Thankfully there has been a significant fall in burglaries of residential properties since 2011, but there have still been almost 400,000 break-ins during the past year, according to the Economic Policy Centre think tank, so it’s essential landlords provide proper security to protect both their properties and their tenants.
Landlord insurance providers usually require five-lever dead locks on main exit doors and they will usually give discounts on premiums if all the accessible windows have key-operated locks, or if there is some sort of alarm system.
Most break-ins occur in winter, according to figures on UKCrimeStats.com, with a peak in November. Presumably thieves like to take advantage of the darker nights (plus they’re probably looking for Christmas presents left lying around), so it might be worth installing exterior lights with motion sensors for extra security if your property is in a high risk area or you have vulnerable tenants, including single women and pensioners.
Last year there was also a rise in break-ins in August, which might have been due to a combination of people leaving windows and doors open during the warmer weather and properties being left empty when people were on holiday.
While a break-in could be devastating for a tenant, it could also have a financial impact on the landlord. A property might be badly damaged and require extensive repairs and if tenants don’t use all of the provided security measures they might accidentally invalidate a landlord’s insurance policy.
Often I’ve found that my own tenants don’t use the deadlock on the front door when they go out. Instead, they just pull it closed behind them and leave it on the night latch. This is a concern because it’s frighteningly easy for thieves to pick the lock on a night latch. In fact, there are special keys readily available online that they can use to ‘bump’ the locks open.
The small print of the landlord insurance policies I’ve checked state that the landlord is covered for “theft or attempted theft consequent upon violent and forcible entry to or exit from the property”. As it’s easy for someone to pick a night latch without leaving any sign of entry, a landlord might have a hard time proving their property had been burgled.
My landlord insurance policy also states that I’m “required to take all reasonable precautions to prevent and reduce any loss or damagethat may occur”. For this reason, I think it's advisable to tell tenants in writing that they should always make sure they apply all door, window locks and alarm systems when they go out and double-check they’ve left the property secure when they go on holiday.
I also suggest to my tenants that they take out their own contents insurance to cover their personal belongings, just in case they are burgled. Some landlord insurance policies will cover a tenant’s possessions, but most don’t offer this as standard.
Obviously we don’t want to scare our tenants, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.