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How Landlords Can Handle a Burglary at Their Rental Property

When theft happens at your rental property, two things can happen: you and your tenant call 911 and your insurance companies and work together to make the unit more secure OR you both lack insurance, the tenant threatens to break the lease and charges you with liability.

In this article, we will talk about what you should do to prepare for burglaries and what to do when the inevitable happens.

Before Burglaries

1. Securing the property

To ensure you won't be held responsible for criminal activity at the rental property, conform with state laws for tenant safety. When burglaries are a rare occurrence in your area, you should not be lax. Take necessary safety precautions: deadbolts, window locks, and secure front door locks.

Consider adding an app-controlled CCTV, motion sensor lights, and alarm system. The building hallway, balcony, and exteriors should also be well-lit. Detail these safety measures in the lease and go over with new tenants so they know how to use them.

2. Preparing for foreseeable theft

Stay updated with news of criminal activity in your area. Take note of the times they often break-in (holidays, weekdays, mornings) and where they enter (front door, windows).

If thieves are on the loose in your neighborhood and you, as the landlord, don't add safety precautions to your rental property, you can be held liable.

3. Buying landlord and renters' insurance

Secure your rental property with landlord insurance with wide coverage. Make sure to check if burglary and repairs are covered, and up to how much it covers. Require renters' insurance from all tenants. Be sure to keep up-to-date on payments so your insurances don’t expire.

Remind your tenants to check the cash coverage offered by their insurance company. Also, remind your tenants to take photos of their expensive and sentimental items, and to keep receipts of big-ticket purchases.

4. Seeing to tenants' requests

When tenants notify you of a broken door or window locks, be sure to respond as soon as possible. Disregarding or delaying repair and installation can make you liable in the event of theft. Likewise, if the tenant fails to let you know about safety breaches, they may be held liable. Conducting regular inspections can help avoid this.

After Burglaries

1. Call 911

Let tenants know that in case of theft, they should not attempt to enter their unit but to call 911 instead. If they call you first, you should advise your tenant to put their safety first and let the authorities handle this.

2. Call your insurance companies

It is vital to notify your respective insurance companies soon after you call the police. Do it within the first 30 minutes to an hour after the incident or as soon as you can compose yourself.

Calling them right away is important so they can send for repairs right away. This is most important in case of forced entries and the unit must be secured before nightfall.

Burglaries are also a time when you double-check on your insurance coverage. Be sure not to let your or your tenant's insurance to expire.

3. Add safety measures

Be mindful of how the criminal activity took place despite your safety measures. You should not be held liable if you did not fail to secure the unit, the building, and have insurance. Consider which safety measures failed and what you should invest in to better secure your property.

Also, remind tenants to take added safety precautions like answering the door secured by a heavy-duty front chain. Robbers often check first to see if anyone's home.

Tenants should make sure to lock their doors and windows or notify you of broken locks. They should not give their spare keys to a friend as they can always call you for a spare if they forgot their keys in the unit. Consider changing the door locks during turnover as well.

4. Recover lost items

Thefts may sell the stolen items online on Craigslist or at pawnshops. This is where the receipts and photos come in, as well as an ID. Your tenant may be able to recover the lost items at these places. Alert the police when you find the item online or at a pawnshop so they can also track the burglar and recover your goods.

Read more: 7 Tips to Reduce the Risks of Landlording


In this article, we stressed the importance of getting insurance (both landlord and tenant). It is also critical to go beyond standard safety measures to secure the property and your tenants.

Finally, encourage tenants to better prepare for theft with photos and receipts. With a proper plan and safety measures set, there's no reason for anyone to leave or break the lease agreement.

If you’re ready, make Landlord Prep your go-to resource for landlording education. Here, we offer a complete DIY landlording course to get you on the right track. Join our academy today. If you want, you can check out Flavia’s real estate investing webinar first!