Break in and theft of job site.

14 Replies

I just had an unfortunate experience with a rehab I’ve got going right now out of state. The contractor called to tell me there had been a break in and both brand new water heaters were stolen (it’s a duplex).

My question is who should pay for the new ones? Me or the contractor? I only ask because it seems the reason there was a break in in the first place was due to carelessness on the part of his workers. The new water heaters were left right inside the house in plain view through the front windows, to be installed the next day. The contractor even mentioned that they typically only bring in water heaters, furnaces, etc. right before installation and then bring them directly to the basement and install.

Any thoughts?

yes your not going to get the contractor to pay for this..  also you probably bought low end type properties were this type of thing is far more common than you really can imagine..

it was determined by one of my vendors years ago that most of the theft was done by workers of the contractors themselves.. they deliver the goods know exactly what is there come back that night and steal them.

Most folks in these type of neighborhoods only install water heaters  HVAC condenser utls literally the day the tenant is moving in.. and if its before that they hire security or someone to sleep in the unit the night before.. welcome to the reality of those areas.

@Jordan Abeel Sorry to hear about your situation. This is not the fault of the contractor. It is irrelevant that they were in plain view. It doesn't take much for a person to recognize that work is being completed on the house and keep an eye on it for an opportunity to break in and take whatever they see fit to. 

It is the homeowner's responsibility to ensure that a vacant property has things in place to prevent break in such as setting up a radio to play while vacant, leaving a light or two on, removing things from plain site. The contractor was just doing his job and it is your job to manage the contractor. I understand where you are coming from with them leaving it in plain site, but it is not their responsibility to prevent break in, it is yours. Do you have insurance and is that insurance inclusive for a vacant property? Some policies are not vacancy specific and it is important to have a policy that does include this for circumstances such as this. 

You should check out Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) it was brought to my attention by a fellow BP member who is a veteran investor. It discusses actions you can take to protect your property. There is a ton of literature on it that can help you to prevent this from happening in the future. 

Hope this is helpful and I wish you the best for the future. 

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police report filed?  Insurance claimed?

windows blocked? 

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Jordan I feel your pain this happened to me in Chicago and Joliet areas...nothing is going to stop this kind of stuff unless u have a person living at the property and they may not be great if they are out when thieves come in. I have been guilty of staying cheap in areas that were cheap...never buy properties in bad area is the best lesson...I had  camera installed and saw thief cut the main power line and steal the cameras in Joliet and police reports and police is waste of time and insurance can be expensive...I have had simplisafe wireless alarm system that is great for identifying who comes in and leaves..because you can assign codes to each worker.if you could have a combo system of simplisafe  or another wireless system with a camera system combo that captures who is going in and out might be your best need alarm system with video capture because we still have people leaving garbage in parking lot that alarms can't prevent...I have not come across anything better that has active alarm system with videos. Simplisafe is not good w cameras and their camera require wifi access

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It is unlikely you would prevail in a claim against the contractor based on them leaving it in plain view.  You have to establish Liability or some contractual violation and that does not seem likely based on the limited info. 

If this a vacant being renovated you should check with your agent about the coverage and deductible.  If you did not have it insured under a Renovation Builders Risk policy for this one, look into that for future flips.   That type of policy should cover for loss of building materials in the building or within a certain number of feet of the building. 

Who purchased them? If it was you by chance and you used a credit card (visa signature for example) you'd probably be able to get replacement/partial cost recovery. 

here's some more info

Thanks all for the great feedback. Police report was filed and I do have insurance. Unfortunately, job sites make easy targets and I’ve experienced this on higher end new construction sites in CA as well. In that case, it was someone who had been on the job site and came back. Doing some research, but seems like Simpli Safe or something along that line would be a worthwhile investment. I appreciate the words of wisdom in response to my first BP post!

I have seen it dozens of times. Like Jay Hinrichs said, often it is the guys on the crew who steal form the job site. Some may say that it is part of the cost of doing business, but I had a friend who had the copper wires stripped from his $2 million dollar house during construction. Will something like Simpli Safe help? Maybe but odds are if they work on the site they will know you have it and cover their faces, they might even steal the cameras too. Jay was right if you are in a bad area don't install until you have somebody living there. 

I've always covered my windows.  At first I tapped drop cloths over the windows with finish nails complete with fancy little folds, but on my last house I used that white  painters' plastic and taped it to the exact shape of the glass. It let light in, it allowed for easy access to open the windows, and I didn't have to deal with cloths falling down (a problem with sliding glass doors). It's cheap and lasts.

Also on my last house I reached the point where I bought remotes for the garage door opener to replace those lost by the previous owner. 

In my garage was my nice $600 table saw and on the FIRST DAY of having remote access to the door I shut the door when I left. I remembered something, opened the door to run back in, and then I returned to my truck and drive off without closing it.

This was also a rare time when I did not return for 2 days, but when I came back nothing was touched. Neighbors FTW! It's nice knowing that the person in the neighborhood who would have stolen something was the one that used to live in that house and got a new home rooming with Bubba in the big house with fancy metal bars.

We are in some rough areas and like Jay said we put water heaters in on rental day and even try to make HVAC so simple that we can take it all to the warehouse during rehab and vacancy periods. One of the simplest things to do on copper theft is to randomly leave a couple chunks of pex in the flower bed by the doors. Yep, the thugs think you changed out the copper and go next door. We are rehabbing one right now that they went thru a peak vent to steal a 40 gallon water heater, seems like a lot of work for 20 bucks on Craigslist !!!!

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