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14 things you must do if you have a vacant property

3 months ago
14 things you must do if you have a vacant property

At one point in time almost every landlord will find themselves with an empty property. Normally, it’s only for a matter of days or weeks until a tenant moves in but there could be some unavoidable circumstances that leave your property unoccupied for a prolonged duration.  

Reasons a property may fall vacant

These circumstances include renovating or extending a property when it’s first bought or between tenancies, making repairs when a tenant moves out, putting the property up for sale with vacant possession and failing to find new tenants.  

Additionally, landlords with holiday lets, as well as second home owners, may find their properties are empty for months at a time, while some people become responsible for an unoccupied home if they’re a named administrator dealing with probate.

Why worry about an unoccupied property?

An empty dwelling can be a target for all sorts of criminals. If occupying a property, unchallenged, for long enough, squatters can take legal ownership of a house, while fraudsters will specifically target unoccupied homes, using fake identities to put the home on the market and even conduct viewings in order to unlawfully sell the property. Vacant properties are also appealing to vandals, criminals looking to undertake illegal activity and fly tippers.  

As well as law-breaking affairs, an empty property can lose value if its condition deteriorates. Landlords used to having tenants let them know about small niggles might find a small leak in the bathroom, having gone unnoticed in an unoccupied property, turns into a major flood that brings the ceiling down.  

Finally, many landlords are surprised to know that their unoccupied properties are also uninsured – a grave mistake given the risks outlined above. Here are 14 things you must do if you have a vacant property:-  

1. Get a specific unoccupied property insurance policy: standard home insurance products will typically become invalid if a property is left unoccupied for more than 30 days (check the terms) but a specific unoccupied property insurance policy will cover vacant periods of up to 12 months.

2. Schedule in-person visits: as well as being able to physically inspect the condition of a property, a regular flow of people will send a message that the residence is being observed. Our property management service can include a vacant home monitoring brief.

3. Secure entry points: most burglaries are committed by opportunists, so don’t give criminals any reason to gain access. Make sure all locks are in working order and utilised, replace any broken doors, gates, window panes and perimeter fencing, install motion-sensor lights and door bells, and consider a monitored burglar alarm or CCTV.

4. Remove the contents: the less there is in the property, the less there is to steal, become damaged or insure.

5. Use timers: set digital or manual timers to turn on/off lamps and a radio to give the impression that someone is home. When it comes to light, set an upstairs lamp to come on at a different time to a downstairs one. 

6. Never leave tools on site: if you’re renovating a property, ask trades to take home their tools at the end of the day.

7. Park on the driveway: if the property has a driveway, temporarily park there on a regular basis.

8. Redirect post & deliveries: as well as a giveaway that no one is living at the property, post that’s hanging out of the letter box is an open invitation to ID theft. Have an amazon account? Ensure the vacant property isn’t your default delivery address.

9. Use the boiler’s frost protection mode: this will ensure the water in the boiler doesn’t freeze when subject to low and sub-zero temperatures.

10. Keep the heating on low: set the thermostat so the heating comes on if the room temperature drops below 12°. This will prevent water in the pipes from freezing, expanding and bursting.

11. Don’t neglect outside space: criminals will look for clues that a property is unoccupied, and unkempt gardens won’t go unnoticed. Mow lawns, especially at the front, clear away rubbish and trim back overgrown trees.

12. Notify the electricity supplier: it’s not unheard of for a neighbour to tap into an adjacent property’s supply to steal electricity. Let the current supplier know the residence is vacant and ask them to monitor any usage.

13. Ask tenants about extended leave: if a renter books a round-the-world trip or travels abroad for work without your knowledge, your buy-to-let may unwittingly become unoccupied. Encourage tenants to tell you when they’re going away for an extended period. 

14. Use Land Registry’s services to prevent property fraud: use Land Registry’s alert service to be notified if someone applies to change the register of up to 10 properties you own. Land Registry will also allow you to put a restriction on the titles. 

Our experts are here to help with all matters of buy-to-let and property management. Get in touch if you’d like advice or help with a vacant dwelling.

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