As an owner of rental property in lower income areas you may want to be on the proactive side to keep your rental portfolio performing well. Outside of vacancies, nothing hurts the income statement like unexpected maintenance and repairs. One of my least favorite expenses is springing for a new AC unit that walks away. We had a unit vacant during a rehab for most of the summer in a somewhat concerning area but the AC managed to stay in place...until the week the tenants moved in. The tenants are great and I'm certain they had nothing to do with it...just a real frustration when we were finally cash flowing on the unit. Had we spend the $300 on a cage top (described below) we would have saved nearly $1200. Let my leason be yours.
Below are the best tips for securing your A/C units on your rentals.
1. Cage Your AC Units. The simplest and best. Even though this can be costly ranging from $300-$600 this is the best way to prevent ac theft. No the cage is not going to prevent someone from stealing the unit if they really want to get into it...but its going to make it a lot more difficult to do. Most of the class acts stealing A/C units aren't looking to work very hard and will just move on to the next house that doesn't have the AC caged.
We have started using Real Estate Maintenance Solutions (mention we referred you) for our A/C Cages as the owner came up with a way to install a unit that bolts to the house instead of requiring poured concrete. See image here. This unit is great because it can be easily opened up for service and replacement.
Another option is the Do-It yourself chain cage. Go to Home Depot buy some quick crete, a few feet of chain, a lock and a few i-bolts...you get the idea. If not you can check out youtube for some more inspiration.
2. Put it UP. This option is more work and could be more or less costly depending on your relationship with your HVAC team. But if you can move the A/C off the ground / bolted to the house it will make it much more difficult for a cherry picking criminal to come rip you off. Chances are a single criminal wouldn't be able to do this job by himself and you are likely to keep your A/C over your neighbors on the ground.
3. Light it up. Install flood lights in the back yard where the unit is; either motion detection light or dusk to dawn lights. Don't let the tenants switch them off you want the lights on when it is dark out. This is a simple but effective deterrent.
4. No, really light it up. If the property is vacant its time to invest in a cheap lamp and a radio. Crooks love empty houses so keep them guessing, If they think somebody is home they will probably move on to the next house. Another tool we use is the TV Screen Simulator : This mimics the colors of a TV set playing in the house so the light coming through the windows appears to be a TV on. Well worth the $30-50 and can easily be found online by looking up TV Screen Simulator.
5. Keep up the Maintenance. A lot of times criminals are looking for vacant houses to ransack and in the spring and summer the biggest tell of a vacant home is tall grass. Use a lawn service or have LawnMowingOnline.com cut the grass for $19. Thats right schedule it online and see that it has been cut the next day with pictures sent to you from the contractor. When the rental is vacant its time to head over and tidy up the property, make it look clean like someone is living there or checking in regularly.
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To your continued success in investing. - Mike
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