Properties become vacant or unoccupied for a number of reasons…Tenants move out, elderly owners pass away, prior owners list the homes for sale, etc. The number of vacancies tends to increase as the economy gets tougher as well. Whether it is a large commercial building or a small single-family dwelling, being aware of the potential hazards surrounding vacant occupancies can cut your chances of loss. Here are some helpful tips:
- Let local authorities know the property is not occupied. This way, law enforcement can monitor the risk for unauthorized access or other unwanted activities.
- A property that looks unoccupied is at risk, so put lights and radios on timers so that they go on and off throughout the day and night.
- Stop mail at the post office so that it does not accumulate.
- Have a caretaker or property manager visit periodically to keep an eye on things.
- Buckled sidewalks and fallen tree branches are hazards and liabilities. Driveways and sidewalks should be free from snow and ice during the winter months. Have regular work performed to keep the place in good shape. Small landscaping maintenance can reduce the risk of accidents when showing the property and can cut the repairs that a property will need before it’s in move-in condition.
- Maintain the heat at 55 degrees or higher during colder weather to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting, which can cause major damage. If maintaining heat is not an option, the pipes can be drained and blown out by a licensed plumber with water completely shut off. It’s also important to check pipes (especially copper, which can be subject to theft).
- Make sure that the HVAC system is inspected and maintained.
- Inspect spaces throughout the property to ensure that wild animals haven’t made a home there.
- Limit fire risk by making sure the buildings’ sprinkler systems are up to date.
- Hook up smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide detectors so that they ring at the local fire department. If a fire does start, this can ensure that it is handled quickly.
- If there is a pool, completely draining the water and cover the pool to prevent the premises from being an attractive nuisance.
- Secure the premises by locking all doors and windows. In addition, make sure that any burglar alarms are fully functioning and ring to the local police station or alarm monitoring company.
Addressing these common risks can help owners rest easy that their vacant and unoccupied properties are safe.