If you were to ask anyone looking for a new place to rent about their priorities, most likely they will tell you that they want a clean and spacious house or apartment that they can afford. However, in many cases, that statement is followed up with, “But I’d be willing to take a smaller place or pay a bit more if the neighborhood is good.”
The fact is, most people want to feel safe in their home. Given that there are close to 5,000 burglaries in the U.S. every day – most of which take place during daylight hours, when people are less likely to be home – it makes sense that renters are concerned about the security and safety of the property. Many people will opt for a building with a doorman, or a controlled access community to help protect themselves and their property, but installing a security system or hiring guards isn’t the only way that you can ensure the safety of your rental properties and attract tenants. Using landscape features, including trees, shrubs, and fences can help deter criminals and increase the security of the property, while also adding curb appeal.
What to Know About Burglaries
Despite what Hollywood might want us to believe, most burglaries aren’t the work of criminal masterminds equipped with fancy gadgets and exceptional acrobatic skills. On the contrary, the typical home robbery is the work of a male teen who lives nearby, most likely in the neighborhood or within a few miles, according to the Washington Post.
Because most burglars aren’t trained criminals, they want to get in and out as quickly and easily as possible. They don’t want to take chances and waste time picking locks or breaking windows or do anything that will attract attention. In fact, a barking dog is one of the top deterrents for criminals, coming in second to security cameras. In a Guardian survey of convicted thieves, the majority said that they would avoid a home with any type of security system as well, especially those with motion activated lights.
However, the Daily Mail’s survey also revealed that landscaping features, including fences and visibility from the street, would prevent thieves from targeting a particular home. Anything that makes it easier to see what they are up to or slows them down is a deterrent and should inspire your security efforts.
The Keys to a Secure Landscape
The yard and landscape surrounding the rental property is the first line of defense against thieves. One of the simplest ways to help prevent crime is maintenance. When the property shows signs of neglect, including tall grass, overgrown trees and shrubs, and weeds, it indicates to potential intruders that the property isn’t occupied regularly. To ensure that your property is maintained, don’t leave it to the tenants. Hire a lawn mowing service to keep the grass trimmed and invest service to maintain the health of the lawn and keep it weed free, like TruGreen lawn care services, that will ultimately improve the value of the property and help deter criminals.
Security-focused landscaping doesn’t end with maintenance, though. Even when your property is located in a safe and desirable location, you can prevent crime through design by implementing several other features as well, including:
Use gravel. Paving walkways and areas around entrances – both windows and doors – with gravel. Burglars want to be silent and stealthy, but gravel makes a lot of noise. Knowing that their footsteps can be heard will send the thief to a less conspicuous target.
Keep bushes and trees trimmed. Nothing thwarts a robbery faster than being spotted, so make it easy for neighbors and passerby to see your property. Overgrown shrubs that cover windows or trees with branches near the roof or upper-level windows give thieves a place to hide and make it easy for them to access open or unlocked windows. Make it all but impossible for someone to hide near your rental property. Most police departments recommend keeping shrubs and plants no taller than three feet in order to maintain visibility and pruning tree branches so the lowest limbs are at least 7 feet or higher from the ground.
Create a perimeter. Building a fence around your property makes it much less appealing to thieves. After all, would you want to scale an 8-foot fence and hope that no one sees you? Fences limit access and send criminals looking for a place that’s easier to get into it. Don’t forget to lock all gates as well! As a bonus, a fenced in property is likely to attract renters, many of whom are looking for privacy or a safe place for their children or pets. A well-maintained fenced in yard is a top selling point among renters, so it’s worth the investment.
Use plants. Certain plants can provide protection for your rental as well. Planting thorny rose bushes, spiky holly, or prickly succulents under your first-floor windows can help keep thieves away. Again, thieves want a quick and easy entrance and exit, and avoiding thorns will slow anyone down. Even simple, less bloodthirsty plants, like hedges, can help keep burglars away while contributing to the aesthetics of the property. Just be sure that the tenants can properly care for the plantings or hire a professional service to keep them healthy and maintained.
Install lighting. Ensuring that your property is well-lit is a good idea anyway, especially in multi-unit buildings, as poorly lit areas can lead to injuries as well as crime. Survey the property for any especially dark areas and invest in lighting to illuminate them to keep criminals from hiding in the shadows. Motion activated lights near entries will stop criminals, and well-lit pathways both increase safety and make it look like the property is occupied.
Even if you don’t explicitly point out how your property’s landscaping increases security, potential tenants are looking at your property for red flags that could make it a target for crime. Keeping up with maintenance, adding landscape features that are both beautiful and functional and providing lighting and locks will go a long way toward keeping the property safe and attracting tenants.
This article has been contributed by Tiffani Wroe.