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Foolproof Security Tips From the Pros

January 14, 2016

Winter’s quickly approaching, and for most of us, that means scrambling to winterize our properties and making sure everything’s ready for the approaching storms.

While you’re bringing in the BBQ and mulching the flower beds, there’s something else that you should do: tighten up security around your properties. Winter poses some unique security challenges, and it’s a good idea to make sure your home –and rental properties are up to scratch.

Home Security Challenges During Winter

During the holidays, many people head out of town to be with friends and loved ones.

Unfortunately though, this presents a prime opportunity for criminals who are on the hunt for homes that are vacant –and easy to burgle. Homeowners and property owners alike should take special care this time of year, to make sure there’s nothing that could indicate a vacancy –whether or not anyone’s home.

Another challenge during the winter is lighting. Low lighting conditions make it easier to see if lights are on in a house, showing potential intruders at a glance if someone’s home.

Finally, while it’s the season of giving, some crooks are only interested in getting. The Grinch isn’t the only one who’s out to steal Christmas; would-be thieves are on the prowl this time of year, looking to snatch expensive gifts.

Let’s look at some tips from some experts, and see what advice they have for keeping homes safe and secure this season.

  • Secure the Property

For landlords, and renters alike –having a secure property should be a top priority. Strong locks can help to discourage would-be intruders. “Always change all locks between tenants,” advises Melissa Prandi, author of The Unofficial Guide to Managing Rental Property. This is a very inexpensive insurance policy. In between tenants, it’s important to go through the property and rekey the locks –including deadbolts, and to ensure that all of the doors and windows are secure.

  • Consider an Updated Security System

A security system can be a great amenity for a rental. A cloud-based security system is an especially great way to keep tabs on your home. A smart system will store security feeds online and can notify you via text, email, or phone call if anything’s wrong. Smart systems also sync up with other features in the home.

Your security system should be linked to your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, lighting controls and motion detectors,” says Michael Pope, owner of Audio Video Interiors.” Michael says that a security system should include alarms on all exterior doors, and at least one motion detector in the bedroom –the place that intruders go to first in search of for valuables.

  • Keep the Mailbox Empty

“An overfilled mailbox is a signal that you’re away,” says Carley Knobloch, HGTV host. “Ask a friend to empty your box and keep your porch clear of mail and fliers.” For renters, the same rule applies –tenants should be advised to stop their mail before they leave on vacation –or have someone collect it while they’re away.

  • Get Some Automated Lights

Carley Knobloch also recommends automated lights. This is a great idea if you’re out of town for the weekend –or even just out on the town for the night. Exterior lighting can also help to deter criminals –making it harder for them to operate under cover of darkness.  

“Putting some smart light bulbs in street-facing lamps or installing smart curtains lets you control them all via app while you’re away,” Carley suggests. “DIY home automation is affordable and easy to install. Put them on a random schedule to make it look like someone’s always home.”

  • Shovel the Snow

In the northern states, snowbirds often leave their homes vacant for long periods of time while they travel south. But security experts remind homeowners that a snowy drive is a sure sign of a vacancy, making a home vulnerable to intruders. “An un-shoveled pathway is a sign that nobody is home,” writes security experts, Delco Alarm. “Protect yourself and hire someone to shovel your property while you are away.” If you have a vacant rental, you’ll also want to arrange to have the driveway cleared when it snows –to give the home a lived-in appearance.

  • Secure Outdoor Buildings

Make sure you protect your outdoor valuables as well. Travelers Insurance reminds homeowners that burglars also target sheds, garages, and other outdoor buildings, so you may want to advise your tenants to consider stowing all grills, mowers, bicycles, and other valuable gear inside a locked garage for the season.

  • Don’t Tell the World that You’re Away

Finally, this tip is useful for both homeowners, and renters –and is something that may be worth sharing with your tenants: never post your travel plans on social media. “The number of people who do this daily is alarming,” says Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert, “…and this includes posting while on the vacation as well, putting up photos of the beach and boasting about the weather, scenery, etc. A thief reading this is like a dog watching you put steak in his bowl.”

  • Hide Your Gifts

Ok, so you don’t have to literally hide the presents –just be aware that potential thieves target homes around the holidays. “The FBI reports that around 400,000 home burglaries occur during November and December each year,” says Jessica Piha of Porch.com –a company that connects homeowners with home maintenance professionals. “Leaving valuable items out in the open, near doors and windows, will make your home an easy target for quick break-ins. Wrapped or unwrapped, if you need to leave valuables and gifts out in the open, simply draw the blinds or cover them so they aren’t easily seen.”

Winter can be beautiful, but before you get lost in the wonder of the season, make sure your home and rental properties are secure. You may also want to touch base with tenants at the start of the winter season, to inform them of potential security risks during this time of year. You may also want to give them a brief checklist of things that they can do to keep themselves and the rental safe this winter.

Remember to stay safe –and enjoy your holiday season!

If you’re heading out of town this winter, now is a great time to think about enlisting the services of a professional property management company. A property management company will be able to keep an eye on your rental for you, year round –and will be able to handle any issues that arise. Visit Renters Warehouse today to learn more.

Photo Credit: Epicantus