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If you’re a landlord (or any type of property owner), home security is paramount. That’s why we’ve created this ultimate guide to keeping your property safe and burglar proof, and providing your tenants with a secure home.
Unfortunately, burglaries are not uncommon. In the UK, a burglary takes place every 108 seconds, costing on average £3,030. Here at Total Landlord, we find that break-ins spike in the summer and winter months.
Your rental property is more vulnerable to burglars when tenants are on holiday and the property is vacant, or in winter when thieves take advantage of the darker months, particularly in the run up to Christmas when they are on the lookout for presents to steal. But having a secure property and implementing measures to deter burglars from targeting your rental property is important in all seasons.
In this guide to securing your rental property, we’ll share our tips to help you and your tenants reduce the risks of burglary and break-in. We’ll explain who is responsible for repairing damage and how landlord insurance can protect you.
It’s both yours and your tenants’ responsibility to keep your property secure and deter burglars, but there are a number of measures you should take before your tenants move in, to burglar proof your rental property.
According to the police, most break-ins occur when criminals forcibly gain access to a property through doors and windows.
This shows how important it is to make sure that all doors and windows are high quality and properly equipped with secure locks and fittings. Avoid doors with large glass panels as they allow criminals to peer inside – and can easily be smashed and climbed through. We recommend using reinforced (preferably frosted) glass as it’s more difficult to break and will also prevent thieves from seeing inside your home.
You should also make sure that all entry points into your property are treated equally; it’s pointless investing in a top of the range burglar proof front door if your bathroom window is locked with a cheap latch that can be easily broken.
Deadbolts and locks cannot be prised open with a credit card or knife, so they’re well worth investing in. We recommend five lever mortice deadlocks where possible.
You should also think about installing window locks – especially on ground and first floors. These should be operated from the inside. If you have SMART or digital locks make sure you change the password regularly – certainly in between tenants.
Burglar alarms are an effective deterrent against intruders. If triggered, the alarm will notify people in the immediate area that the property may have been broken into. Some alarm systems can also be set up to notify the police as soon as they are triggered.
Having an alarm system installed can also provide peace of mind for you and your tenants and a sense of comfort for your tenants when they leave the property unoccupied.
As an alternative, you could go for the more affordable option of investing in a fake alarm box.
These devices are models designed to look like functioning security alarms, giving the impression that the property has a full security system in place. However, they don’t actually provide any security deterrent beyond their appearance.
When it comes to securing your property, you shouldn’t overlook your garden. Whether it’s front, back or both, your garden is the gateway to your home. The more obstacles you create to deter burglars from targeting your property, the better.
If you have a front garden, make it as ‘noisy’ as possible; a noisy gravel path or a lockable front gate could make burglars think twice. Another way to deter burglars is with motion sensor triggered outdoor lights. Research shows that these types of motion sensor lights can make all the difference.
You should also think about keeping trees and shrubs well-trimmed. This will prevent burglars from hiding easily or using tall trees to access windows.
CCTV is not only an effective burglar deterrent, but it can also make it a lot easier to identify anyone who has broken into the property. The footage can be used as evidence to prosecute criminals once they have been detained.
If you are considering installing a CCTV system in your property, it is advisable to consult your tenants first. While some may welcome the extra reassurance provided by this security method, others may feel that it is an invasion of their privacy.
As part of the moving in process, landlords should provide tenants with their contact details in case of an emergency.
Smart home systems have become a popular way to increase home security and there are a variety of devices that can be fitted into a smart home to give your tenants further peace of mind.
Smart devices can be set up throughout a property and managed through a mobile app. For example, the Yale Smart Living system can include video cameras which give tenants a live feed of the outside of their homes, and can also provide alerts when someone is nearby.
While smart home technology can offer enhanced protection, there are some risks involved with using it. Smart devices are susceptible to hacking and cyber-attacks, so make sure all your smart home devices are supported by reliable cyber security software.
Before considering installing a smart home system, we recommend consulting your tenant to make sure that they’re comfortable with living with the technology in their home.
Some of the best break-in deterrents to burglar proof your home are common sense traditional methods such as storing valuables out of view and making sure the windows are closed when the property is vacant.
While your tenants are living in your property, it’s their responsibility to keep their home as secure as possible. Here are some simple tips to share with your tenants to help them protect their home and belongings.
We recommend suggesting to your tenants that they keep their valuables out of sight. Having valuables on show can be enough to entice opportunistic criminals who are passing the property. It may also be beneficial to advise your tenants to register their valuables on the Immobilise National Property Register.
Immobilise return thousands of stolen items every day, help to simplify insurance claims and assist the police in searching for and recovering stolen items. For tenants who keep bicycles at the property, you could also advise them to register their bikes on The National Cycle Database.
If your tenants are going away, it goes without saying that they should make sure all windows and doors are locked. In addition to this, we recommend you ask your tenants to let you know if they are going away, so that you, a neighbour or someone you trust can check on the property while it’s unoccupied.
One of the simplest things tenants can do is avoid announcing to everyone that they’re going on holiday. We advise you to tell them not to post this information on social media or spread it around.
While your tenants are out or away, there are a few simple rules they can follow to make the property seem occupied.
One is to leave radios and lights on a timed switch. Another is to make sure external security lights are functioning and switched on. They should also make sure any side gates are locked to prevent access to the rear of the property.
If you have security alarms, impress on your tenants how important it is that they activate them every time they leave their home. After all, the property will be full of their belongings so it’s in their interest to use any installed alarms.
Property security is important all year round, but there are times of the year where it’s even more crucial to secure your home.
The highest number of burglaries take place during the dark winter months. With this in mind, here’s how to secure your home for winter.
Very few burglaries are impulsive or opportunistic. Most burglars will stake out a home or neighbourhood before trying to gain entry. Which makes sense, when you think about it. Burglary is risky, and can result in a long prison sentence. Breaking into homes on a whim is pretty likely to get you caught.
If they really want to, a burglar can smash a window and climb through fairly easily. Deterring a would be burglar is all about making the task seem as high-risk and low-reward as possible. The more security measures you put in place and the less accessible you make your property seem, the more likely the burglar is to think twice and walk away.
All the security measures listed above (lights on timers, locks on doors and windows, activating alarms, making your front garden as noisy as possible, keeping valuables out of sight) become even more crucial during the winter. Long nights mean there are more hours of darkness – and therefore more opportunities for burglars. Timed lights and radios are a great way of making your property look inhabited when you’re out.
Christmastime is peak burglar season. Thieves know that houses are likely to be full of Christmas presents and goodies at this time of year, which is why it’s particularly important to keep all valuables hidden out of sight.
If your tenants have bought a fancy new computer or the latest console, they need to think about where they’ll put the empty boxes. Placing them out the front with the rest of the recycling is a sure fire way to let burglars know there are attractive valuables indoors. In addition to this, all the usual security rules listed above apply – particularly lighting. One thing burglars don’t want is to be illuminated and visible. The more you can offset the darkness of winter with lighting, the better protected your property will be.
If you don’t have outdoor lights, it’s a good idea to invest in some. Similarly, if you don’t have timers for your lights, we recommend buying some before winter sets in; they’re a cheap and effective way to deter burglars.
Another important measure is to encourage your tenants to let you know if they’re going away during the festive season (and at other times of the year). This is one of the reasons it’s a good idea to develop a strong relationship with your tenants. If they know and trust you, they’ll be much more likely to communicate with you and let you know if they’re going away.
Knowing when your property will be empty is key to keeping it secure and protected against burglary. You can make regular checks and pick up mail that’s sticking out of the letterbox, open and close curtains, and replace the bins while your tenants are away. All of these measures will help to give the appearance that the property is occupied.
A simple way to make sure your tenants let you know if they’re going away is by including it in your tenancy agreement. For example: the tenant must inform you if the property is going to be vacant for a given period of time(you might want to make this seven or 14 days).
This is useful for landlord insurance purposes (particularly if the tenant will be absent for over 30 days), but also enables you to have a conversation with your tenant, before they go away, about keeping the property secure and how they can be contacted in an emergency.
Unfortunately, even if you take every single precaution, there is a chance you could still be the victim of a burglary. Should you experience this, we recommend following our four step process:
1. Report the break-in to the police immediately
As well as giving them the opportunity to catch the criminals, they’ll be able to provide you with a crime reference number. You will need this number for insurance purposes.
2. Secure the property
If doors or windows have been smashed or broken, they’ll need to be fixed. In the interim, you may need to board up any damage to make the property secure.
3. Take time-stamped photos
This will help with your insurance claim.
4. Contact your insurers
Once you’ve notified them of the burglary, they can begin your claim process and advise you on what you need to do next.
If your property has been damaged as a result of criminal activity, it’s your responsibility as the landlord to repair it. However, landlords aren’t responsible for contents belonging to the tenant.
The only time the responsibility could shift to your tenant is if they have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement and acted in a way that resulted in the break-intaking place. For example, if your tenant left a window open on the ground floor while they were out or failed to lock a door, then they will have broken the terms of the lease.
If this is the case, in addition to your tenant being potentially liable for the repairs, you will also need to review the terms of the tenancy agreement with them. Going forward, it’s crucial that both parties (landlord and tenant) understand their responsibilities.
As mentioned previously, the first thing you should do (after calling the police)is secure the property. This will prevent further intrusion and, importantly, make your tenants feel secure and safe.
Apart from the physical damage and loss of property, burglary has a significant psychological impact on people. Your tenants are likely to feel unsafe and scared, so you need to do everything you can to make them feel more secure. Board up broken doors or windows and make sure they are repaired as soon as possible.
If both you as a landlord, and your tenants have worked together to protect your property from burglary, you should be covered for any damage or loss incurred.
This is why it’s so important to communicate security measures clearly to your tenants and to do everything you can to keep your property secure. It’s also why you need landlord insurance.
As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to maintain the structure and exterior of your property, including doors and windows. All entry points should close properly and seal tightly. If your break-in was a result of a broken window or a lock that you didn’t get round to fixing, you could be held liable for negligence. Similarly (as mentioned above), if the break-in was the result of your tenant’s failure to follow security measures, they could be liable.
With the average claim paid out for break-ins between April 2019 and April 2023 costing £3,070, this is an important question. And the answer is, yes - so long as you have comprehensive landlord insurance, damage caused to your property through break-in, along with the theft of your possessions, can be claimed for through your building or contents insurance.
Sometimes claims can run into thousands of pounds. For example, Total Landlord paid out £38,355 to repair damage after intruders smashed the windows to break-into a property, ripping the radiators off the walls and causing water damage throughout the property. Our highest paid claim for break in at Total Landlord was for an eye watering £80,188 in 2018.
Both Total Landlord’s Essential and Premier policies combine buildings and contents insurance and even include loss of rent and liability cover for landlords. Building insurance will cover the physical property for the financial cost of repairing structural damage, for example a smashed window, whereas contents insurance covers the landlord’s contents such as any furniture or appliances.
One thing landlord insurance won’t cover you for is any loss of property which belongs to your tenants or any pre-existing damage. We recommend you make this clear to your tenants before they move in. Otherwise they may think that your insurance will cover their personal belongings and valuables. We advise you to communicate to your tenants that this is not the case, and that the only way to protect the value of their belongings is to take out their own insurance policies.
Given the severe psychological and financial impact of break-ins on both landlords and tenants, it’s worth working together to do all you can to prevent them. But having comprehensive landlord insurance in place provides peace of mind that should the worse happen, you are covered.