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How To Secure Your Empty Property?

Property Saviour » Empty Properties » How To Secure Your Empty Property?

It has never been more important to secure an empty property with the rise of vandalism and criminal damage to empty properties estimated to be millions of pounds each year.

With a rising cost of living and ever-growing demand for homes, squatters are targeting empty homes to occupySquatting in residential homes is illegal, but it is difficult for the Police to prove charges when multiple trespassers are entering a property. 

There are also criminal gangs actively looking to target empty homes and convert them into illegal cannabis factories by rewiring the electrics and turning your house into a garden, resulting in house fire.

There are several reasons why a property may become empty.   These include:

 

In our experience, the properties most vulnerable to nefarious activities are long-term empty homes.  An owner may have gone into care or passed away, and beneficiaries want to apply for probate to sell their inherited house.  An empty property could easily fall into disrepair, making it difficult to sell a run-down empty property.

Table of Contents

Can you insure an empty property?

Yes you can put a vacant property on insurance cover.  However, it will be expensive and you must regularly visit the property.  The insurance company will want to know whether you intend to sell the property or rent it and may provide you with a short-term restrictive cover if they feel that insuring it is a substantial risk, such as in areas with high crime rates.

Standard home insurance only covers property for the first 28 days of it becoming vacant.  You will need an empty home insurance policy if your property is likely empty for a long time. 

How long can a property be left empty?

You can leave your unoccupied property vacant for as long as you like however, most standard home insurance companies will only cover an empty property for up to 28 days.

Standard home insurance policies only cover it for 14 or 28 days of unoccupied cover however, if your property is sitting empty for a long term either because you are awaiting probate or it is a second home awaiting sale then it is best to take on a full perils empty property insurance. 

The insurers will insist that you visit the property once a week and keep a log with photos.

How to secure an empty house?

Empty properties can attract criminals and are prone to maintenance issues like water damage.  With empty properties becoming a target for criminals, if the council deems your property is causing a nuisance to others, they are likely to secure the building and send you the bill for it.  Or worse, they could force you down the compulsory sale route, meaning you would have to sell the property to the council.

It is the responsibility of property owners to maintain and secure empty properties to prevent causing a disturbance to others.  Given that an empty house is unlikely to be fully insured, the owner must make it safe.

Increasing the level of security provided will offer peace of mind and can reduce the risk of a break-in. When you are ready to protect the building, there are a few ways to secure your home and make it less of a target for burglars.

Whether you are thinking of leaving your house empty for three months to travel around the world or it has been vacant for the long term, we recommend these tips to protect your empty property:

  • Make sure to insure your property adequately.
  • If the property will be empty for an unknown period, consider turning off the water at the stopcock and draining radiators (check for shared water supply).
  • Install timer switches for lights to give the appearance of someone living there.
  • Add security lights to dark areas.
  • Use high-quality locks on windows and doors.
  • Hang net curtains or blinds on windows for privacy.
  • Keep the garden tidy and ensure bins are emptied and stored away to keep neighbours happy.
  • If you have a good relationship with your neighbours, inform them that the property is empty and provide your contact number for any concerns.
  • Ensure the property has a functional burglar alarm and keep all access points secured.
  • Consider maintaining low-level heating on a timer during winter to prevent pipe bursts.
  • In case of a break-in, consider permanent solutions like boarding up or steel shuttering the property to prevent unauthorized access. Various security companies can provide long-term security solutions, including interlinked alarms.

How do you maintain a vacant property?

You can maintain and safeguard your empty home by:

  1. Check locks and install anti-snap locks meeting the British Standards BS3621.
  2. Install a composite door with a solid steel frame.
  3. Ensure adequate outside lighting and an active working alarm.
  4. Regularly inspect the property – at least once per week.
  5. Keep on top of gardening tasks.
  6. Ask a neighbour to park their car on your drive. This makes the house ‘lived in’.
  7. Remove any valuables from the property.

What to do if leaving a house empty?

Whatever your reasons for leaving a house empty, these are preventative maintenance tasks you should carry out:

Check Bulbs And Batteries

Check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide monitors, as well as the bulbs in any PIR security lights or lights that are set on timers inside the house. Replace any that are not working.

Check Latches And Locks

Check the integrity of all locks and window latches to ensure they are working properly. Don’t forget to include the garage, shed, and any outbuildings you may have. Repair or replace any locks or latches that are not functioning correctly. Finally, examine all windows for any signs of damage.

Check The Guttering

If possible, climb up a ladder to inspect the gutter for any accumulation of leaves, moss, or other debris. If rainwater is unable to drain freely, it can lead to water overflow and potential flooding.

Remove All Valuables

If any valuables are going to be left in the house, make sure they are tidied away and, if possible, kept under lock and key.

Decision On Turning Off Utilities

There are numerous pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to shut off your water, gas, and electricity before leaving your home unoccupied for an extended period.

Ensure The House Can Breathe

In an uninhabited house, dampness can lead to the growth of mould. To avoid this, installing the appropriate air bricks and window vents is advisable. Your DIY abilities will determine whether you need the assistance of a professional builder or glazier for this task.

Empty The Fridge and Freezer

In the event of a power outage, your refrigerator or freezer could potentially defrost and result in a flood in your kitchen due to ice build-up. Therefore, emptying them of all food and beverages is advised and then defrosting both appliances. Make sure to dry them out completely. Keep the doors ajar to allow airflow and avoid the build-up of unpleasant smells. Remember to keep both appliances turned off.

Lock Out For Rodents

An empty house can be an attractive habitat for rodents like rats and mice, especially if there’s food around. To avoid an infestation, removing all potential food sources and sealing any entry points into the house is important.

Due to their smaller size, mice tend to inhabit buildings more frequently than rats. They can squeeze through a gap or hole as small as one-fourth of an inch – roughly the diameter of a pencil.

Inspect For Boundaries

Given the unpredictable nature of Britain’s weather, storms can hit any time of the year. Therefore, it’s important to inspect your boundary fences and walls for any damage regularly.

If there are loose panels, they should be fixed or replaced. Similarly, any deteriorating brickwork or mortar on walls needs to be addressed and repaired.

Drain Down The Property

Long-term empty properties can be vulnerable to extreme weather conditions such as the recent winters we’ve experienced.  Because of a lack of heating, the pipes can freeze, and internal flood can destroy plastering, and flooring and require a full-on refurbishment if exposure to water continues. 

Even if you have a boiler on a timer or a temperature-controlled setting, the condensing pipe outside can freeze; therefore, the boiler won’t turn on, resulting in frozen pipes.  A full drain down helps prevent this risk.

Which houses do burglars avoid?

Burglars tend to avoid houses with:

Burglar alarms

Burglar alarm systems are engineered to alert the surroundings of your property during a break-in. When the remarkably loud siren rings, it not only alerts you as the homeowner, but also automatically informs the police – a scenario that burglars dread.
If a potential intruder notices that you have a security alarm installed, they may think twice before targeting your home.

CCTV cameras

CCTV cameras have the potential to deter burglars by catching them in the act and exposing their identity. By visibly demonstrating that your home is monitored, it can dissuade potential burglars from taking the risk, especially given that CCTV footage can serve as evidence in court.

For an even more robust security system, you could consider integrating your CCTV system with a burglar alarm. This combination would provide the ultimate level of home security.

Security lights

Remaining undetected is important to burglars, so they often like to strike when visibility is low. Installing automatic security lights can startle a burglar and draw attention to them for neighbours and passers-by to see.

Before a potential burglar even gets close enough to your home to break-in, they can be deterred by the sudden bright lights.

Reinforced doors and windows

Indeed, it might seem self-evident, but robust, secure windows and doors are significantly more difficult to breach, particularly when they’re fortified with top-notch locks.

As previously noted, most burglars prefer an easy target, so make your home more of a challenge to infiltrate than it’s worth.

Paying for extra security for your home will prove worthwhile in the long run. After all, purchasing a lock is far less expensive than replacing stolen items.

Dogs

No matter how sociable your pet may be, a barking dog serves as an effective deterrent to criminals. Even the smallest chihuahua has the potential to ward off a potential intruder. The loud and disruptive noise of a barking dog often signifies distress, thereby attracting attention from neighbours and passers-by.

If your dog isn’t prone to barking, or if you don’t own a dog, consider placing a ‘Beware of the Dog’ sign outside your residence. This can serve as an additional warning or deterrent.

Irregular routines

Burglars often meticulously plan their attacks, sometimes weeks or even months ahead. During this period, they monitor your patterns to ascertain when your house is empty.

Therefore, an effective way to deter them is by making it difficult to predict your home and away times. This can be achieved by varying your weekly schedule, making you a less appealing target to potential burglars.

If you’re planning to be away for a prolonged period, there are strategies you can employ to create the impression that your house is occupied. These include:

  1. Using timers to control your lights
  2. Enlisting the help of friends and neighbours to house-sit
How to secure an empty house?
Key to keeping your property secure is putting in security measured in place, having a great relationship with your neighbours and regular inspections.

What happens when a house sits vacant?

If a house has been sitting empty for a long term and looks like an eyesore, the council might issue you with a blight notice prior to commencing a Compulsory Purchase Order or CPO.

When a house is vacant, there is nobody around to notice if things go wrong.  A small leak can turn into costly water damage and mould growth. 

This leak can easily rot away floorboards and joists over time. When a home is empty, it is neglected as there is nobody around to do any essential repairs.

Unoccupied homes are at a greater risk of storm damage, fire damage or flooding.  This is because there’s nobody around to carry out any remedial work following an incident.  The cost to fix the damage can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds and, in some cases, require demolition. Let’s review each of the risks:

  • Flooding or water leak – these can be addressed quickly with minimal damage in an occupied property, but in an empty property, the problem can exist for a long time before they are identified, by which time extensive damage has already been done.
  • Fire damagea small fire can quickly engulf an empty property because there is nobody around to put the fire out. As a result of the flames, smoke damage and water damage by the fire brigade can make the property uninhabitable and dangerous.
  • Squatters – squatters are known to target empty properties, including vacant commercial buildings. These are individuals who trespass and occupy a property illegally.  They can cause considerable malicious damage, including theft of boilers, plumbing and metal.  Squatters are costly to evict once the property becomes their anti-social hub because they can continue to return following an eviction.
  • Fly tipping – This is large-scale dumping of waste on your property. Occasional litter or unwanted items can quickly mount to a sizable waste.  When this occurs on a private property, the council can order the landowner to remove it, and you could be fined.

Pros and cons of selling an empty house

There are many cons and a few pros of selling an empty house.  The pros are that if you can find a buyer, he/she gets vacant possession of the property, unlike a tenanted property. 

Another advantage of selling an empty house is that it is not in a property chain.

Cons are:

Insuring your property to its full rebuild value is important so that you aren't under-insured in event of a total loss, you could be worst off financially.

How long can a property be left empty?

Up to 28 days but always worth checking with your home insurance company as to what they will or won’t cover you for.

Do you have to pay bills on an empty house?

Yes, you will have to pay for council tax, which can be up to 200% of the normal council tax rate, as rate relief for empty properties no longer applies. 

You will pay for utilities – standing rates for water, gas, electricity, telephone (landline) and broadband (if you have any) as well as empty home insurance.

Is it harder to sell an empty property?

Empty homes tend to deteriorate quickly, particularly if they are neglected and have an overgrown garden.  It makes it harder to sell an empty property because it may need renovating or require a thorough spring cleaning and getting rid of dust and spider webs. 

Empty homes can also become unmanageable if they are deemed to be uninhabitable. 

how to make an empty property look like lived in
CCTV cameras that give you real time alerts can put off intruders as thieves look for easier homes to target.

How do you secure a derelict building?

  1. Become best friends with neighbours
  2. Install CCTV and alarm that you can monitor in real time
  3. Make property look like it is occupied with automatic lights coming up
  4. If property has already been targeted by thieves or vandals consider selling it ‘as is’ to a cash house buyer such as Property Saviour.

What to do when a house is empty?

  1. Renovate it with a view to selling it on.
  2. Rent it and get monthly rental income coming in.  Remember with all anti-landlord media attack, the regulations are becoming much harder to follow.
  3. Sell it for cash before it is targeted by criminals.

How do you make an empty house look occupied UK?

Our guide to inherited vacant property gives you extra practical steps that make an empty probate property live like lived in.

  1. Cut the grass and keep the property tidy.
  2. Park a car on the drive or ask neighbours to do it while you are away.
  3. Install real-time CCTV system such as Ring.
  4. Use a timer to turn on lights and turn them off.
  5. Install blinds that use time to open & close.
  6. Light Up the Garden

Illuminating the garden and driving away at night can prevent intruders from hiding in dark areas as they attempt a break-in.

Lights can be used in pathways, in the shrubs, and on the perimeters of the front drive and back garden to ensure that suspicious activity is spotted.

Install an Alarm System

Home alarm systems will allow your home to be monitored 24 hours each day and will alert the authorities if someone breaks into a window or door during the day or night. Many systems, particularly DIY ones, alert you if something goes wrong, and you must manually call authorities.

But some security system companies monitor your properties and will call you or the authorities if anything goes wrong. Monitored security systems are more dependable than DIY systems. The alarm system will sound if it is turned on and someone attempts to enter the property, which can cause them to flee. Adding security signs in the garden will also cause an intruder to target a different home because they will not want to set off the alarm.

Use Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance cameras are necessary so you can keep an eye on your home at any time of the day, whether you are in the building or away at work. Install cameras at various entry points of the house, which can allow you to see suspicious individuals.

Replace Weak Locks

Replacing weak locks is necessary to secure a property. Locks are the weakest point of doors and should be durable. Replacing standard UPVC doors with steel-framed composite doors will also make it difficult to break in.

Install Timers

Install timers that will turn on lights, the television, or the radio while you’re away from the house. The gadgets are easy to install and set up. Criminals target homes that look less occupied than ones that appear vacant.

Securing your inherited house and offering more protection is a crucial step to take to keep your property safe. You can reduce the risk of having your valuables stolen and feel more at ease.

Tips for selling a vacant house

If you are thinking of selling your inherited property, then cash house buyers like Property Saviour can help you.  Property Saviour guarantees that we will buy any house fast and for cash in England or Wales.

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