Property Management Blog

Dangers of a Vacant Property in Portland

What worries you most about your Portland rental property being vacant? 

If you’re like most property owners, you’re thinking about the loss of rent. That’s a tough consequence to deal with when it comes to an unoccupied property. There’s no money coming in and the lack of cash flow not only disrupts your earning potential, it also causes quite a bit of stress. 

There are other dangers lurking as well. 

You’ll have a lot of liability resting on that empty property. There could be a risk of theft, vandalism, undetected repairs, fire, and other losses. 

Here are some of the dangers associated with a vacant rental property. All of them are very good reasons not to leave your property vacant for too long. We’re also providing some professional tips on how to avoid those long vacancy periods.

Expenses Associated with a Vacant Portland Rental Home

With a vacancy, there is no rent coming in, and the easy math tells you that you’re losing money on your investment property. If you’re a multi-family investor and we’re talking about just one unit that’s vacant in a building of four or six apartments, you won’t necessarily face total financial ruin when one tenant moves out and another tenant is slow to move in. But, you’ll feel the loss on your accounting reports. 

With a single-family rental property, the lack of rent will make ownership more expensive. The success of your investment depends on consistent rental income, and any gaps in income will be difficult to make up. 

You don’t get to hit the pause button on the expenses associated with your vacant property, either. Not only are you missing those rental payments, but you’re also paying out of pocket for things like landscaping, utilities, pest control, cleaning, marketing, and other services. 

There may be additional insurance required, too. Some insurance companies will be nervous about a home that’s vacant for too long. Check your policy, because you may need additional coverage if your home is empty for 30 days or more. 

Vandalism and Theft Risks in Vacant Properties

A vacant rental home in Portland will attract the wrong kind of attention from the wrong kind of people. Your empty property is vulnerable to vandalism issues and even theft. 

You might find windows broken from the outside. After a week or two of vacancy, you might walk into your property and notice that light bulbs have been stolen or entire appliances have been dragged out. Even copper piping and air conditioning units have been known to disappear when an empty property provides an opportunity for a criminal. 

Vandalism is less about opportunity and more a crime of recreation. It can still create problems. You don’t want to begin marketing your property for new tenants while there is spray paint all over the exterior. 

How can you keep your vacant property safe during these periods? Here are a few recommendations:

  • Consider installing security cameras so you can keep an eye on the property. If a crime does occur, you’ll have a record of who committed it, and local law enforcement will hopefully locate those who are responsible. Sometimes, just having security protocols in place will deter a vandal or a thief. Install a ring camera or something that records people approaching the home.

  • Make sure there’s adequate lighting outside and even inside the home. Set a porch light to a timer and have a lamp inside the house come on every night so it doesn’t look like the home is completely empty. Dark houses are especially vulnerable to thieves. 

  • Show up for an inspection every week or so. This will give you an opportunity to make sure there aren’t any squatters, broken windows, or missing appliances and systems.

  • Let trusted neighbors know how to reach you if they notice.  

Vandalism, theft, and even squatting can be a huge concern for rental property owners when there’s a long vacancy. Keep an eye on your property or work with a local Portland property manager who can protect your investment from these situations. 

Property Damage and Deterioration Risks

Another danger associated with vacant rental homes is property damage and deterioration. Deferred maintenance is always dangerous to investment properties because it’s expensive and time-consuming. But with a vacant rental home, the risk goes up. There could be a flood or a fire at your property, and no one will be able to respond right away. You might not even know it’s happening, because no one is living there to report it.  

Even minor problems can be a disaster for you. There doesn’t have to be a flood or a fire; a simple drip under a toilet can eventually lead to thousands of dollars in plumbing repairs. It can also lead to rot and mold, causing remediation costs. No one is checking under the sinks for slow leaks, so this type of maintenance issue is difficult to prevent in a vacant home. 

Responding to maintenance issues can be complicated and time-consuming, but when a tenant is in place, you have someone who can notice and report those issues as soon as they occur. This cuts down on the risks that come with deferred maintenance. 

With no one living in your rental property, you won’t notice that the outlets have stopped working in two of the three bedrooms. You won’t know that the heat isn’t working, a window has broken, or termites have taken over a window sill. 

Keeping your investment well-maintained is an important part of earning money on it. When small problems are overlooked or unnoticed, they become larger problems and often more expensive problems. This is a major risk to vacation rental homes. 

Appliances are also likely to suffer when they’re not being used regularly. 

Dishwashers that don’t get turned on for prolonged periods will develop motor issues, problems with the pipes, and potentially a broken machine. Your dishwasher's motor seals will often dry out first, leading to bigger issues with its ability to run or even pump water.

You’ll want to take some preventative measures when you can. Unplug any appliances that aren’t being used in your vacant home to protect against power surges. Unless you have a whole-home surge protection system or individual surge protectors all over your house, some of your plugged-in appliances are potentially vulnerable to surge damage. This will also lower your energy bill. And, although the risk of electrical fire is probably pretty minor when your appliances are in good working condition, the only way to completely eliminate that risk is to keep them unplugged. 

Watch the weather, too. If there’s rain or high winds or even excessive heat, get over to your rental property and make sure there’s nothing off.  

Protect Your Property and Avoid Vacancy in Portland

Sometimes, your property is intentionally vacant. Maybe you’re planning to make some major repairs or renovations. In that case, enough people will be coming and going from home that you can probably relax about the dangers that are associated with it. 

An unexpected vacancy, however, has risks that are too great to ignore. You want to limit vacancy time whenever you can.  

When you do have a property that’s unoccupied for longer than you expected, make sure you’re checking on it from time to time - at least every couple of days. Give your contact information to neighbors in the area who you can trust. Ask them to call you if anything looks off. 

Enhancing your security during vacancies is also important. You don’t want the home to look unoccupied, so make sure you leave some exterior lights on. Consider a security camera or, at the very least, a video doorbell that can capture anyone approaching the property. Put new locks on the doors. 

What can you do to make sure that vacancy time is minimized?

Try these tips:

  • Provide a well-maintained home

  • Invest in curb appeal

  • Pay attention to competitive pricing

  • Invest in a tenant retention plan

Keeping your rental home occupied with good residents will protect its security and its condition. 

Professional Portland Property Management 

Working with a professional Portland property management company is an excellent way to avoid expensive vacancies that are longer than necessary. 

With the right property manager, you can avoid vacancy risks with an accurate price, strategic marketing, and detailed follow-up. You can also be sure that your tenants are going to be well-served. This will help everyone have a better rental experience and ensure you don’t have to worry about a long vacancy period. 

When you’re interviewing potential property management companies, ask about vacancy rates so you can get some idea about how quickly your home will be rented. Your property management team will also ensure that your rental home is safe and secure during the period that it is vacant. It’s an extra layer of protection for you and your investment. 

Contact Property Management CompanyIf you’d like some help avoiding vacancies and improving your Portland property management experience, please contact us at PropM, Inc. We’re open 365 days a year and seven days a week, and we’re happy to help you.