You already know that you, as a landlord, have a legal obligation to provide your tenants with a safe and secure property. This can usually be accomplished by making sure that every door and window has a working lock, and there is adequate lighting around the exterior. However, even if your property is safe and secure if the neighborhood is sketchy potential tenants will continue to avoid it.
We’ve all heard how important location is when we invest in new rental properties. It’s generally not a great idea to buy a place in a bad neighborhood, and most of us wouldn’t chance it. But, even the safest neighborhoods aren’t entirely immune to crime. So, whether you’re renting out a property in a questionable neighborhood or considering the purchase of a new one, there are a handful of ways to improve the safety of your rental neighborhood – and possibly attract higher-quality, more reliable tenants.
1. Gather Information
There are a number of online tools you can use to become familiar with the crime rate and types of crimes committed in your neighborhood. CrimeReports.com and City-Data.com are good resources. If you discover that there have been instances of theft in your area you help your tenants protect themselves and their property. Encourage them them not to leave any valuables in plain view, close the window coverings at night, and maybe even suggest the purchase of a steering wheel club for their vehicles.
You can also take a look at the number and proximity of sex offenders in your area, which is a good idea because your tenants likely will too. Get to know the dangers in your neighborhood before your tenants do.
2. Install A Security System
Always encourage your tenants to keep the property secure. But, if it’s in an area where break-ins are common you might consider installing a home security system. Many of the newer systems available come with apps for your smartphone so that you can check on the property remotely – something both you and your tenant can appreciate. A downside to this safety measure is that it’s up to the tenant to arm the system day-to-day. They may not choose to use it, but most will be more than happy to have this kind of peace of mind.
3. Get To Know Your Neighbors
Your biggest asset when it comes to keeping a property safe is the neighboring residents. Introduce yourself to the homeowners, renters or landlords on your block and offer your contact information in case of emergency or concern. They will be glad to keep an eye out for you.
You can even go a step further and organize a neighborhood watch, which is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to prevent crime. Find a few neighbors who would be willing to take turns staking out the neighborhood through the night.
4. Keep It Clean And Maintained
It’s important to keep the front yard of your rental property well maintained, not only for curb appeal, but for safety too. Large, overgrown bushes are a prime hiding place for criminals while they peer into the home. Large trees, however, have been shown to deter crime in residential areas, according to astudy performed in Southeast Portland, Ore.
Also be sure to fix any broken windows, doors or other points of entry as soon as possible, or at least before dark. Find a reputable 24-hour locksmith and keep their contact info handy for emergencies.
As for the rest of the neighborhood, it can’t hurt to organize an areawide cleanup, paying special attention to any vacant, overgrown lots.
5. Upgrade The Lighting
If you don’t have them already, motion sensor lights can be very effective in discouraging criminals and can be found at reasonable prices. If the streets aren’t well lit, approach the town officials and ask them to install additional lamp posts. It may take some begging, but it’s worth a try.
6. Establish An Emergency Protocol
Make sure your tenants and property neighbors know what to do and how to notify you in case of an emergency. Ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your property when your tenants go on an extended vacation and always call you if police, fire trucks or ambulances arrive at the property.
Also, make sure your tenants know to call 911 first, then contact you if there is an emergency.
A few extra precautions like these can not only keep your tenants and neighbors safe, but possibly even catch a criminal in the act. These kinds of considerations may also help you attract and retain a better class of tenants.