Theft of Hot Water Heater and A/C Unit

12 Replies

Just bought our third rent house and 3 days after closing it was broken into and the hot water heater and the window A/C unit was stolen (presumably for the copper). Haven't had this happen before and want to know how to protect the house before we replace everything. I've ordered a Simplisafe security system and will have it monitored until I can get a renter in the house. Anyone else ever had this happen? Is there anything else I should be doing? I hate this feeling of helplessness.

I'm sorry that you are experiencing this with your rental. Events such as this will really test your landlording fortitude.

I experienced something similar years ago on my D class property.  I became aware of the situation when the local police called to let me know that I was flooding the street (apparently the thieves were not considerate enough to turn off the water when they stole the water heater).  In the D neighborhoods the cash flow returns appear greater in theory, but in reality the area will always create additional wear and tear.

My solution was to build an enclosure to conceal the exposed water heater, adding "fake" security cameras (real are better but it wasn't in the budget at the time and still did the job). Additionally left a light on inside the home and spoke to the neighbor about the situation. Taking these measures prevented another theft, though it is possible the thief was just all stocked up on water heaters ;).

**Of special note** The thefts are greatly reduced when the home is occupied with a tenant.  This leads to another set of problems, because I was always really motivated to have a tenant in the home and we were not as picky as we should have been.  Because occupancy reduces the incidence of theft, you may want to wait to replace the AC until you have a tenant.

Ultimately the problems of the extra wear and tear and the quality of the applicants motivated me to eventually sell years later for a 3x gain. The proceeds were 1031 exchanged into a better C class neighborhood. Compared to D class, buying in a better (C class) area has many benefits such as less turn over, few unforeseen "emergencies" and problems.  This leads to a savings in time and frustration that lets you focus on your next acquisition.

Hang in there!

Originally posted by @Rachel Fairweather :

Just bought our third rent house and 3 days after closing it was broken into and the hot water heater and the window A/C unit was stolen (presumably for the copper). Haven't had this happen before and want to know how to protect the house before we replace everything. I've ordered a Simplisafe security system and will have it monitored until I can get a renter in the house. Anyone else ever had this happen? Is there anything else I should be doing? I hate this feeling of helplessness.

 Some form of security system is certainly better than none. 

Originally posted by @Rachel Fairweather :

Just bought our third rent house and 3 days after closing it was broken into and the hot water heater and the window A/C unit was stolen (presumably for the copper). Haven't had this happen before and want to know how to protect the house before we replace everything. I've ordered a Simplisafe security system and will have it monitored until I can get a renter in the house. Anyone else ever had this happen? Is there anything else I should be doing? I hate this feeling of helplessness.

You need Internet for  “ Simplesafe security” Correct 

Any Internet service providers and Simplisafe security wants a minimum 12 months contract. 

How do you get the Internet service for a few months? 

People will steal anything. I've had a HEDGE stolen before- about 15 bushes. Just this week someone stole a small retaining wall made of landscape bricks. I don't have advice for you other than, to a certain extent, it's just part of investing. 

That said, I do have a SimpiSafe set up for my personal home and it's great. 

Originally posted by @Rachel Fairweather :

Just bought our third rent house and 3 days after closing it was broken into and the hot water heater and the window A/C unit was stolen (presumably for the copper). Haven't had this happen before and want to know how to protect the house before we replace everything. I've ordered a Simplisafe security system and will have it monitored until I can get a renter in the house. Anyone else ever had this happen? Is there anything else I should be doing? I hate this feeling of helplessness.

good idea with the simplisafe. I setup mine in the kitchen with the motion sensors only so that if they try to go near the WH they wont have time to take it before alarm goes off. I only activate it for the time my unit is vacant as service is month to month $25/mo. Can be easily moved from unit to unit as needed (but be sure to change the registered address when you do). Uses cellular, no wifi required.

Other things I do is add dusk/dawn exterior LED light fixtures on the entry doors so that the house is well lit at night and deters folks from trying to break in. You can also buy dawn/Dusk LED light bulbs and pop those in existing fixtures and leave them on until occupied. doesnt cost more than pennies a day in electricity. leave on flood lights if they are present at the property.

Also can leave on talk radio, a room or two lighting inside the house. and make sure all blinds are drawn. they even sell timers that randomize lights turning on and off. Can buy timer switch with randomizer or a plug in timer for a plug in light. I think exterior lights are a pretty good deterrent vs a completely dark house and are pretty sufficient though. depends on neighborhood.

Here is an amazon basics photosensor light bulb 2 pack that is easy to put on the front and back door entry lights for perimeter lighting. Highly recommended for quickly and easily creating effective outdoor security lighting:

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonB...

Home depot also has these in single packs for around the $4-6 per bulb.

Thank you to everyone that has responded! There are a LOT of great tips that I plan on using until we can get a renter in the house. Good to know that others have used SimpliSafe and it's worked for them. I also didn't realize it didn't require wi-fi, so that's going to save me $50/month. We have Cox Cable in our area and they do offer month-to-month plans for internet, but no reason to do it if it's not needed. I also purchased the dawn to dusk light bulbs and will get those installed this week. Grateful for this forum as it's given me some reassurance. Thanks again!

My house is in a somewhat better neighborhood, but I put a couple of interior lights on timers while I was rehabbing it.  The living room had a swag light left by the previous owner, so I just plugged that in to a timer.  In one of the bedrooms, I plugged a timer into the wall, a triple-tap into the timer, and one of these things into the triple-tap for an economical lamp.  Or, hit the ReStore or thrift store for a bright orange 70s table lamp.  :)  If you're doing any electrical work, sometimes you might need to move the timers to another room, or run an extension cord, if part of the house is without power overnight.

If you buy a digital timer (anything fancier than the kind with the round dial with pegs around the edge), play with it at home a little bit to see what it does when the lights go out.  Some of them will reset to 12:00 and no program when the lights go out; some will handle short outages but not long ones; some of them have a battery and will keep time even with long outages.  The analog kind (round dial and pegs) will always start back up right where they left off, which is the right thing to do for shorter outages.

If you put in any cameras as part of your security system, check the video from them, if you can, after the first couple of days and nights.  Sometimes what looks like a good spot for the camera turns out to be looking straight into the sun early in the morning or late in the evening, or the video gets washed out when an interior light comes on, or whatever.  Moving the camera, or temporarily installing blinds or curtains, can help.

I had a unit where they stole all the appliances just weeks before a move in.  For unoccupied units, I get a security system that works on cellular service and has doorbell camera. Unless appliances are already inside, they go in last. A steel enclosure over condensing units, and refrigerant locks on r-22 units, are common. We don't really have exterior water heaters here in the DMV

@Rachel Fairweather  

I'm sorry that this is happening with your rental. If it is going to be vacant for a while, you could like some people suggested add cameras, turn on the porch light or I heard from another investor that he stayed in the house with his dog. I don't think that the property was in a class D property, but all suggestions. 


Good Luck and let us know what you ended up doing.

Alex

I've been traveling for my day job and haven't had a chance to deal with this house. I was also waiting on delivery of the SimpliSafe alarm system I ordered. It's been installed and is monitored and definitely gives me peace of mind. Contractor is going to install a new hot water heater and build a closet around it (complete with screws to secure it) to make it a lot harder to steal. I feel like this was a crime of opportunity and by making it harder with the addition of a closet and an alarm system, it should be fine until we can get a renter in the house. I also did as others suggested and installed dawn to dusk light bulbs on the exterior and I'm leaving a couple of lights on inside the house (all blinds drawn) to help light it up. I'm done traveling for work and will be going by on a regular basis to let any would-be thieves know that someone could show up at anytime. Contractor said he should be done with everything by this weekend and then we'll work on getting it cleaned up and online to rent.

Again, I appreciate everyone who responded and I appreciate you sharing your stories to let me know I'm not alone. What a great resource!

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