More and more investors in the UK are looking to the student accommodation market to increase their buy-to-let portfolio. It’s hardly surprising, considering the often-reliable (albeit seasonal) demand and relatively affordable investment locations that make them generally low-risk property assets. Indeed, according to the Financial Times, in the first half of 2012, investment in student property more than doubled to £800m.
However, investing in student accommodation does have its pitfalls, particularly due to the seasonal nature of the occupation. Typically, student houses will be empty from around the beginning of June until the middle of September, and also for a few weeks here and there during the semester breaks. If neglected, this vacancy can pose security risks. However, as a landlord or property investor, there are a number of things you can do to help keep your investment property secure.
Hopefully, prior to investing in your student property, the location of the building was taken into consideration. Often, areas with a large student population have high burglary rates because of students’ reputation for often having the latest technologies, like laptops, stereos and computers, or indeed because the properties themselves are known as being empty for considerable periods of time. Obviously, there is little you can do about that as a landlord. However, keeping an eye on the local news in the area of the property is a good idea so you can be aware of what’s going on. Should there be a particularly prolific spate of break-ins, it could be worth looking into higher security measures, like fencing or even CCTV. (Read on for more about this.)
Keeping an investment property secure is, of course, not just about the times when the property is vacant. As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to make sure the repair of the property’s structure and exterior is kept up. Ensure that windows and doors are secure throughout the entire year to avoid making your property an attractive prospect and a seemingly easy target to intruders. A visible and functioning burglar alarm is also an effective deterrent, whether the property is vacant or not.
Obviously, in order for you to be able to check that your property is sufficiently secure when it is vacant, you need to know when it’s going to be empty. By encouraging a good relationship with the tenants of the property, whether that’s directly or through a letting agent, they can be reminded of the importance of letting you know when the property is going to be empty. This not only means you’ll know when you need to potentially employ further security measures and checks, it will also make it easier for you to make more defined plans and deadlines, should any maintenance work need to be carried out.
It’s also important to make sure your tenants understand the importance of not making your property an advertisement to burglars. If you can, encourage them to take any valuable belongings with them when they vacate the property for the holidays, or at least keep them out of sight.
Sometimes, you may find that you need your student investment property to be vacant for even longer than the summer break, or just that you need the added peace of mind of extra security. At this point, it’s worth considering employing the efforts of a dedicated vacant property security firm, such as Safe Site Facilities. These firms will be able to offer their expertise to help you decide which sort of security measures might be most efficient and suitable for your needs. These measures could include temporary heras fencing to protect the public while construction work is being carried out, CCTV systems if you’d like to deter intruders or have evidence should a burglary occur, or even timber boarding up of windows and doors if there’s been damage to your property that needs securing immediately.