7 steps for protecting your vacant vacation rental property

Worried about the risks of having a vacant short-term rental property? Follow these 8 steps and protect your units when they go unoccupied.
Hosting Advice
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October 17, 2023
min read
7 steps for protecting your vacant vacation rental property

In 2021 alone, there were over 6,000 counts of home burglary in the United States.* And, since three quarters of home break-ins occur when no one is present, leaving your vacation rental vacant may cause you some anxiety.**

Whether it’s a few isolated gaps in your booking calendar or an extended off-season, chances are your short-term rentals will be vacant at some point during the year. If you live next door to your units and can stop by frequently that’s one thing, but how realistic is that for most property managers?

It doesn’t matter if you run your properties remotely or are in the same city as where they’re located—checking up on your vacant units isn’t a realistic solution for people managing multiple properties. Yet leaving your units unoccupied without taking precautions could place your properties at risk. 

We’re here to discuss those risks and give you eight steps to take so you can protect your vacant rental properties. 

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*FBI Crime Data Explorer 

**Simply Insurance

Understanding the risks of a vacant property

It’s not just break-ins you should be concerned about—there are a number of risks associated with having vacant short-term rental properties. 

Property damage

When you’re not there to monitor the state of your property, damage can easily go unnoticed. This can encompass everything from vandalism to weather damage, and the longer you go without addressing the issue, the worse it can get. 

Break-ins and theft

Depending on where your property is located, plus how long it’s left vacant for, break-ins and theft can be a concern. Additionally, depending on where you operate, you may need to be wary of squatters, who have more rights in certain countries than others. 

“Keeping a property empty is very high risk business, as squatters are constantly monitoring them. In Spain, for example, once they’re in, it can be years before you can get them out, and the state in which they leave the properties is dreadful.”

-Daniela Derin, Holiday Rental Manager at Skol Apartments Marbella

Maintenance issues

Plumbing issues like water leaks and burst pipes may not be too big of a hassle if addressed immediately. But when left unchecked, they could result in water damage that necessitates costly repairs. 

Safety concerns

When your property is unoccupied, there are certain safety issues you need to have on your radar. For example, faulty wiring could be a fire hazard, and old appliances can develop gas leaks. 

8 tips for protecting an empty vacation rental property

While vacant properties have their risks, you can take proactive steps to prevent issues from taking place. Follow these eight tips to protect your units and help your property owners feel at ease when your short-term rentals go unoccupied. 

1. Use remote monitoring

Remote monitoring is perhaps the most important element of vacant property protection. Remote monitoring encompasses a variety of areas, including home alarm systems, noise and occupancy monitoring, and temperature and humidity detection. 

When you use remote monitoring, you can be tuned into everything that’s happening at your empty property, no matter how far away you are. Home alarms alert you of unauthorized entry, and noise and occupancy monitoring inform you if there are people in your unit when they shouldn’t be. 

Minut sensor mounted on ceiling
The Minut Gen 3 sensor alerts you of changes in noise and occupancy levels and serves as a security alarm.

Plus, temperature and humidity detection helps you protect your properties from extreme weather conditions, excessive energy use, and mold. 

We recommend an all-in-one solution like the Minut sensor. The tool has a number of features that can help you keep your property safe, including:    

Pro tip: Remote monitoring is also a great solution for guest risk management. For example, the Minut sensor will tell you if noise levels get too loud, which could indicate an unauthorized party is taking place. It also detects cigarette smoke, which can cause lasting damage to property contents.

2. Secure all entry points

It goes without saying you want all access points to be completely sealed and secured when your property is unoccupied. But your solutions need to be cost-effective and suitable for short-term rental management. 

We recommend using smart locks instead of traditional key locks. That way, previous guests aren’t able to make a copy of your key, plus they’re harder to get past than traditional locks. Additionally, you can reinforce your exterior doors by adding metal door jamb and hinge shields to prevent someone from forcing the door in. 

When it comes to windows, you want to frequently check your locks to make sure they work, as well as inspect frames. Depending on the age of the property and its location, it’s possible for window frames to rot, which can make them easy to push in. 

If you want to be even more secure, consider installing window security films or polycarbonate safety shields, which are much more difficult to break and penetrate. Pay extra attention to ground-level or basement windows, as these are the easiest to access. 

3. Implement smart lighting and blinds

Smart lighting and blinds create the impression of an occupied property. While we don’t recommend relying solely on this approach, putting your lights on timers can help deter break-ins. 

And though old-fashioned timers can do the trick, smart home technology for vacation rentals allows you to remotely adjust the lights in your unit, making sure vacant properties aren’t dark for an extended period of time. 

Also, you could consider investing in smart electric blinds that allow you to raise and lower your blinds remotely. Again, this creates the illusion of occupancy in a vacant building or home, as you can change the level of the blinds throughout the day (for example, raising them in the morning and lowering them at night). 

4. Remove valuables from the property

No security system or CCTV camera can replace valuables once they’re gone, and while your insurance policy may help recover some of the value of stolen goods, there’s no replacing unique items. 

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t keep anything you’d consider “irreplaceable” in your vacation rental, and this is even more true for the times it’s vacant. That means no family heirlooms, Waterford crystalware, or vintage chandeliers (no matter how much you think your guests will appreciate them). 

Additionally, if you have a months-long off-season or know you have a big gap in your booking calendar coming up, consider removing expensive items like televisions, gaming consoles, or any other valuable goods in your unit. 

Living room with TV
If your unit is going to be vacant for a lengthy period, consider removing expensive electronics like televisions. Source

5. Arrange regular maintenance

As we discussed above, maintenance issues can pose serious risks to a vacant property. If a pipe bursts and you don’t find out quickly enough, you may be looking at a flooded basement. Or a faulty socket could lead to burned-out wiring. 

So even when there aren’t guests at your property, schedule regular maintenance to ensure everything is safe and up to code. This includes: 

  • Plumbing maintenance to check for leaky or damaged pipes
  • Electrical maintenance to prevent possible accidents
  • Checks to ensure the structural soundness of the property including wobbly steps, paving that could cause a guest to trip up, or blocked drains
  • Maintenance on any outdoor amenities like pools or hot tubs
  • Yard maintenance to check for any branches that cause obstructions or could fall on the property or nearby power lines

6. Check your smoke/CO alarms

We probably don’t need to tell you you should be using fire, smoke, and CO detection solutions. But what good is a fire alarm if it isn’t working correctly?

For example, if you’re using a 9V smoke alarm battery, you should replace it every six months at a minimum. While lithium batteries last significantly longer, you should still make a habit of checking them every six months. It’s also advisable to change the batteries on your CO detector twice a year.

And when it comes to the devices themselves, they don’t last forever. Smoke detectors should be switched out every eight to ten years, while CO monitors have an average lifespan of five to seven years. 

7. Enlist the help of a neighbor

If you install security cameras, they need to be pointing away from the property in order to protect guest privacy. But even with security cameras in place, you may wish to reach out to a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your property when it’s vacant. 

There’s no need for them to check in every day, but you can ask your neighbor to alert you if they spot any suspicious activity. Also, it can be reassuring to know that someone's available to investigate should you remotely notice signs of activity.

“At least install an alarm and a smoke detector, so that even if the owner is far away, they can be notified if there’s an issue and can send a neighbor. But never leave properties empty and [fully] unattended, especially in seasonal destinations where out of season there's no movement—a nasty surprise will most likely await you one season or the next.”

-Daniela Derin, Holiday Rental Manager at Skol Apartments Marbella

Get peace of mind and protect your properties with Minut

Whether it’s your own property or units you manage for third-party owners, keeping your vacation rentals safe is a daunting responsibility—both when they’re booked with guests and when they’re vacant. 

While you can’t always be physically present to monitor your short-term rentals, there are steps you can take to keep them safe when they’re not occupied. These eight strategies will help you protect your vacant properties: 

  1. Install a noise and occupancy monitoring device
  2. Regularly check that all entry points are secure
  3. Implement smart lighting and blinds
  4. Remove valuables from the property, including television screens and speakers
  5. Implement regular maintenance checks
  6. Secure or store outdoor property contents
  7. Regularly check your smoke/CO alarms
  8. Enlist the help of a neighbor

If you want an all-in-one solution that serves as a security measure for your vacant rentals and a solution for guest risk management, consider Minut. With features that range from 100% privacy-safe noise and occupancy monitoring to motion detection and a security alarm, you can rest assured your properties are safe, whether they’re hosting guests or sitting vacant.

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