Burglar alarms for rented properties

Tenants are used to having smoke 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, however that rarely translates into a burglar alarm system.

So what happens if you want to protect your rental property from burglary? Are there any differences 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 rental sector, and their findings were disturbing. The researchers examined crime figures for Slough and Luton, and they discovered that burglary was more concentrated in privately rented flats and houses. Even worse, the prevalence of burglary 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 homes with security flaws which 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 home security obligations

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, electrical, and fire safety, this does not extend to burglar alarms. This is mostly due to the strong incentive for landlords to avoid installing burglar alarms, as they then become responsible for ensuring that the alarm is working. In some cases, they 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, such as a lack of window locks or doors with a substandard locking system.

Choosing the right burglar alarm system

It’s definitely worth asking your landlord to install a burglar alarm system. But if yours decides against it, you may still get certain types of alarm systems yourself. If you choose this route, try to avoid traditional alarm systems that involve wires and fiddly installation – that’s a problem for most landlords, as they 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 wirelessly connected to a central hub using 3G mobile technology. They are also much easier to remove when moving house, which means you can take your alarm system with you when you leave.

Wireless systems are also:

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

They will 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. If it doesn’t include 24-hour monitoring, this means that the alarm relies completely on individuals who are physically present at the time it goes off. The end result is a less effective alarm system. Modern wireless alarms like Verisure’s include a specialist response team that monitors your property from a control centre on a 24-hour basis. These specialists can filter out any false alarms and send an emergency guard response if they are sure that there has been an intrusion. Additionally, the system can be monitored from a smartphone so you can see in real-time what your alarm is showing you.

Safety tips for tenants

Since tenants are at a higher risk of becoming the victim of crime, it’s important to take extra steps to keep themselves safe:

  • 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 tenant’s insurance.

Rental properties may be more susceptible to crime, but that doesn’t mean you’re defenseless. Check the quality of your locks, educate yourself about your neighbourhood’s crime rate, and confirm with your landlord regarding wireless alarm system installation. If you take the steps to protect yourself now, you may be able to avoid becoming another rental statistic later.