Crime Proof Your Properties: Lessons from a Gang Threat
The phone call came late on a Friday night. My contractor told me that a neighbor had stopped by to pass on some news. A gang was targeting our almost rehabbed duplex. According to the source, a gang was waiting for all the "goodies" to be installed, then they planned break in and steal everything. In my head, I started adding up the costs of the new furnaces, hot water heaters, cabinets and light fixtures. I tried to slow my heart rate, thanked my contractor and told him I'd think about a plan and get back with him in the morning.
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I can remember exactly how I felt that evening. Mostly, I felt a lack of control. How was I going to ensure that my property was safe? I went to sleep that night being grateful, very grateful, for the neighbor's warning and the contractor's follow up. I woke up and decided to fight back.
I came up with a game plan that I now use for securing all lower end properties. Let’s face it. Some of us don’t start out buying golf course and lakefront rentals. So, if you are purchasing in medium to high crime areas, you need to consider securing your properties.
Here’s what you can do to fight back and sleep better knowing your properties are secured.
Steps for Securing Your Properties
For my gang targeted property, I had an alarm installed the next morning. For an extra $40 bucks, I purchased a loud external siren as well. That Saturday morning, I triggered the alarm for a full 5 minutes to “tell” the neighborhood gang not to mess with the property. The alarm worked; nothing has been stolen from that duplex.
The Big Bad Door
Buy some storm doors. Tenants feel really secure with a big bad door between them and the outside world. The safer renters feel, the longer they stay.
Don’t Mess with My Crawl Space!
Looking to donate some copper for a bad cause? Keep your crawlspace open and accessible to copper theft. Otherwise, fortify the opening. Don’t just use a measly little lock. If you are concerned about the area, add a horizontal bar and a good sized lock. What’s cheaper, buying a couple of super dooper locks or replacing plumbing, ductwork and hot water heaters?
Light Up the Place
Install some motion sensor lights. Motion sensor lights are inexpensive and tenants love ‘em.
Budget for an HVAC cage or an A/C unit cage. HVAC cages can be expensive ($200-$400), but I figure that’s a lot cheaper than purchasing a used unit for $1600 or a new one for $3K.
Thieves cost you money and can make tenants move out. Basic security like strong doors, good exterior lighting and a monitored alarm system can help you retain tenants and avoid costly vacancies and turns. Before I came up with my “anti-theft” system, I had the following stolen from my units: copper (a big ticket item to replace), a sink (a low end one at that!), 15 rows of aluminum siding (what kind of person steals aluminum siding?) and a countertop (I swear, a countertop!).
But guess what the gang got from my duplex? Nada.