Canadian Rental Service

Preventing theft

By Ken Fingler   

Features Business Intelligence

Theft and vandalism are major sources of insurance risk for rental operations.

Theft and vandalism are major sources of insurance risk for rental operations. Fortunately, there are concrete steps everyone in the industry can take to reduce these risks and keep everyone’s premiums down.

To prevent burglary through the storefront, we recommend doors with double-cylinder deadbolt locks, key locked on both the inside and outside, and pry-plates. Windows are the most vulnerable section of building. They should be protected with bars no more than six inches apart or roll-down security shutters or steel gates across the inside.

Thieves can reach through even small openings to extract smaller items from the interior. That is why valuable in-store stock should be cable-locked together and secured to its racks or the floor. Chain saws, power tools and generators are some of the most popular target items.

Believe it or not, thieves will sometimes circumvent even these precautions simply by driving a vehicle through the storefront. Concrete-filled steel posts in front of windows and doors will prevent this. If you do not like the look of posts, consider concrete planters anchored to ground with soil and plants in them.


Equipment in your outside yard is a visible prime target. We recommend chain fences at least eight feet high with barbed wire along the top, if permitted in your jurisdiction. Line the inside of fence with concrete lane dividers to prevent thieves from smashing through with vehicles. The gates should be locked with heavy gauge chains and protected shackle locks to prevent them from being cut off with bolt cutters. Reinforce the gates with steel posts and rails locked across the inside, or move concrete blocks in front of them each night.

Lights can be an excellent deterrent, particularly if your shop is in a populated area. Flood lights illuminate the yard so neighbours can see anyone moving there at night.

Burglar alarms are a must-have. They should be monitored by a ULC-listed central station with line security or a cell phone back up in case thieves seek to cut the land line to the building. A local siren can scare burglars off, but is even more effective with strobe light on roof so neighbours and police can easily tell where the sound is coming from. Building interior alarms should link to contact switches on all exterior doors with motion detectors covering all areas and glass break detectors in areas with windows.

Exterior yard alarms caninclude to alarm cables on the fence and/or exterior motion detectors. Contact alarms on the gates are needed, too. Creative thieves can sometimes get by all this, so triggering cables attached to the alarm system should be run through the equipment in yard as well.

Camera systems can act as a deterrent and help police catch thieves and potentially recover stolen property. Cameras should be attached to digital recorders with at least 31 days memory. Motion-activated cameras should be positioned to cover entry doors, loading doors, the store area, the parking lot and the storage yard. Some camera systems can be connected to an alarm monitoring centre where personnel can monitor activity in your building and yard. Police respond quicker when they get confirmation of a problem from an alarm centre. The expense and trouble of deterring thieves and vandals is frustrating, but not as frustrating as the damage, cost and inconvenience they cause. 


Ken Fingler is a risk management expert with Western Financial Group, providers of the Canadian Rental Association’s protected self-insurance program. He advises rental operators across the country on how to reduce their exposure to insurance risk.

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