Across Britain almost 80,000 homeowners are renting out rooms and houses on Airbnb, a figure which is doubling each year. London has become the third largest Airbnb city, with over 35,000 listed addresses welcoming in a world of tourists and economic opportunities. However, this trend also means that there are tens of thousands of properties standing vacant across the UK for indeterminable periods of time. As a result, Airbnb properties are attracting unwelcome criminal attention.
For many hosts and landlords who rent out spaces which are situated a far distance from their own address, standard residential security features are not able to offer adequate property protection. There are a number of additional security devices and services which are proving to be increasingly popular among rental properties. As a portion of the crimes affecting Airbnb hosts are carried out by the tenants themselves, rental property security systems must be carefully tailored to deter crime inside and outside the property, without detracting from guest privacy or holiday appeal.
Keys and Keyholders for rental properties
As long distance hosts aren’t always able to greet guests and hand over keys in person, finding a safe and easy means of delivering keys to guests is a high priority. A popular option is a combination keybox installed on an exterior wall, which is a relatively low-risk, low-maintenance option. Gadget enthusiasts at The Sweethome have been carrying out research on a number of highly regarded security lockboxes. Using professional locksmiths to simulate break-in attempts and access the keys, they found that these metal combination safes are able to provide a high level of protection.
The main pitfall with this method is that in order for the box to continue providing effective security, the combination code should be changed regularly, ideally between each guest. For a remote landlord, this may be inconvenient or even impossible. Entrusting this job to a third party, such as a neighbour or cleaner, also introduces some risk of theft, or of the code falling into the wrong hands.
Another popular option for rental property owners is professional keyholding. Registering with a professional keyholder enables hosts to be simultaneously vigilant and distant, steering clear of the risks associated with non-professional third party keyholders. Key guards can arrive at a property to pass over keys to guests and check the security of the building, as well as being on call in case of an emergency. Through prearranged routine visits, companies such as CMS Keyholding ensure that no element of rental property security is left to chance. Guests, property and livelihood are well protected.
To CCTV or not to CCTV
Using surveillance and monitoring equipment in a rental property is often a bit of a grey area. While property owners have a right to protect their belongings, they also have a duty to protect the privacy of their guests. On their website, Airbnb advises hosts that if they do choose to install CCTV or audio surveillance they must first understand the relevant laws, notifying guests and getting consent where required.
Cameras needn’t be installed in locations which will drastically infringe on guests’ privacy. A camera in the driveway, or facing key entry points can be enough to ensure you have a record of who is entering your property, and if any belongings are being removed.
In conjunction with clearly visible burglar alarms, CCTV is enough to deter criminals from targeting a property. There have been many studies over the last few years investigating the effect of CCTV on behaviour, with many findings showing that the ‘illusion of being watched’ prompts better behaviour. Installing a few cameras around your premises, should therefore be all that’s needed to reduce the chances of criminal activity occurring onsite.
One way to enhance the level of security provided by external cameras is to use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) software. As CCTV system specialists Cater Security point out, this software will capture vehicle information, regardless of weather conditions or time of day. In the event that you do need to chase up or report a theft by a guest or burglar, this information can be much more helpful than facial recognition. It will guarantee you a higher chance of catching a criminal, and clear documentation about who arrived at your property.
Security Grilles at Vulnerable Entry Points
Designed to be both resilient and unobtrusive, decorative security grilles are a common feature on houses which are frequently unoccupied, and therefore vulnerable to break-ins. Depending on the location of your property, it may only be necessary to fit security grilles on ground floor windows or doors which are not visible from neighbouring properties. This way, the aesthetics of the building are not compromised.
Some models of window and door grilles can even be removed, or collapsed to one side. If you were concerned with these security features interfering with your guests’ experience, then this more flexible options would enable you to remove the grilles during periods of occupancy.