After living in different tiny houses for years, my friends started seeing me as a ‘tiny house expert’ 🙂 And whenever they have a tiny house question, they come to me. One of the most common questions that I hear is, “Do tiny houses get stolen? How do you keep thieves away from your tiny house?“.
Unfortunately, tiny houses, especially tiny houses on wheels, get stolen. The possibility is higher if the tiny house is off-grid and nobody is living in it for a while. There are almost 20 different actions that you can take to prevent possible tiny house theft.
The more difficult you make it for thieves to drive away with your tiny house the better. A tiny house on foundations may not have the same concerns as a tiny house on wheels, but security is still an important factor.
Let’s start with the details.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Kind of Tiny Houses Get Stolen?
- 2 How Do I Keep My Tiny House or Trailer From Being Stolen?
- 2.1 1 – Pay Attention Where To Park Your Tiny House or Trailer
- 2.2 2 – Use a Hitch Lock
- 2.3 3 – Lock The Wheels
- 2.4 4 – Remove Wheels
- 2.5 5 – Chain Your Trailer
- 2.6 6 – Make Your Hitch Inaccessible (as much as possible)
- 2.7 7 – Remove Trailer Coupler
- 2.8 8 – Anchor Tiny House or Trailer
- 2.9 9 – Secure Your Land and Restrict Access To The Area
- 2.10 10 – Put Your Tiny House On A Foundation (or Temporarily Put Your Tiny House On Blocks Or Jack Stands)
- 2.11 11 – Tie-in To Septic And Sewer
- 2.12 12 – Install Proper Door And Window Locks
- 2.13 13 – Install Home Security Cameras
- 2.14 14 – Install Alarm
- 2.15 15 – Install Motion Lights
- 2.16 16 – Pretend To Be Home
- 2.17 17 – Make Friends And Alert Your Neighbors
- 2.18 18 – Get a Generic Alarm Sticker and Sign
- 2.19 19 – Install a GPS Tracker
- 3 Theft Prevention Methods, Their Costs and How Easy They Can Be Applied
- 4 What To Do If Your Tiny House Gets Stolen
What Kind of Tiny Houses Get Stolen?
As a general rule, tiny houses on wheels are the main target for tiny house thieves. However, determined (!) thieves also target tiny houses that were built on slabs or foundations with no wheels.
In these cases, the house thieves employ simple home-moving techniques:
- raise the house using jacks,
- load it on a flatbed truck,
- and drove away looking, doing it quickly and efficiently enough to not garner attention.
Here are some unfortunate tiny house theft news from latest years:
- https://caseyfriday.com/2014/12/end-of-an-era-our-tiny-house-was-stolen/ (language alert! If you want to read a stolen tiny house story from the owner’s point of view, you can copy and paste this link. But be aware of the ‘strong’ and PG16 (!) language.
As you see from that news, most of the time the tiny houses are found after a while. But there are no guarantees about the overall situation of the house, most of the time, lots of damage.
How Do I Keep My Tiny House or Trailer From Being Stolen?
Although hopefully, it will never be necessary, it’s important to protect your tiny home just as you would any size home.
I use a combination of methods to keep my tiny house safe, and so far these methods worked:
- I use a hitch lock
- I use wheel clamp (whenever I stay short periods of time. Otherwise, I remove tires)
- I have cameras on both sides of tiny house
- I have another camera inside my tiny house
- And I always introduce myself to my neighbors and keep close contact with them
Here are all the possible methods that you can use:
1 – Pay Attention Where To Park Your Tiny House or Trailer
I will start with the most obvious and basic rule: Be careful when you are picking a parking spot.
You have basically 2 options:
i – If there will be some neighbors around, park close by to their houses. If there will be other houses and people around, even if you won’t be in the tiny house, the thieves will think twice (or more) before taking an action.
ii – If there will not be any neighbors, do not park your tiny house to a place that can be seen from the highway or a distance. Unfortunately; non protected, single tiny house is an invitation for theft.
2 – Use a Hitch Lock
This is one of the simplest defense tactics. There are multiple kinds of hitch locks in the market. Please make your own research, and try to get a strong one.
If you ask me, there is no ‘thief proof’ hitch lock in the market. All of them can get picked or can get broken. If you ask me, the important point is to show the potential thief that, you have some defense mechanisms. Most of the time, they just move on, rather than spending time in your tiny house.
It is really easy to use the hitch locks. No experience is needed, and anyone can install the lock.
I will show 2 videos to you below.
The first one shows how weak the other brand hitch locks and how ‘strong’ is their own brand:
The second one is from the Lock Picking Lawyer channel, and he picks the previous ‘strong’ hitch lock.
The hitch lock prices have ranged between $20 to $250. It is a huge range.
If you ask me, I wouldn’t buy the cheapest one, or the most expensive one. When I needed a hitch lock, I bought a middle-range one (from the price point). I think it was around $50 and did the job properly.
3 – Lock The Wheels
Another simple, but effective solution: Locking the wheels.
If the thief cannot remove the wheel locks, your tiny house is safe. At least, the tiny house will stay wherever it is. The thief may break into your tiny house, but you won’t lose your house altogether.
Wheel lock installation is easy and does not require any specific tools.
The cost is between $30 – $100 for most of the products.
If you leave your tiny house at the same location for a while and do not remove the tires (temporarily), the wheel lock is a good solution.
4 – Remove Wheels
One of the most effective solutions against thieves is removing the wheels of your tiny house. Stealing a tiny house without its wheels is much harder and will significantly decrease the likelihood of theft. The situation (tiny house on wheels – without wheels installed (!) )represents a huge obstacle for anyone trying to steal the house.
When you get your house in its final spot, you need to get it off the wheels anyway to avoid tire shock and tire rot.
What I do is get the house lifted off the ground until I can remove the tires. I secure it with solid blocks, then I remove all the wheels. I hide the lug nuts in another location and put the tires in a shed which is also locked. What this means is if someone wanted to steal my tiny house, they’d have to jack the house up some, break into a shed, find the wheels, carry them over, put them on and then have the correct number and type of lug nuts to fasten them on. It’s not that likely and if they could, it would take a fair bit of time, which is time they could be caught.
5 – Chain Your Trailer
Another simple and effective solution is securing the trailer by using a chain. If there is a big tree nearby or a strong pole; you can consider chaining your trailer.
If you will be using this solution, these 2 points are important:
- You need to use strong chain (so, the thief won’t be able to cut it easily)
- You need to use a strong lock.
If one of these items is not strong enough, your trailer (and your tiny house) won’t be safe.
6 – Make Your Hitch Inaccessible (as much as possible)
If your tiny home is sitting in the middle of an empty parking lot or field, it’s an easy and attractive target for thieves. Instead, try to park next to natural obstacles that are going to deter thieves.
Whenever possible, park your tiny home near trees, rock outcroppings, bodies of water, and other obstacles. As I mentioned in the previous item, you can also use those natural obstacles to chain your trailer for additional security.
7 – Remove Trailer Coupler
If your trailer has an adjustable coupler, either remove it or better yet secure it by replacing the bolts that hold it on with security bolts.
There are several different types of security bolts out there, including those that require a special keyed wrench to remove them. Otherwise, thieves can just replace it to get around any locks that you’ve installed.
8 – Anchor Tiny House or Trailer
Anchoring the tiny house may not be that easy and quick, but it has multiple advantages: Keeps the tiny house secure against theft and also against natural disasters (high wind, or storms).
I have given some example video links in my other article, that I have talked about taking a tiny house off the trailer.
If you will be staying at the same location for a while, I definitely suggest you anchor your tiny house. Believe me, it is worth spending one afternoon to work on this. If I am keeping my tiny house at the same location for more than 2 weeks, I am anchoring my tiny house. Practice makes perfect 😉
9 – Secure Your Land and Restrict Access To The Area
If you will be parking your tiny house on land for a long time, installing a fence would be a good solution against thieves.
If the land is yours, you can see this solution as an investment. However, if the land is not yours, this solution may not work for you. Of course, you can request this from the landowner, but getting a positive answer will not be likely.
Comparing to other methods, this solution costs more. And as a result, the effectiveness is higher. Especially, if the tiny house will be parked in a place that cannot be seen from the fence, it will be almost thief-proof.
Additionally; a couple of different signs may increase the effectiveness of the fence solution:
- No Trespassing
- Beware Of Dog,
- Smile; You Are On Camera
10 – Put Your Tiny House On A Foundation (or Temporarily Put Your Tiny House On Blocks Or Jack Stands)
This option is not as easy as some of the other security options for your tiny house. However, one of the most effective solutions: Put your tiny house on a foundation.
If your tiny house will be staying at the same location for a long time (or forever), maybe the best option is to put it to a foundation. As I have explained in another article, it is possible to put your tiny house on wheels on a foundation (if it is built accordingly).
If you are not considering building a foundation for your tiny house on wheels, maybe removing wheels and putting the tiny house on blocks and jack stands is a good solution for you.
11 – Tie-in To Septic And Sewer
To be able to apply this technique to your tiny house, there must be a couple of criteria: Your tiny house must have proper connections for septic and sewer, and the location that you will be parking to should have available septic and sewer lines.
This technique is similar to anchoring the tiny house with tie-down straps (#8 above). It is not impossible to remove a septic or sewer tie-in, but it takes longer, requires tools and knowledge which means it takes longer to steal someone’s house.
Of course, not all tiny houses have the 2 criteria – that I have mentioned above – available; but if it is, this is a great option. Those septic and sewer connections make your daily life easier (logistically) and also they make your tiny house safer.
12 – Install Proper Door And Window Locks
Since your tiny house will (most probably) have only one door and a few small windows, that door will likely be the target area for the potential thief. You can stop that from happening (or at least make it really difficult) with a deadbolt lock.
I suggest you always put a deadbolt on your door that truly engages into the frame of the tiny house. Put into the frame, the lock will be more secure if someone attempts to kick in the door.
If that doesn’t feel sufficient, consider the structure of the door. If you really want to be super secure, don’t put any glass on your door.
Regarding window security: Make sure windows are double-paned, and have good, functioning locks, even if the window seems too small to crawl through. You never know, what size thief will try to break into your tiny house.
13 – Install Home Security Cameras
In the latest couple of years, IoT (Internet of Things) devices became really cheaper and accessible.
Installing cameras into a tiny house have 2 advantages:
- Potential thieves think twice before taking action. They wouldn’t want to take risk and give their faces to legal authorities
- If the tiny house gets stolen, you may have a better chance to retrieve it by using the images from your camera.
There are many different types of security cameras out there; wireless, work on batteries, motion detection functionality, image-video storage on the cloud functionality, etc.
My favorite brand is Blink. As long as you have a continuous internet connection at your tiny house, blink is a good option. They do not need a power line and run with AA batteries for months. They have different models for inside and outside usage. I am using an inside version for already a couple of years with no problems.
Another good brand is Wyze. Their products are super cheap and of high quality. I have one Wyze camera in our regular house.
14 – Install Alarm
There’s no question that alarm systems deter crime and can increase the odds of catching a burglar if your home does get broken into. The earlier alarm systems were depending on continuous electricity connections and they needed a landline phone connection. However, this has changed and the newest models work with their internal batteries and also they work through cellular phone technology. So; they work perfectly fine with tiny houses.
According to the Electronic Security Association, if a home with a security system still falls victim to crime, the average loss is approximately $2,000 less than in a home with no protection. Only this statistic should be enough to install an alarm into your tiny house.
15 – Install Motion Lights
This one is maybe one of the simplest security measures; install motion lights around your tiny house.
Definitely, it will add another layer of protection, however personally, I wouldn’t rely only on this method; especially if your tiny house is parked in the middle of nowhere.
If you have neighbors, the efficiency of motion lights increase.
In addition to motion lights, you may consider using ‘Electronic Watchdog Barking Dog Alarm”. It is basically an alarm that makes a ‘barking dog’ sound.
Having a dog in your tiny house adds additional security. However, if you don’t have a dog, why not have an electronic one? 🙂
16 – Pretend To Be Home
There are multiple ways to pretend you are home. The most common 2 ways are:
- Using automatic lights: There are some autimatic plugs that goes between the light power cable and the outlet. They turn the light power off and on based on a programmed schedule. A little more advanced ones use some artificial intelligence, and they do not turn on and off the lights at the exact time every day, instead they change the timing randomly. This makes the actions more “human like”.
- FakeTV Burglar Deterrent: You can use Fake TV Burglar Deterrant to make it seem like you’re home and watching tv.
These will work well together with motion lights around the tiny house.
17 – Make Friends And Alert Your Neighbors
Among all these defense mechanisms against thieves, I believe the most important and effective one is to make friends in the neighborhood and alert your neighbors when you are going away for some time.
Even if you don’t have neighbors nearby, imagine the way that a potential thief use after stealing your tiny house. At some point, the thief will need to use a highway. Drive between your parking location to highway connection, and make notes of businesses with security cameras.
Luckily, tiny houses are ‘tiny’ but not that tiny that no one will notice when they are being moved from one location to another. If you make friends in your area, and if you inform them that you will not be around for a while; sure they will notify local authorities if they see something suspicious or if they see your tiny house is being towed.
18 – Get a Generic Alarm Sticker and Sign
There are multiple security companies in the market; ADT, Ring, Vivint, Simplisafe, Nest, etc. Once you have an agreement with a company, they post a sign on your front yard, or window showing that your house is protected by a security company.
How about using a generic sign, without having a contract with that company? This is an option being used by many people effectively.
While working with a security company may cost between $30 – $60 a month for a standard house, if you decide to buy a fake sign, you will spend only $15-20 once. There’s a huge difference from the cost point of view.
In this way, you are warning and scaring potential thieves and keeping your money in your pocket.
Be aware: If you use a real monitored security company for your fake yard signage, you could be violating laws about using copyrighted material without permission. And, using fake signs can be a crime that’ll land you in legal trouble, so double-check laws in your state before you proudly mount a security sign.
19 – Install a GPS Tracker
This method is a little different from others. Actually, this is not a method to protect your house against steals, it is a way to find your tiny house or trailer after it is being stolen.
Similar to your mobile phone, a GPS tracker can upload its location so that you always know where your tiny house is at.
The trick is to hide this device so that a thief can’t find it and disable it.
GPS Trackers range in price with some requiring a monthly service fee. On average you will need to spend between $100 – $500 for a GPS tracker. It sounds like a lot of money, however, if you think about the functionality and possible usage; you would agree with me that it is a good investment.
Most of the GPS Trackers have their internal batteries, and usually, they last for years without changing batteries.
Theft Prevention Methods, Their Costs and How Easy They Can Be Applied
Here is the table for easy reference. I have added 2 columns, the first one is for the cost, the other one shows how easy or hard is the implementation of that method. The last column shows the total score, the higher is the better.
|Theft Prevention Method||Cost (1 – 5, 5 Being The Cheapest)||Easy To Appy (1 – 5, 5 Being the Easiest)||Total Score (Higher is better)|
|Pay attention to park location||5||5||10|
|Chain your tiny house/trailer||3||4||7|
|Remove trailer coupler||5||4||9|
|Anchor to ground||3||2||5|
|Secure the land||2||1||3|
|Put the tiny house on a foundation||2||1||3|
|Tie-in to septic/sewer||3||2||5|
|Proper door & window locks||3||4||7|
|Pretend to be home||5||5||10|
|Generic alarm signs||4||5||9|
What To Do If Your Tiny House Gets Stolen
In the case of an unfortunate event occurs and your tiny house gets stolen, what should you do?
Of course, as a first action, you have to inform local authorities without any delay. If you are lucky and noticed the theft right after it happened, you are most likely to get your tiny house back very quickly. Local authorities will inform the highway patrols and since it is not easy to hide a tiny house, -hopefully- someone will spot it quickly.
The second effective method is using social media. If you reach out to the proper groups and proper persons, in a matter of hours and days; millions of people will see the theft warning along with your tiny house picture. Do not forget to use social media, if you need help from strangers.