Burglar alarms if you rent a property

Tenants should see smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms when they rent a property – but burglar alarms are another matter. Landlords have a legal responsibility to ensure that the properties they let out are safe and secure. Yet that rarely translates into a burglar alarm system.

So what happens if you want to protect your rental property from burglary? Is there any difference between flats and houses? Can you ask your landlord to install a system, or can you install one yourself? And what are your legal rights and obligations as far as the safety and security of your home are concerned?

Tenants are at greater risk of burglary

In 2015, the Police Foundation think tank published research into how crime affected the private rented sector and made some disturbing findings. The researchers examined crime figures for Slough and Luton and discovered that burglary was more concentrated in private rented flats and houses. In fact the prevalence of burglar was more closely linked to rented accommodation than any other factor, including unemployment, overcrowding or social deprivation.

Why was this happening? The researchers believe that privately rented accommodation tended to have poorer levels of security. Door locks were of lower quality, and window locks, security lighting and burglar alarms were either low quality or missing entirely. Because neither the landlord nor the tenants had any great incentive to invest in the property, burglars were more likely to spot properties with security flaws they could exploit.

Other risks, according to campaign groups such as The Tenant’s Voice, relate to keys to the property. In most cases, landlords do not routinely change the locks between tenancies, which means that previous tenants can potentially easily gain entry to your home. Nearly 87% of landlords use a letting agent, according to Homelet, which means they also have keys.

Your landlord’s obligations on home security

In general, landlords need to provide a home that is secure and safe for tenants to live in. But while this means regular checks for gas safety, electrical safety and fire safety, this does not extend to including a burglar alarm. There is a strong incentive for landlords to avoid installing burglar alarms – they become responsible for ensuring that the alarm is working and may be liable if it is not.

Landlords do need to make sure that all of the locks are insurance-approved. So tenants should still insist that the locks are changed when they move into their new home. It’s a good idea to check the doors and windows of any property before you move in, to flag any potential problems like a lack of window locks or doors that have substandard locks.

Choosing the right burglar alarm system

It’s definitely worth asking your landlord to install a burglar alarm system. But if yours decides not to, then it’s possible to pick an alarm system yourself. Traditional alarm systems involve wires and fiddly installation – that’s a problem for most tenants because tenancy agreements usually forbid any work that will affect the walls.

A wireless system is ideal for tenants because it can be installed with minimal interference with the property. The wireless technology means there is no need to trail wires through a flat or house and risk losing money on a security deposit for damaging walls or fittings. Photo detectors, shock sensors and surveillance cameras can be connected to a central hub using 3G mobile technology so that there’s no need for wires. They are also much easier to remove when moving house, which means you can take your alarm system with you when you move.

Wireless systems are also

  • quick to install
  • have batteries which are easy to replace
  • low maintenance
  • less obtrusive

They will also keep working even if the mains electricity supply has been cut, which is a common technique used by burglars who have planned their attack.

Responding to burglar alarms

An alarm system is simply a way to alert someone that something unexpected is happening – that means that an alarm without a response system is less effective. Modern wireless alarm systems like Verisure’s include a guard system where your system can be monitored on a 24-hour basis from a control centre. They can filter out any false alarms and send an emergency guard response if they are sure that there has been an intrusion.

It’s another advantage for tenants of installing their own alarm system. The system can be monitored from a smartphone so you can see in real time what your alarm system is showing you.

This comes at the cost of a monthly fee, but it’s useful for tenants to have flexibility in contracts. Make sure you pick a contract that has no lock-in element so that it’s easy to deal with changes in circumstances.

Safety tips for tenants

Since tenants are at a higher risk of becoming the victim of a crime, it’s important to take steps to stop that happening.

  • Check out the neighbourhood of anywhere you’re considering moving to – take a look during the day and at night time too.
  • Look at the locks on the doors and windows for signs of wear.
  • Install a letterbox shield and ask your landlord about a door viewer if you don’t have one.
  • Consider adding a door chain if you don’t have one.
  • Investigate options for a wireless burglar alarm.
  • Get to know your neighbours and find out about the previous tenants.
  • Don’t forget to get contents insurance or tenants insurance.