In this article, David Boultbee from Ultra LEDs shares his tips for keeping your student properties safe when they’re unoccupied this Christmas.
Christmas break is approaching, which means that most student tenants will be heading back home to see their families and leaving their rented properties empty. As their landlord, there’s a few reasons why this might be a problem for you.
Almost 70% of student properties are left empty during the holidays, which unfortunately makes burglaries extremely common during this time. Adding to the risk, UK homes are a third more likely to be broken into during the winter months after the clocks go back, as the darker nights make it easier for thieves to get away.
That’s not the only issue with empty houses, either. More household fires take place in winter, with chimneys, heaters, and faulty Christmas decorations increasing the risk of a fire breaking out (gov.uk). And, with no one around to prevent the blazes or respond to alarms, the consequences could be devastating to your property.
When you know your rented property will be left unattended, its best to have safety measures in place to deter thieves, reduce the risk of fires, and protect your building from other seasonal threats. Below, I’ll take you through some of the best steps you can take.
Scaring off burglars and thieves
If you’re looking to protect your property from burglars, a tried and tested method of theft prevention is making a house look occupied when it isn’t. One of the easiest ways to do this is to install timers on lights and lamps inside the building. You can purchase lamps with timers built in or buy them separately, but you must make sure the timers are compatible with your light fittings by reading the packaging first.
Thieves are smart, so make sure you think carefully about when you want your lights to turn on and off. The simplest approach is to time them for sunrises and sunsets, but a more complicated and effective system might be to illuminate the living room, then the kitchen, then the living room again, then finally the bedroom throughout the evening, as if the occupants are moving from room to room. That should be enough to deter thieves even if they are watching the house.
Don’t forget that lights can be used to protect your property from the outside, too. I would recommend installing motion activated security lights in dark areas and entry points. These can draw attention to a potential break-in and make thieves more identifiable if you have CCTV or a doorbell camera, so they’ll be more likely to move on and try somewhere else — or get caught by the police.
Fires also pose a threat to unoccupied properties. As a landlord, you’re legally required to fit smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide alarms and test them so you know they will alert residents to any dangers. You also have to make sure the property is free from hazards by organising gas safety checks and PAT tests for electrical equipment. If your property has more than three tenants, you also have to supply fire extinguishers (gov.uk). These measures are to ensure that your property stays fire safe all year round.
Many landlords also choose to switch to LED bulbs rather than halogen, fluorescent, or incandescent light sources because they convert a much higher percentage of their energy into light rather than heat. That means there’s less of a risk of them causing a fire in your building if they’re left on and unattended over Christmas, so you could consider swapping your bulbs and fittings as an extra precaution.
Seasonal safety issues
Christmas itself poses a few extra safety problems for properties, especially when they’re left unattended. Decorations put up by your tenants in the run up to the festive season might accidentally be left plugged in, which could be an additional fire risk. This risk is increased even further if they have been cheaply made. It might be worth sending an email or text to your student tenants to remind them to unplug their decorations before they head home, and not to overload their plug sockets.
Outdoor festive lighting is great for wowing the neighbours, but you have to make sure your tenants are using the correct type. Wind, rain, and even animals can play havoc with string lights and other electrical ornaments, so it’s important to stress to your student tenants that they need to buy products that are designed for outdoor use. These products are made from strong materials and have their components covered and sealed, so water and whatever else can’t get in and cause an electrical fire.
Keeping costs low
There’s always the risk that the property’s energy bills will also increase over Christmas despite there being no one in the house. Electrical items may be left plugged in or running, and the central heating either on full or on a timer so it warms up the property unnecessarily. Even TV sets left on stand-by can contribute towards your bills, so remind your tenants to switch off and unplug as many electrical items as they can think of before they leave for the holidays.
You could also consider fitting a smart home system so your tenants can access it from their mobile phones when they’re away from the property. That way, you can be more confident that the central heating will be switched off and any electrical items won’t be left on stand-by, helping to keep your bills low, because your tenants can simply turn them off remotely if they forget.
When your student tenants go home for Christmas and leave your property unattended, there are certain risks you need to consider. It’s important to make sure your student property is protected from burglars, fires, and other threats that could cost you dearly, and the tips in this guide should help you take the necessary precautions.
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