave the spare key for the renters outside. Thieves are smart enough to look under the front door mat, under a fake rock or in other usual hiding places. Instead, arrange for the cleaner or a trusted neighbour to provide the renters with the key.
Despite this long list of precautions, a vacation property should be a pleasure, not a burden. Once turn these suggestions into habits, keeping your cottage or camp safe should become second nature.