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SALT LAKE CITY — A vacant home is a tempting target for all sorts of criminal activities, like vandalism and even illegal drug operations. Take a look at a few statistics regarding bankruptcies and foreclosures: According to the United States Bankruptcy Court, bankruptcy filings in Utah have increased 7 percent so far this year, even though the national rate has fallen 10 percent.
Although Utah’s rate of foreclosure filings during the third quarter of 2011 dropped from the second quarter, the state is still ranked among the nation’s Top 10 for rate of default filings in that time period.
As people foreclose on their homes, neighborhoods deal with the increased potential for crime. When a home becomes vacant, either through a foreclosure, repossession or even when the owners leave for an extended vacation, it’s important to make sure the property remains secure.
Malicious or unintentional property damage can end up costing banks and homeowners money, and property insurance may not cover it all. Guarding against accidents and break-ins is crucial, since the homeowner is still liable for the property during the process of foreclosure. Experts recommend thoroughly securing the property and the home before moving out, and paying close attention to the details.
Before you secure your home, realize there are certain things you shouldn’t overlook. It’s also a good idea to make sure the property doesn’t look vacant. If potential vandals, thieves and trespassers believe there is still someone living at the property, they’re less likely to target the home.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Lock up — All it takes is one window left unlocked, and the insurance company could deny any potential claim. Check all the entrances to your home — and then check them again.
- Winterize — Before a home is left vacant for any length of time, shut the water off at the main valve. You should also drain the water from the plumbing systems, and push the leftover water out with compressed air. Even a small leak can lead to a big problem, potentially costing tens of thousands of dollars in damage.
- Maintain the property —
- Lock up
- Maintain the property
- Ask for help
- Test and retest
Property preservation companies offer services to give a vacant property a “lived in” look. They’ll maintain the yard, pick up mail and newspapers, shovel snow from the driveway, and remove debris. Companies like these offer services to homeowners and banks, so a vacant property can be maintained indefinitely. 3. Ask for help —Former neighbors and friends can lend a hand with maintaining the property when it becomes vacant. Ask them to occasionally check up on the home or lot, and check for leaks, turn the blinds and monitor for trespassers.
- Unplug — An appliance that is set to “off” still draws a little power, so make sure everything inside the home and garage is unplugged. Before the electricity to the home gets shut off, pulling the plug can ensure a potential fire doesn’t start.
- Test and retest — Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, as well as security alarms, should all be functioning properly. Make sure there are fresh batteries in the units, and test them before vacating the property. “While foreclosure activity in September and the third quarter continued to register well below levels from a year ago, there is evidence that this temporary downward trend is about to change direction, with foreclosure activity slowly beginning to ramp back up,” says James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. Even though going through a foreclosure is a stressful time, ensuring your property and home are secure can save a lot of headaches in the future.