There are many benefits to owning a tiny house, especially ones on a trailer base which are very easy to transport, but some of these benefits also mean that they are at a greater risk of theft – or even the entire tiny house being stolen. Spending so long saving up for and buying/building your tiny house, only for it to be stolen or broken into by gutless thieves, would be heart-wrenching. Hence we have written this free guide to tell you everything that you need to know about securing your tiny house.
Since you can base your tiny house on wheels (a trailer), on a fixed foundation or even a tiny floating house boat, this guide explores general security tips which apply to all types of base, but then also provides THOW-specific advise as well since these are unfortunately easier to steal by just towing them away.
General Security Tips
Some of the below is fairly common sense and applies to all homes, whilst some are specific to tiny houses:
GPS Tracker. If your home is on wheels or is a houseboat, it could unfortunately be stolen by opportunistic thieves. A GPS tracker is therefore a very important device to own, because it will allow you to see exactly where your tiny house is, and the police can use this to recover your home. You have a few options here:
- Buy a dedicated GPS tracker device. You will need to consider how it connects to its central service (if it is wifi then this is naturally pointless, because your tiny house will go out of wifi range very quickly!). A lot use SMS, but double check that it includes a SIM card otherwise you will need to buy and configure this as well! The other thing to check is the battery life: ideally the GPS tracking unit you go with will have at least weeks worth of power.
- A cheap Android phone and Find Your Phone. This is more of a DIY option, but buying a cheap Android phone with a good battery will allow you to use the common ‘find your phone’ functionality to track where your tiny house is. You can hide the phone away in a hard-to-find place, so that thieves do not simply see and remove it. Battery life probably will not be as good as a dedicated GPS tracker device, though.
- Use your insurance company’s GPS tracker. Tiny house insurance specialists like Strategic Insurance send you a GPS tracker as part of your insurance policy with them. Using this is naturally a great option since it saves you from having to buy a potentially expensive separate GPS tracker.
Security cameras. Installing some security cameras or a CCTV system on the outside of your tiny house (and potentially inside it, if you do not mind this option) is a key deterrent from would-be thieves, especially since so many home security camera systems nowadays are ‘smart’ and stream to the internet, meaning that thieves cannot simply break in and destroy the CCTV recording device. The cheapest options usually do record to a CCTV recorder which is based inside your tiny house, so it is worth shopping around and potentially buying a more expensive ‘smart’ option which does offer internet based viewing and/or recording of the streams. You can even get some camera systems which email you if they detect movement during hours you set: this is very handy if you know that you are never in your house between certain hours of the day.
Security tab door hinge. If the hinges of your front door is exposed to the outside for any reason (such as having an outswinging door to save in internal space?), it is paramount that you do not use normal hinges. This is because the pin can either be removed from them, or they can be easily cut, allowing the door to then be simply lifted out of its frame. Not very secure! You instead will need to use a security door hinge such as one that includes a security tab. These have an extra tab embedded inside them which mean that when the door is closed, the two parts of the hinge cannot be prised apart even if the pin was somehow removed. There are other forms of secure door hinges, but the main thing to remember is to never use standard hinges if they are exposed to the outside.
Window and door security. This might seem obvious, but make sure that all your windows and doors are in a good state of repair (no cracks to the glass nor framing), that they can all be locked, and ideally have multi point locking systems. Would-be thieves are mainly opportunistic, seizing an opportunity if it presents itself. A broken window or insecure door which can be broken down/through are easy ways that thieves can get into your property, stealing your possessions. Never leave windows open (unless they are on safety latches) whilst your property is unattended, and the same goes for your front door: make sure it is locked when you are out (even if you are just popping round to a nearby neighbour). That last point might seem obvious, but it is surprising how many people leave windows and doors open.
Keyless deadbolt door lock. A standard pin-tumbler door lock can be picked quite easily with cheap lock picking kits that are available online, and with watching simple online tutorials.
Whilst you can buy more secure door locks which come with magnetic keys, we would recommend buying a more expensive (but more secure!) commercial grade keyless door lock such as the Schlage Keypad Deadbolt. This is firstly much more convenient than a standard lock and key (fumbling around with a key in the dark is never fun, nor is the lock getting dirt particles inside it when transporting your tiny house over muddy terrain), but it is also more secure because it cannot be picked. The keypad also lights up at night, so you do not have to worry about not being able to see the keys.
Tiny house insurance. We covered this a little earlier (in the GPS tracker point), but an insurance policy which is tailored to tiny houses is naturally going to be less hassle (if you need to make a claim) than going with a general purpose insurance policy. Strategic Insurance are one of the main tiny home-specific insurers out there, and their policies are really flexible too:
Install an alarm system. Whilst alarm systems 10+ years ago used to be a complete pain to install due to needing to run cables everywhere, modern day alarm systems can be quite easy to install because the different alarm components communicate wirelessly. Some alarm systems also offer ‘smart’ functionality, whereby you can keep track of things (or deactivate an alarm that has gone off by mistake!) via your mobile phone app. These alarm systems come with small magnetic devices which you fit to the inside of all your windows and doors, and if the contact breaks between the magnetic parts (i.e. someone has opened one of your windows or doors), the alarm will sound.
House sitters (or Airbnb!). If you are going to be away from your tiny house for more than a day or two, it might be worth considering getting some friends/family to house sit for you. This is where they come to your tiny house and stay in it whilst you are away, and it can be easy to arrange if you are away for a weekend: who wouldn’t want to stay in a fun tiny house for the weekend?! The other alternative is to try and get guests to stay via a service like Airbnb, which has the added benefit of being paid whilst you are away! The downside of this is that you might not get someone to stay on the exact dates you are away, plus you might need to double check your insurance policy to see if you are allowed to have paid-for guests in your house.
Pretend to be home. If your house will definitely be empty because you cannot get anyone to house sit, you can use a plug-in mechanical timer to turn your TV, radio or lighting on and off at set times of the day. This will make it look like someone is home, and thieves may be put-off breaking in if they can see a TV or light on inside your tiny house. The other fairly ingenious plan is to get a fake dog! What we mean by this is put up a “Beware of the dog” sign, but also you can get electronic devices which plug into a socket and play a barking sound when they detect movement. This will also act as a deterrent to potential thieves.
… or ask your neighbors. Instead of (or alongside) using a mechanical timer to turn lights on and off, you could let your trusted neighbors know when you will be away for a few days and ask them to keep an eye on your property. You could even ask them to go in and turn the lights on/off (and draw the curtains) at certain points of the day – in return for a box of chocolates or bottle of wine as a thank you! – which would suggest to anyone watching that the property is indeed inhabited. Relying on community in this way is great, and they might ask you to return the favor one day: leading to a safer overall tiny house community!
Outside motion-activated lighting. Having outdoor lighting that has a motion sensor built-in is a great way of securing your home (because thieves would be put off by lots of light being shone on them when trying to break in), but it is convenient and looks good, too! These lights are usually easy to wire in (the same as wiring in most internal lights, but potentially easier if you have permanent power instead of worrying about a switch to control it), and cheap to buy as well.
Secure the land. If you are able to, then adding extra security measures around the land where your tiny house is based is a great way of preventing theft and break-ins. This might involve installing gates to prevent access to the driveway, or putting up fencing around the land perimeter (if it is currently possibly to walk onto your land via a neighbouring piece of land). Bright, motion-activated flood lights can also be added to nearby buildings or permanent fixtures (like posts) to make the whole area brighter and safer, too.
Move to a more secure area. If you are free to move to another neighborhood or even state, consider whether your current neighborhood is safe and secure enough. It might involve asking yourself some hard questions (especially if you love your current area), but if your local area has a reputation of theft and violence then it might be time to pack up and move your tiny house somewhere else. Alternatively if your local area has low rates of crime but your current tiny house park seems to have low security levels, you might want to look at another park for your tiny house in your area.
Smart house technology. For the techies out there, smart house technology could be worth considering. We have already mentioned security cameras and alarms (both of which can come with ‘smart’ features), but there are other technologies to consider such as smart video doorbells. These can allow you to see visitors (or potential thieves) on your mobile phone via an app, which should cause no issues to genuine visitors but should deter thieves who will not want to be recorded via a video doorbell!
Do not advertise when you are away! In today’s age of social media, it is normal for people to advertise when they are away on holiday: taking lots of pictures and sharing them online. And it is naturally fine to do this with your friends, but sharing these images publically (maybe if you have an open profile) can cause issues because thieves have been known to look out for people who are definitely on holiday, and then target their homes. It is a scary thought, but it is better to be safe than sorry: think through whether the general public can see your social media posts and photos. If they can and you have previously posted details about where you live (even rough information) and/or pictures of your tiny house, advertising that you are away from your tiny house is not a good plan!
THOW Trailer (Tiny House On Wheels) Security
The moment you put an expensive asset (a tiny house) on a convenient to move platform (a trailer on wheels), you are unfortunately opening yourself up to theft of the entire home – as has happened to a few people in 2018 according to the news and social media. Depending on how long you are planning on staying at your current plot, however, there are various options available to you to improve the security of your prized home:
Chains around axles. Buy heavy duty chains (especially a square link chain, which can be harder to cut off) and wrap these around the axles and/or through the wheels. This will help to immobilized the wheels, preventing thieves from easily towing away your tiny house. Naturally, cheaper chains can be cut so this probably should not be the only security measure that you use.
Wheel locks/wheel boot. An alternative to wrapping chains around your wheels is to use a wheel lock or wheel boot (like the police use). These go where your trailer lug nuts would go, and are very hard to remove once they are on, especially because they prevent would-be thieves getting any leverage with any tools they use. They are probably more likely to damage the wheels than remove the wheel lock/boot! And in doing so, this would prevent theft of the tiny house by making it immobile: thanks thieves! (Well, not really as you now need to buy new wheels, but still). Options like the The Club 491 Tire Claw XL and the Trimax TCL65 Wheel Lock have great reviews due to their high security options, and should help to prevent thieves from simply towing away your house.
Trailer hitchlocks. A hitch lock is a simple idea, but an effective one: it covers the trailer hitch, and thus prevents easy access to towing. This is because it will stop a potential thief from hooking up your trailer to their vehicle and driving off, plus it acts as a very visible deterrent. They might be thinking that if you have a hitch lock, what other security measures do they have as well?! The Megahitch Coupler Vault Pro Hitch Lock is probably the best known hitch lock out there, but do some research on the best one for your trailer. After all, the better the lock fits, the harder it is for thieves to defeat the lock.
Restrict access. If you are able to move your trailer to a position where there is no room to attach a tow vehicle (for example, using a heavy duty trailer dolly and dragging it so that the hitch is very close to a wall or another building), it will be very difficult for potential thieves to quickly make off with your tiny house. And the more time it will take them, the more they will be discouraged. If this is not possible, you still have options. For example, you might be able to put down boulders around your tiny house on wheels (after it is parked up), meaning that thieves would need to move these before doing anything else. Alternatively, you could park your own vehicle in front of the hitch to prevent access to any other vehicle from being able to tow your tiny home away.
Make it immovable: remove wheels. Whilst some of the options have relied on making the wheels hard (or hopefully impossible!) to turn to prevent towing, the ultimate option is to remove all the wheels and put your THOW on blocks. This essentially makes it like a secure tiny house on a foundation, but obviously you still have the option to swap the blocks for wheels and move to another area in the future. An alternative to using blocks is the use of a jack stand instead, such as the Torin Big Red Steel Jack Stands. Always double check the load/weight capacity of a jack stand, but this is a good option if the weight permits. The next question is what to do with your wheels: you could either hide them away on your land somewhere, or potentially sell them (if you are not planning on moving anytime soon). The benefit of the latter option is that you do not have to worry about your wheels rusting or developing dry rot, plus you can obviously buy more wheels back in the future.
Concrete u-lock base. Perhaps a little unconventional, however if you are allowed to (and plan on staying put for a little while) then digging a hole and filling it with a concrete base with a tough upside down u-lock sticking out of it could be worth doing. Then you can use heavy duty, hard-to-cut chains to secure your tiny house to this u-lock. As long as the concrete is deep enough – and the u-lock is secure enough – then your tiny house will not be going anywhere anytime soon!
Concrete curbing. Similarly to the above, if you are allowed to do some building work on your land, then consider installing concrete curbing around your tiny house. As long as it is more than few inches out of the ground, it could make it practically impossible to tow your tiny house on wheels over it. Big curbs can be hard enough for a card to get over, let along a trailer with a very heavy house on top of it! This is another ‘unconventional’ idea, but it would definitely be worth considering. It will be less work than building a moat around your house!