The ultimate guide to securing your rental property

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 secure.

There’s a lot of information here, but if you’re interested in something particular you can skip ahead using the menu below.

The importance of security

Unfortunately, burglaries are not uncommon. In the UK, a burglary takes place every 108 seconds, and the average burglary costs approximately £3030. Here at Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance, property damage caused during a break-in is the third most common type of insurance claim that we receive and the highest payouts escalate into the tens of thousands. 

Our data shows that there are significant spikes in the number of break-ins during the summer and winter months – and the statistics show that most forced entries happen during the day. 

In recent times, due to the pandemic and lockdowns, the number of burglaries has dramatically reduced. However, as we begin to return to business as usual, it’s likely these numbers will rise again, which is why this is the perfect time to take precautionary measures and ramp up your security. 

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How to prevent a burglary or break-in

While it’s both yours and your tenants’ responsibility to keep your property secure, there are a number of measures you should take before your tenants move in. 

 

Doors and windows

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 ensure 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 security front door if your bathroom window is locked with a cheap latch that can be easily broken.

 

Install deadbolts and locks

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. 

 

Install a security alarm

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 do not actually provide any security deterrent beyond their appearance.

The ultimate guide to securing your rental property

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Think about your garden

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. Therefore the more obstacles you create, 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 as a way to access windows. 

 

CCTV

CCTV is not only an effective 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.

The ultimate guide to securing your rental property

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Smart home security

Smart home systems are becoming an increasingly popular way to increase the security of your property.

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.

It is important to note that 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 it’s crucial that you make sure all your smart home devices are supported by reliable cybersecurity software. 

Additionally, before considering installing a smart home system, we recommend consulting your tenant first to ensure that they are comfortable with living with the technology in their home.

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Home security ideas for tenants

While your tenants are living in your property, it is their responsibility to keep their home as secure as possible. Of course, this benefits both them as the tenants, and you, the landlord. Here are some simple ways in which your tenants can protect their home and belongings.

 

Keep valuables out of sight

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 may be 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 also 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.

 

Let you know if the property is going to be vacant

If your tenants are going away for a period of time, 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 and collect the post whilst it is unoccupied. This obviously requires landlords to have an amicable and communicative relationship with their tenants.

 

Don’t tell the whole world they’re going away

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.

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Make the property look occupied

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 ensure 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. 

The ultimate guide to securing your rental property

 

Always activate alarms

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.

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Seasonal property security

While property security is important all year round, there are times of the year where it’s even more crucial to secure your home. 

 

Home security for the winter months

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.

 

Think like a burglar

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. The maximum sentence is up to 14 years.

Breaking into homes on a whim is pretty likely to get you caught. That being said, the object of protection against burglary isn’t so much to prevent people from gaining access.

If they really want to, they can smash a window and climb through fairly easily. It’s 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.

 

Be fastidious about your usual security measures

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. 

 

Preventing break-ins during the festive season

Christmas time 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 HD TV, 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 surefire 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.

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Securing your home when tenants go on holiday

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 a key factor in 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 ensure 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.