How to Secure an Empty Property Against Theft, Vandalism and Squatting

Whether you’re a residential or commercial property owner, it may not be convenient or possible to keep your building occupied at all times. Now and again, your property may stand vacant for a spell. Whether you’re between tenants, or looking to sell, a vacant property usually entails expense and hassle. Empty buildings are more likely to be targeted for theft, vandalism and squatting, so if you haven’t taken steps to deter these threats, vacant property security will be a top concern. 


Hiring a private security company can be expensive even for a day or two, and costs can sky-rocket over longer periods. But don’t worry. Here are our top tips for securing your vacant property.



Lock it Up


Ensuring that all windows and doors are locked may seem elementary, but it’s always worth checking that those easy-to-forget access points like the window above a toilet, or a garage door, are secure. If the doors and windows are locked internally, it may be worth investing in heavy bolts and padlocks that can be easily seen from the street. Ostentatious locks will not only improve your security but make the building resemble Fort Knox—always a good look for a vacant property!


Get Friendly with your Neighbours


If your vacant building is in a residential part of town, consider striking up a relationship with your neighbours. One of the most effective ways to deter threats like vandalism and squatting is to respond quickly to any signs of shady activity. You’re much more likely to be able to intervene or call the police if your friendly neighbour alerts you by text when they spot something suspicious like a broken window or unauthorised people coming and going. 


Prompt Waste Removal


Nothing says ‘vandalise me’ like a property strewn with litter. Not only can waste become hazardous to the public if left unchecked, but it can encourage illegal behaviour on your property. Of course, keeping your vacant property free of waste might seem pointless when nobody’s home, but the converse is also true: visible waste on a property is one of the main symptoms of neglect, a key signal to passers by that nobody is home. To ensure that your property invites only the right kind of attention, it’s essential to either regularly clear the property of waste yourself or enlist professional site clearance or waste removal services to take care of the property for you, and ensure it looks well maintained.


Maintain the Garden


If your property has a garden, take care not to let the vegetation become overgrown, as it can provide welcome cover for potential vandals and intruders. If green fingers are not among your super powers, a gardening service might be your best bet.


Warning Signage


Installing signage that alludes to various security measures (even if you have nothing of the kind) has been shown to deter intruders to some degree. A sign that indicates that you have an alarm system, CCTV, a security team or a drooling dog with a spiked collar, could deter someone who is making a choice between your building and the empty house next door. 



Install Alarms and CCTV


Many property owners go the low-cost route of erecting signage claiming that alarms and CCTV are in action when in fact there is no such surveillance system in place. While this may fool some would-be intruders, it will certainly not fool them all. Depending on factors like the neighbourhood and the size and type of building, you may find that either an alarm system or CCTV (or both) is necessary to secure your property. A mobile alarm system, ideally one equipped with infra-red sensors, means your chosen security company will be alerted to any unauthorised access, prompting an immediate response. 


Installing CCTV cameras is a good option if you’re prepared to invest time in keeping watch on your property. Security cameras trained on your buildings and perimeter can act as a deterrent in their own right, and you’ll also have valuable recorded evidence should you end up prosecuting in court. If you’re installing CCTV at a business or residential address, just make sure you take care to adhere to the appropriate data protection law. Not everyone wants to splash out for security cameras, though. If CCTV is out of your budget, and you are unlucky enough to have to deal with a robbery or incident of vandalism, it may be worth asking neighbours if they have CCTV footage that may be helpful. 


Pretend Someone’s Home


Creating the impression that the property is occupied is no replacement for real security. That said, little details can make all the difference. Take the time to collect the post regularly, and consider installing timers on your lights. Even parking your vehicle in the drive for a few hours while you run errands in the area can be helpful. 


When in Doubt, Change the Locks


If your property is going to be renovated while it’s vacant, or you have enlisted contractors for repairs and maintenance checks, you won’t always be around to personally escort people in and out of the property. Handing over spare sets of keys or providing access codes may be unavoidable, especially if you have letting agents involved in your search for tenants, but it’s still important to keep track of all comings and goings and ensure you change the locks or access codes on a regular basis. When there are several parties requiring access at different times, make sure you know who is responsible for each set of keys, and regularly check that all sets are accounted for. 


Board Up Windows


If you expect to find tenants or sell the property any day now, you might not wish to commit to boarding up your windows, as this can seem like a fairly drastic measure, and will make the building appear derelict. That said, boarding up the windows and doors can give you added peace of mind when it comes to security, which may be worthwhile if you know your property is going to be vacant for the foreseeable future. Timber boarding also really comes into its own when you need an emergency measure following damage by fire or vandalism. Steel security screens are even more secure, and may be a good option if your property feels especially at risk. 


Fence the Perimeter


Security fencing can be a useful measure if your property is in a crime-prone neighbourhood or industrial area, where intruders are unlikely to be disturbed or even noticed by passers by. Security fences provide that extra barrier that could make the difference, especially if you opt for a fierce looking fence!


Erect Barriers


Large open spaces on industrial properties make them especially vulnerable to theft and fly-tipping, a thorn in a landlord’s side! Blocking access for vehicles is a fantastic way to minimise these risks. Concrete barriers the gold standard when it comes to securing vacant industrial property, but even plastic barriers can be highly effective.


Property Guardians


Paying a security firm to guard your property is one way to deter theft, vandalism and squatting, but the costs can be prohibitive. These measures we’ve suggested can go some way to securing your empty building without breaking the bank, but they are not without cost, and none can be effective on their own. If you’re looking for a zero cost solution that offers complete peace of mind, consider installing property guardians. With Blue Door Property Guardians, your property benefits from the constant presence of reliable occupants, saving you money on security costs, as well as maintenance and other expenses. (You also stand to save significant sums on vacant property business rates!)

Get in touch with us to find out more about our zero-cost property guardianship services for landlords.


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