HUDSON — Last year, Mike and Brenda Martyniak noticed a problem in their neighborhood.
"Squatters lived across the street from our house," said Brenda Martyniak, 56.
At first, nobody knew that the squatters had moved in to what had been a vacant house, she said. Then nobody could prove that the people in it shouldn't be there.
So she wondered if businesses exist that help protect remote owners of vacant homes from problems not limited to squatters. She and her husband ended up starting one: POV Home Watch.
POV stands for "property on-site verification." The business, which has offered its services in Pasco, Hernando and northern Pinellas counties since October, is multifaceted: The Martyniaks can monitor snowbirds' homes in spring, summer and fall; vacation rental homes whose owners live afar, and homes when their owners take frequent or extended vacations.
POV Home Watch does not provide property management, Brenda Martyniak said, but services for homeowners who "don't feel as though they could afford a property manager but don't want to burden their next-door neighbor to watch their home."
Services can start with a photo shoot of the home's exterior, interior and contents.
"Should there be a fire, a theft, a severe storm, there's a photographic record of everything inside and outside of the home," said Mike Martyniak, 64. "It provides evidence of what you had, the value of what you had, so that you can get a more appropriate claim when you have a problem."
The rest of POV Home Watch's services are intended to prevent problems, or to fix problems that couldn't be avoided.
"We make sure the home appears to be maintained and lived in, which provides a crime deterrent," said Mike Martyniak. "We are tasked to monitor the home and to report any anomalies or areas of concern that need attention."
The cost for services depends on the size of the home, said Brenda Martyniak. For a 1,200-square-foot home, the cost starts at $75 per month for biweekly visits. Additional features such as docks, decks or other assets on the property incur additional fees.
Problems POV Home Watch might find could include leaks or pests.
"Imagine walking into your house after three months of a water leak," said Brenda Martyniak. "You now have mold and all kinds of issues you wouldn't have had. A $10,000 problem instead of a $2,000 problem."
Some homeowners have used security systems to monitor their homes from a distance, said Brenda Martyniak.
But "the security camera can't use your nose, and can't see things like bugs and rodent droppings," she said.
POV Home Watch can do that, she said, and the Martyniaks recommend that clients have the business check their houses every two weeks.
"If a problem goes unreported for over 14 days, the insurance company will most likely decline the claim for reimbursement," said Brenda Martyniak.
If a problem arises, POV Home Watch serves as an advocate for the homeowner, said Mike Martyniak. He documents the problem and reports it to the homeowner so that the homeowner can hire somebody to fix it in time to prevent further damage. The Martyniaks open the home for repair professionals and stay on site while the problems are fixed. They also can recommend electricians, plumbers and other professionals.
"We're really like boots on the ground for homeowners," said Brenda Martyniak.
For information about POV Home Watch, call (727) 868-6059 or visit POVHomeWatch.com.