New security advice for student landlords in Sheffield

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As enrolment numbers rise across the UK, research by Knight Frank shows Sheffield is a prime location for those looking to invest in student housing.

According to the report, rental growth increased by 4.5 per cent over a 12-month period.

It’s great news for those looking to buy to let, but as student landlords look ahead to the next academic year, the Master Locksmith Association (MLA) is warning landlords to pay attention to safety and security. Crime rates in areas with student accommodation are 2.5 times higher than the national average.

Here, Dr Steffan George, development director of the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) – the UK’s leading trade association for the locksmithing profession – gives expert advice and guidance on keeping student properties safe and secure.

If insurance requirements aren’t met, you won’t even receive compensation, should the worst does happen, so it’s vital your property fits safety and security regulations, both for when it is inhabited and when it is left empty over the summer months. Whether you’re a landlord or a student, there’s no need to panic, simply follow these steps to ensure your property and belongings are as secure and protected as possible.

Firstly, check the exterior and interior of the property for any potential entry points – i.e. weak doors or damage to doors, windows and locks. Consider different ways in which a thief could gain access – don’t forget they may use objects such as bins or garden furniture to climb and break in through an upstairs window.

Check you have a fully functioning burglar alarm and that occupants are trained to use it. They should be highly visible too in order to work as a deterrent to a would-be thief. Test it on a regular basis as well as regularly changing the code (especially at the end of the academic year when a new intake of students may be taking up residence) cases in which an unknowingly defunct alarm allows burglary are more common than you may imagine.

Invest in security lighting. Dusk till dawn security lights outside the property will both deter thieves from targeting it and alert neighbours to unwelcome activity. Inside the property, consider installing indoor light timers to give the impression that someone is home. We recommend using at least one with an energy-saving light bulb.

Consider installing CCTV systems that can be remotely monitored. This allows you to keep an eye on your student property when vacant from your own home, including via your smartphone - although be mindful that this provision would have to be removed if and when the house is sold and mustn’t be used when the property is occupied.

Make sure that any security features you invest in are of good quality, saving you money in the long-term and increasing the longevity. For a list of security products that have been independently tested to help secure your home Click here

Ask a neighbour to keep an eye on the property whilst it’s empty. If the neighbouring houses are occupied by graduates or families, it’s worth politely asking them to keep an eye out for any strange occurrences.

Create a simple list of helpful security tips to hand out to tenants at the start of their tenancy – this can be a simple, easy method of re-iterating the importance of keeping the property secure. A typical guide for students, as it’s usually their first time living alone, is generic reminders about locking doors and not allowing tailgating etc. Also why not install a patented lock system. This simple, yet cost effective system avoids keys being cut without proof of ownership. It makes it easier for you, meanwhile, to track who has access to your property and you could even use this as a “selling feature” to appeal to tenants.

Equally as important as security is safety – don’t forget to check the House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) safety requirements. Bedroom and main exit doors must open from the inside without the use of a key, allowing easy escape and all compartmental doors within a property must be fire doors.

Check to see whether there is a licensing scheme in place for private landlords in the area your property is located.

Finally, if your property is furnished, ensure it complies with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 and the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 1993, which stipulate that furniture cannot block fire exists, and all upholstered furniture, such as sofas and beds, contain fire-resistant filling and covers. Labels confirming fire resistance will also have to be sewn onto furniture and clearly visible for inspection.

If in doubt, get a professional involved. We highly recommend contacting your local MLA-approved locksmith who can carry out a thorough safety and security assessment and upgrade and install all the appropriate products where necessary, leaving no stone unturned and ensuring the property meets insurance requirements.

To find an MLA licensed locksmith in your area visit the user-friendly MLA website www.locksmiths.co.uk. To review a list of independently tested and approved security products visit the Sold Secure website at: www.soldsecure.com. Security guidelines for domestic properties can also be downloaded free of charge from http://www.locksmiths.co.uk/security-advice/security-guidelines-for-domestic-dwellings/.