I just read about a couple in South Carolina who had a rental property up for sale. One day, they received a call from one of their neighbors that it appeared someone was inside the property.
Nobody was supposed to be in the house at the time so the couple headed over to their place and when they walked in the front door the husband was immediately attacked by a man. The wife pulled out a gun and shot the man and her husband was fine.
Apparently, a homeless man had broken into the house and had been squatting there and I guess he didn’t appreciate the fact that someone was coming into “his home.” Reading this story made me think of several things that every landlord should do.
First off, you need to get to know your neighbors. Before I buy a house in a neighborhood I go knock on all the surrounding doors and ask the neighbors what they can tell me about the neighborhood and about the property I’m thinking of buying. Then, if I buy the property I go back to the neighbors and tell them that I run a very tight ship and to please give me a call if my tenants ever cause any problems and I will immediately take care of it.
On one occasion, a call from one of the neighbors saved one of my rental properties from burning down. (Before they called me, they thankfully called the fire department because my tenant left a candle burning that had tipped over and caught the mantle on fire.)
The second thing the above story reminded me is that you should always have a way to protect yourself as an investor. Personally, I have my concealed firearms permit, always carry a gun and think that everyone should do the same. After all, I value my life enough to protect myself and to make sure that some homeless squatter or crack head isn’t going to take it.
However, if you’re not into guns, at least have common sense when you go visit a property. There’s been more than one occasion when I was investing in Baltimore, MD where I trusted my instincts and did not go into a house because I didn’t feel safe.
Lastly, go inspect your vacant properties at least once per week. With the way the economy is headed there’s going to continue to be a lot of vacant houses and a lot of unemployment which means squatting will likely be a problem for landlords over the next several years.