Student Property Security Tips for Landlords

Burglars are targeting student properties in the UK because they expect the security will be lax, according to research. With inadequate security measures in place, criminals view student houses as easy pickings – they expect to find expensive computers and gaming technology.

Around one-quarter of students are burgled while at university, according to research by the insurance company, Direct Line. Student safety should be paramount if you’re a landlord renting your properties to this potentially vulnerable type of tenant.

House burglary© Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock

The statistics have prompted the Master Locksmiths’ Association to advise UK landlords to improve student security measures before the new term starts this autumn.


Why do burglars target students?

The MLA says student properties have “always been prone to break-ins” but never more so than today.

Students are increasingly looking for accommodation with a higher finish, more facilities and good quality student housing furniture. This means any damage that occurs during a burglary could be more expensive to rectify than ever before.

According to the MLA, the average cost of repairing damaged windows and doors caused by a burglary is £600. Damage to other items such as student furniture and interior fixtures and fittings – can bump up the repair bill even further.

This can increase insurance premiums and impact the bottom line of any rental investments.

While it’s possible to take advantage of furniture packages for landlords to replace damaged or stolen HMO furniture quickly, it’s far better to stop intruders from entering the property in the first place.

The MLA says student landlords must be “more security aware” and take proactive steps to reduce the risks of burglaries.


Student burglary hotspots

Some regions of the UK suffer more student burglaries than others, according to data published by Insurance Business Magazine.

Manchester tops the list of the most burgled student properties in the UK, with almost 1,000 HMO houses targeted in one year.

The second worst-hit city for students was Leeds, where almost 800 burglaries were recorded within a one-mile area. The top five most burgled student regions included Sheffield, with more than 700 incidents; Bristol, with 623; and Hull, with 610 burglaries over the space of one year.

Students who fell victim to burglars spoke of arriving home to find the TV had been ripped off its bracket on the wall. However, the most common items stolen were smaller electronic devices including laptops, speakers and PlayStation or Xbox gaming consoles.

Other personal items, such as jewellery and aftershave, were also stolen quite frequently because they were easy to carry. In one case, the same students were burgled twice, leading the landlord to install triple-strength security glass to prevent it from happening again.


What security measures should student landlords take?

Always be aware of who has access to your property. Burglars don’t always force their way into a house: past tenants and trades people might still have a key to the property and not everyone is honest.

Insurers advise limiting the number of keys in circulation by having a patented lock system to prevent more keys from being cut without proof of ownership. If you’re in any doubt, it’s cheaper to change the door locks before new tenants move in, rather than falling victim to unauthorised entry with an old key further down the line.

Always continually review security in your student properties. Make sure doors, windows and locks are in a good state of repair. Always invest in good quality locks and security measures.

Look at other properties in the area and check for anything that makes it stand out as a student house. Remove any debris or large objects outside that could be used to gain entry such as bricks, rocks, old fence planks and other similar items.

Install preventative measures such as security lights around the property that will come on automatically from dusk ‘til dawn. These can help deter thieves from entering and will also enable neighbours to see if anyone is trying to break in. Add interior light timers to give the impression that someone is home.


Discuss security with tenants

Student tenants may never have lived away from home before: they are likely to be unfamiliar with the responsibility of looking after their own home. Walk them through what is expected of them, such as keeping the doors locked at all times.

Carry out routine visits to the property to make sure your tenants are maintaining security and testing the burglar alarm regularly. Suggest they keep expensive items such as laptops locked in their room, rather than in communal areas. Advise them to keep the curtains closed after dark, so would-be opportunist thieves don’t spot something they want to steal.


DIY security

It’s better to ask a professional about the security of your student property, rather than attempting a DIY job that you may inadvertently botch if you don’t have the required skills.

According to research, the average cost of fixing a botched DIY job in the UK is £324, so it pays to hire a professional locksmith. They will provide an independent, thorough safety assessment and can offer advice and installation of necessary security upgrades to comply with insurance requirements.

Check the insurance policy for your student portfolio is up to date and ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency situation.

While students may enjoy the freedom of living away from home, being the landlord of student properties carries many responsibilities. Sadly, a student HMO property can become a target for opportunist intruders. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to safeguard the property and the occupants’ own personal wellbeing by remaining vigilant.

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