What are the risks and how can you prevent them?
Theft and vandalism
Thieves often monitor areas over time to identify target properties. Empty properties can become prime targets for trespassers and vandals looking to cause damage and destruction. Consider installing CCTV as a deterrent, in particular motion activated CCTV which could notify you of potential intruders.
Unoccupied properties are often a target for trespassers seeking shelter. , this may not deter a squatter. Regular visits to your property can deter unlawful tenants by demonstrating that someone is actively managing the property.
Escape of water claims can often run into the thousands, particularly if they go unnoticed for a few days. Whether it’s a disintegrated washer in a tap or a pipe that has seen better days – there are some preventative measures that you can take to minimise the risk. Visiting the property regularly to check for signs of water damage can help you spot the signs of a potential leak early. Alternatively, you could always turn the water off at the mains to stop the water at the source or invest in smart water leak detection equipment to send smartphone alerts in the event of a potential leak.
Slow ingress of water
Damage to the roof or clogged up, overflowing gutters could cause a slow ingress of water that may not be as noticeable as a burst pipe, but the effects could be just as devastating, if not worse. Look out for small patches of damp appearing on wallpaper or ceilings or water collecting near pipes and taps and regularly clear the gutters and check the roof for any signs of damage.
Fire and arson
While arson attacks are often specifically targeted, the effects of any type of fire can be devastating. All rental properties must have fire alarms installed by law. Perform regular checks on them to ensure the batteries are fully functional and consider installing a system with remote signalling or linking them to a monitoring station that notifies you when they are triggered. Avoid leaving combustible materials near the property if you are carrying out any work and consider putting a lock on bins if they are kept outside the property. Some landlords even take measures to seal off the letterbox so large volumes of post cannot accumulate and pose a fire risk.
Insects and infestations
Unoccupied properties can sometimes become a bit fusty and damp and can sometimes attract all manner of creepy crawlies, particularly if any leftover food has been missed in the clean-up. While there are many measures you can take to deal with infestations, prevention is best to minimise damage that could be caused, and pest control is not always cheap!
Keep a log of general maintenance checks such as:
- Cleaning gutters
- Maintaining external woodwork
- Checking the roof for any signs of damage or wear and tear
- Lagging pipes ready for winter
Any work that has been carried out should be recorded for future reference
Useful tips to protect your student let property
- Ensure that either you or someone you trust visits the property at least once a week to check for any signs of damage so you can catch a problem before it becomes a nightmare.
- Remove all the contents, particularly anything of value or items that could be theft attractive
- Inform your insurer and check your policy wording for any conditions of cover while your property is unoccupied
- You can always install lights on a timer in some rooms so they come on and off at specified times. Nowadays you can purchase smart lights that you can control via your smart phone to switch them on and off at different times. Similarly, you can buy curtains that close automatically to give the appearance of occupancy.
- If you live too far away from the property to perform regular checks and inspections then you should consider hiring the services of a property management agency to do this on your behalf. Ask them to check specific items and ask for regular reports and updates
- One other option is to offer short term tenancy at reduced rates to students who are looking to stay in the area over the summer period.
Following these guidelines can help minimise the risk of anything happening to your property while its unoccupied, but there is always a risk that something could go wrong at any premises, occupied or not. Making sure you have adequate insurance in place can give you financial protection in case something unexpected happens.