Losing your home is bad enough, but walking away and leaving it empty and a target for vandalism, theft and illegal activity just adds to the problem. You are still liable for the property during the foreclosure process, experts remind those who are affected. They say that malicious or even unintentional damage to an empty home can cost mortgage lenders and homeowners considerable money. Insurance may not cover repair costs.
It may pay in the long run to prevent a property from looking vacant. Would-be vandals, thieves and illegal interlopers (who may use property for such things as illicit drug manufacturing) may think twice if the property has the appearance of being occupied. Experts offer these suggestions for minimizing the prospects of damage:
Lock up: One unlocked window could invite unwelcome invasion. An insurance company may make it grounds to deny a potential claim. Double check to see that all entrances are secure.
Winterize: Shut off the main water valve. Drain water from plumbing, using compressed air, if necessary, to remove all remnants of water. Even a small leak can cause extensive, expensive damage.
Keep up maintenance: There are property preservation companies that specialize in giving vacant sites a “lived-in” look. They perform such services as maintaining lawns and yards, keeping mail and debris picked up, shoveling snow and generally making the property appear neat and occupied. If you can’t afford such a service, ask friends or neighbors for help in maintaining and monitoring the property.
Unplug: Even when turned to “off” an appliance can still draw a little power, so make sure all plug-ins throughout the property are disconnected. This move also can minimize the potential for fire.
Monitor: Test and retest smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and security alarms. Put in fresh batteries and test again before vacating the property.
Taking the steps to secure an empty home may fend off a lot of headaches in the future.