With more than a million burglaries and attempted burglaries taking place across the UK every year, the issue of tenant security is one that should definitely be on every landlord’s radar. This is especially true because, sadly; rented properties are at even more risk of burglary than owner occupier homes.
Private renting households have 63 per cent higher burglary risk than owner-occupied properties according to a report from Nottingham Trent University.
What’s more, when a property has been burgled once, statistics suggest it will be burgled again – and soon.
Several studies have found that 50 per cent of repeat victims were burgled again within a month or two of the original break-in.
The law and landlords when it comes to burglar damage
Whether we live in our own home or in rented accommodation; we all have the right to expect to live safely and securely.
As well as protecting ourselves and our property, we would assume that our personal belongings will remain safe inside a secured home.
But what happens when a rented property suffers a break-in, items are stolen and property damaged or at worst, destroyed?
Of course, the landlord’s and tenant’s belongings should (in theory) be insured. But in the event of a burglary, the question then arises – who is going to pay for the damage?
While Government guidance says tenants have the right to live in the property undisturbed and to live in a property that’s safe and in a good state of repair, it is worth noting that landlords are not explicitly required by the letter of the law to assume responsibility for security.
They do however have a responsibility to keep their property in good repair. This means that if any damage occurs to the building due to a burglary, then the landlord is usually responsible for fixing it.
Of course, the exception to the rule may be where a tenant has been negligible in some way.
Crime prevention and security measures to keep the summer thieves at bay
Here are a few key areas:
1. Lock and keys: This is often a topic of dispute between the two parties, but landlords are not obliged by law to change locks and keys when one tenant leaves and another arrives.
A survey by insurers Direct Line found that on average, 9 out of 10 landlords do not change the locks between tenancies. However, there could be a very good case for the landlord changing the locks if there has been some previous uncomfortable communication with former tenants.
While this isn’t an area specifically covered by law, landlords should make their own informed decision when it comes to the potentially costly move of changing locks, and always use the services of a reputable locksmith.
It is wise to ensure that any tenancy agreement states that tenants must not change the locks themselves. However, it is illegal for a landlord to change the locks to prevent a tenant from entering a rental property even if it is because of rent arrears or other breaches of contract. Such a step can be legally construed as harassment.
- Police generally advise that a five-lever mortice lock is appropriate for external timber doors or a three multi-point locking system for PVC-u external doors.
- Window locks should be installed on windows easily accessible from outside (though not on designated escape windows).
- Door chains and, in a shared property like a block of flats, additional security to the main entrance door may also be required.
- Some lawyers urge caution about placing locks on internal doors as they say this can lead to properties being classified as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) – a classification which in some cases can require a licence.
- If a tenant loses their keys and this makes the property less secure (for example if the keys are permanently lost or fall into someone else’s hands) then the cost of changing the locks and cutting a new set of keys will tend to fall on the tenant.
2. Add lighting. Outdoor lights can be incredibly handy for illuminating the way, enhancing the safety of the property. Landlords can opt for a front porch light that illuminates the exterior or a motion sensor light that comes on when people arrive at the property. Lighting can help to make tenants feel safe and is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to prevent crime. As well as lighting on the driveway, consider using lighting in the alleyway or back garden too.
3. Security cameras. There was a time when security cameras were expensive to install, but with so many competitive security companies offering a range of products, it may be a cost-effective deterrent. Security cameras cannot be placed inside the property of the tenant but can be used in the entrance way, stairwells and back of the property to keep it safe. Cameras work well as a deterrent for thieves, even if they are not active.
Having a security system in your property is an added benefit for tenants and may be the difference between a tenant choosing your property over another one. Security systems can be used to sound an alarm when there has been unauthorised access or use motion sensors to detect movement. There are many different security systems available and it is essential to select the right one for your property type.
With a security system, landlords can have a master code and allow tenants to have their own secret assess code. When new tenants arrive, make sure they are fully briefed about the security system so that it can be as effective as possible.
4. Keep opportunist thieves at bay. At this time of year, landlords may be spending time tending to the exterior of the property or the garden. Ensuring that all lawnmowers, power tools, and other equipment are kept within sight at all times and then securely locked away after use can help to deter thieves. Equally, ladders or other items that could be used to assist in breaking into a property should be safely secured.
5. Document everything. To help increase property safety, it is a good idea for landlords to document everything they have in their property should they be unfortunate enough to have to make an insurance claim. It also makes it a much more straightforward process when it comes to disputes with tenants regarding breakages. It is worthwhile taking a photograph of each item to show its condition as well as noting the manufacturer and model. Once everything has been documented, keep this list somewhere secure.
For further ideas, check out these additional security hacks.