Student landlords and letting agents are being warned by the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) to tighten up security in their properties ahead of the new academic year.
The locksmith trade association says that student properties are some of the most targeted in the country by thieves due to sometimes lax security measures and an abundance of expensive items on offer.
Research by Direct Line shows that a quarter of students are burgled while at university with an estimated £25 million lost to thieves since 2014.
Studies show that around 80% of student thefts occur at city universities where privately-rented, multiple occupancy student accommodation is more common.
"Student properties have always been prone to break ins but with students increasingly looking for accommodation with more facilities and a higher finish, the cost of any potential damage and repairs could be higher than ever for landlords," says Dr Steffan George, managing director of the Master Locksmiths Association.
"Repairing damage to doors and windows caused by a burglary or forced entry can cost in the region of £600 alone, which can significantly affect the bottom line of any rental investment."
The MLA has issued new guidance for landlords and agents of student properties, which we have reproduced in full below:
1. Know who has access to your property: Would-be thieves don’t always need to force their way into your property. Workmen, letting agents and past tenants may still have keys. Even if you ask for all keys to be returned, there’s no guarantee that they don’t have copies. A patented lock system is a simple, cost-effective way to limit the number of keys in circulation and prevent keys from being cut without proof of ownership.
2. Think like a burglar: Before new students move in, take the opportunity to review security on your property. Remove any large objects or debris outside that could potentially be used to gain entry and repair any broken doors or windows. Be sure to take a look at other similar properties nearby and look for anything different on your property that could make it obvious it is student accommodation.
3. Discuss security: Your new tenants may never have had the responsibility of securing a property alone before, so walk them through what you expect of them when they first move in. Perform routine visits to the property to ensure your tenants are correctly maintaining security and regularly testing the burglar alarm.
4. Install preventative measures: Dusk-till-dawn security lights around the property will help deter thieves from attempting to gain access and alert your neighbours to any attempt to gain access. Interior light timers can also give the impression that someone is in.
5. Invest in good-quality security fixtures: Quality locks and security measures not only reduce the likelihood of theft, the increased lifespan of the products will save money in the long term.
6. Don’t be tempted to DIY: If you have concerns about the security of your property, hire a professional - the average cost of fixing botched DIY jobs is £300+. Your local MLA-approved locksmith will be able to provide a thorough and independent safety and security assessment, offering advice and installation services on all security upgrades necessary to meet insurance requirements.
7. Security and safety: Equally as important as security is safety. It’s very easy for the wrong kind of door hardware to be installed or fitted to an individual property, especially in homes of multiple occupation (HMO). In addition to this, HMO licencing could be in for some changes and landlords could be held directly responsible in an emergency situation - so advice from a trained professional is essential to prevent issues such as entrapment.