How to keep rental safe in a bad neighborhood?

14 Replies

Hi all,

We have a rental property in a not-so-good neighborhood. Didn't realize at the time of buying it that it was quite a rough neighborhood. The last 2 times that the home has been vacant during tenant turnover, it has been vandalized. We are expecting a vacancy again soon and would surely like to prevent the home from being vandalized again.

I would like to ask how folks have been keeping rentals safe in bad neighborhoods and preventing issues like vandalism. Does a security alarm system help? If so, which would be a good, affordable one? Any other things that can be done? Thanks for your help.

What kind of vandalism? Inside or outside the house? Perhaps both?

I know this may seem like a silly question, but do you make sure the outside of the house remains well-maintained even during vacancies? Have you established any kind of relationships with the local neighbors so that they might call for you in case they see something going on?

Ben mentioned some good tips. Definitely things I will consider purchasing when I buy my first multifamily.

Private Real Estate Syndication Team
ATTENTION: Learn the 7 Red Flags for Passive Apartment Investing
Do you want to learn how to know if you are investing with a good operator? Check this out now.
Read Article Now

1.  Do not put For Rent sign in front of the property..put on main entry street, / prospect gets quick prescreen when calling

2.  Make it difficult for entry..crawl space secure/locks

3.  Security doors front/back and back windows

4.  Neighbors ...get to know them and provide contact info..Offer incentive to keep an eye on the property...$20 gift card goes a long way!

5.  Try to get it rented before tenant moves out...I show to new prospect in last 30 days..

One thing i like to do is buy outlet timers and connect a lamp to them. They are set to cut on around the time it gets dark and and off during the day. Ill set two up in different rooms and have the times alternate on and off between to two. I also have a sign in the window that says "Warning: Security Camera In Use". Motion lights are definitely good and you can also buy those really cheap door/window alarms that go off anytime a door or window is opened.

Heres the outlet timer I have. Only $4

I like to put up national alarm company signs that I get on ebay. I also have a radio playing talk radio 24/7. Leave an American flag on the front flag slot or install one with two screws. Put lights on timers to go on and off consitantly. Tell a trusted neighbor to park his car in your driveway.

You could also get that device that has a loud dog barking speaker when the pressure of the home changes when a door or window is open along with a few beware of dog signs.

I heard of one experienced bper that leaves a big mean dog at property fo his rehabs.

When you enter or leave property pretend you are waving goodbye or visiting ringdoorbell like there is someone else there. "Call out I WILL BE BACK SOON JACK"  


I think a wireless alarm system is worth the investment.  It can easily be moved from house to house with vacancy and renovations in tough areas.  

This Skylink alarm system is very well reviewed on Amazon but Simplisafe is another brand

When I first started working and investing in one specific "working class' neighborhood, I had issues with vandalism when a unit was empty. I tried in the past to make the unit look occupied (radio, lights on timers, etc.) but it never worked out well. It still seemed like people knew the unit was empty because neighbors talk.

I have tried simply safe, wireless alarm system- it has worked well. The door still got kicked in but the alarm scared them off.

But what I found was the easiest was to prevent vandalism was to build a good reputation in the community, so they helped watch the unit. Next was to turn the unit as quick as possible. Then lastly, make it really hard for people to enter the unit. I would even throw up sheets of plywood of the front door just so they couldn't be kicked in.

Blinds on your windows and do pop ups at random time, get familiar/friendly with the neighbors..maybe give your number to 1 or 2 neighbors. Maybe a security system, motion detector lights, leave a light on in the house/and maybe a porch light.

In addition to the above, we also stagger contractors... so if the lawn guy is going to be there one day, we make sure the painter is another.  We keep the outsides pristine and keep trash picked up.  Make friends with the neighbors and keep a porch light on.

Aside from the above ideas, try a Live video feed inside the house that you can watch at home. Put up good lighting all around the outside of the house.  Put some inside lights on timers so that it looks like someone is home. Cover the windows with drapes or blinds. You might want to pay someone to stay at the house. A big dog does wonders! 

I have several rentals in rough areas in which break ins are a constant problem.  I have tried all kinds of different approaches, but the one that works by far the best is the simplisafe security systems.  You do not have to sign any contract, the monitoring is only $15 per month, and you can move the systems between units easily since you buy and own the equipment.  I have had some break-ins with the systems installed, and the police actually caught the burglars before they could rip out the plumbing!

I highly recommend the systems.  They have saved me a lot of headaches, and you get called as soon as the alarm goes off and the police are dispatched.  I have been so impressed with the systems that I have left them in the units for my tenants to use, which they love.  You can monitor the status online, which is nice if you have them in several locations like I do.  

Good luck!

Property Management Made Easy
Powerful Online Tool
Stress free and user friendly. From managing to advertising, SimplifyEm has got you covered!
Click for FREE Trial


@Andy K  are they getting into the house by kicking in the door? If so, my brother's company, Door Devil, has a product that helps prevent that. (disclaimer: I don't make any money from sales but, of course, he is my brother so I do enjoy helping him out with sales). I have it on some of my homes. 

Another thing is fake security cameras. They are super cheap and can be found on Amazon.