Whether you’ve taken on a new rental home, a tenant has lost their keys, or you are worried about the number of spares unaccounted for, all landlords are likely to need the services of a locksmith at some point. This month is Home Security Month, and in this article originally published in Residential Property Investor magazine, here’s a look at how you can ensure your homes remain safe and secure.
Providing a safe and secure home for your tenants is a key part of your responsibility as a landlord – if you’ll pardon the pun. So, what do you need to think about when changing the locks? What are the risks and what new technology is out there to make your job as a landlord easier?
The Master Locksmiths Association is a trade association for the locksmithing industry. It says the biggest security risk for a rented property is the use of locks that haven’t been tested and certified by independent test houses.
The association said using uncertified locks could leave you vulnerable to burglaries and said you should always look for either the British Standard Kitemark or evidence of Sold Secure approval (you can check products at www.soldsecure.com). It stresses that the first thing to do when purchasing a property is to change the locks, as you have no idea how many keys may be in circulation.
Could having the wrong locks affect an insurance claim?
Some insurers specify the types of locks required on doors and windows, and if not fitted they might refuse to pay against a claim.
According to the RLA insurance partner Rentguard, generally theft is only covered if it occurs through violent and forcible entry.
Most insurers require:
●External doors: 5 Lever Mortice Deadlocks conforming to British Standard 3621;
●Patio Doors: In addition to a central locking device, key operating bolts to top and bottom opening sections;
●Windows: Key operated security locks to all ground floor windows, accessible sky lights and other accessible windows
You should always check the terms and conditions of your insurance and if particular locks are required seek advice from a qualified locksmith.
What sort of lock do I need?
Different buildings require different locks and door hardware, for example handles, hinges, door closers. HMOs and apartments for example need different means of escape to houses, and therefore need different locks fitting.
If your rental home only has a single door to get in and out of, then it is a legal requirement to have locks that can be opened from the inside without the need of a key – known as ‘keyless egress’. If the wrong locks are fitted on the only emergency exit in your rental home, there is a risk your tenants could become trapped inside.
The consequences of this could be extremely serious were a fire to break out – and you as the landlord could be prosecuted as a result.
Dr Steffan George, Managing Director of the MLA, said: “If you are not sure the correct locks or fittings are in place the association advises you double check with a professional locksmith. Ideally look for the MLA Approved logo.”
I have heard I can use a master key system for all my rental homes. What is this and how does it work?
A master key system is one where a single key opens all locks in the system and for landlords with a number of properties they could offer the ideal solution.
This could work well for you if you have a number of properties, as you – or your agent – would only need one key, with the doors to the individual homes ‘sub-mastered’ so tenant can be given a key only opening the door to their home.
This would save landlords time and dispense of the need for difficult key tracking systems. Landlords could also consider investing in a patented lock system. This is a system unique to you and your property, and can help increase security as the keys cannot be copied without proof of ownership.
While initial investment in patented or restricted locking systems tends to be higher, in the long term this could potentially save you money, as if you wish to change your locks, they can be reconfigured rather than replaced.
Should I change the locks when a new tenant moves in?
When a patented key system is used and all the keys given at the beginning of the contract are returned to the landlord at the end of tenancy agreement, there is no need to change the locks. However the MLA advises that if normal locks with unpatented keys are being used, then locks SHOULD be changed at the beginning of each contract as the landlord might not be aware if keys have been copied.
What are smart locks? And should I trust them?
Smart locks, locks that can be opened by devices such as mobile phones, or fobs etc, have not been tested – essentially as the standards to test them against have only just been developed. The MLA said it can only recommend smart locks be currently used as a form of ‘access control’ and not primary security. So, for example if one is used on the main entrance door to a property then it should be used in conjunction with a tested and certified key operated lock.
If I hire someone to install locks at my rental home, am I still responsible of something goes wrong?
The MLA said landlords should be aware that even if they employ people to do maintenance work, it is still their responsibility to ensure the property they provide meets safety requirements.
Dr George said: “When you are in need of a locksmith for your rental property, you might not be aware of the possible risks you could expose yourself and your tenants if you use an unqualified locksmith.
“With the absence of government licensing for locksmiths, The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA), has its own licensing scheme whereby its approved companies are vetted, undergo regular inspections to ensure quality, and employ a locksmith with an exam-based proof of competence.”
For more information on the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA), visit www.locksmiths.co.uk