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Security advice for student accommodation

19th February 2017

Flicking through the channels on the TV the other night I happened across an old episode of The Young Ones. Those of you of a certain age may well remember this early 80s comedy with fondness as we followed the anarchic adventures of four students - the punk Vyvyan (Ade Edmondson), the wannabe anarchist Rick (the much missed Rik Mayall), the delightful hippy Neil (Nigel Planer), and Mike, the "other one" (Christopher Ryan). Not forgetting the landlord, Jerzei, played by the inimitable Alexei Sayle. As with Fawlty Towers, only 12 episodes were ever made, but in a similar fashion, its influence has stayed with us for many decades. 

Anyway, this trip down memory lane does have a connection with what I'll talk about today.  Because although the quartet of students in The Young Ones provided plenty of laughs, I'll wager they didn't give a great deal of thought to the security of the accommodation they rented from Jerzei,  their landlord. And to be quite honest, I'm not sure Jerzei himself would have given a lot of consideration to it either. 

Security of student flats and houses

Away from fiction and into reality, it's a truism that the security of student flats and houses can often be found wanting. This is down to a few factors - the cheapness of the accommodation, the rental factor (I can think of very few conventional students who would own their own properties), as well as the student lifestyle, where home security will be way down the list of priorities for youngsters eager to enjoy student life. 

Add the fact that students can often have high value equipment, whether this be laptop computers, expensive mobile phones, or fancy music systems, and you can see why students are right at the top of the groups of people who are most likely to fall victim to burglary. However, there are steps they can take to reduce the risk and I'll run through a few of them below to hopefully stop the excitement of student life being marred by the all too harsh reality of dealing with police and insurance firms.

How to reduce the risk of burglary

Looking first at halls of residence, these are generally a safer bet than private rented accommodation, as the university or accommodation provider should have ensured the safety of students is a priority. There's also safety in numbers with lots of fellow students on campus. However, this does increase the risk of theft by fellow students - not a nice thought but it can happen. One precaution that can be taken before even arriving at university is to go through all your high value items, listing the details of serial numbers etc, so that if anything does go missing there is at least a greater chance of a later reunion with your property. Make sure this list is saved somewhere safe or to the "cloud" as if it's just saved on your laptop and then your laptop is stolen...well, you can see the drawback there. 

Residence halls often make use of a fob entry system which is an excellent security measure. The caveat here, of course, is if doors are held open for people who do not have a key. Understandably we don't want to be *that* person who closes the door on a tailgater, but the awkwardness of doing this is far less than the awkwardness of having to explain to all and sundry how you let in an intruder to steal all their things. Most people are reasonable and will entirely understand if you don't let them in until they show their fob - they may well be glad that someone else is taking security seriously.

Locksmiths to the rescue!

Privately-rented student accommodation can be a hit and miss affair - there are scrupulous landlords of course, but there are also a handful of, let's say, not so scrupulous landlords.  Questions to ask when signing a renting contract should include whether former occupants still have copies of keys to the property - if so, and there's no way of the landlord retrieving them, this really means a change of locks should be on the cards. Also look at the standard of the locks - are they, and the doors and windows of sufficient quality to stand up against an attempted break in? If not, raise this with the landlord - a conscientious landlord will be impressed that you're raising these issues as it shows you're taking security seriously and are less likely to invite in all and sundry to leave the place in a state of disrepair.  If sharing with many people you don't yet know, asking for locks to be fitted to each bedroom door is also not unreasonable. If you continue to have concerns and the landlord is unreceptive, it can be worth asking a locksmith to visit to check the locks. Then, if changes are needed to meet insurance requirements, you can go to your landlord with strong evidence of the alterations required. 

Students take note... and responsibility

We won't put all the responsibility on the landlord though.  Students themselves can be their own worst enemy when it comes to security. The usual rules apply - obvious, maybe, but always worth repeating - don't leave laptops, mobile phones etc on display by windows etc. When leaving the digs, ensure your property is locked up. Okay, if you're off out on a pub crawl, properly locking up  your flat won't be the uppermost thought in your head, but just taking the extra 30 seconds to do so can ensure that your only headache the morning after will be entirely due to alcohol and not due to returning to a ransacked house.  

While we're at it, and for the hundredth time - a flower pot or doormat is never an ideal hiding place for a key.  Because, you know, burglars tend to know about this cunning spot, and if they can get access to your house without even needing to make the effort to break in they've really hit the jackpot. So DON'T leave your key hidden there. Take it with you, or leave it with a trusted friend or neighbour. 

Lastly, student digs can be left unoccupied for long periods of time over holidays when everyone decamps back to their family homes with bag loads of washing. Please do not leave valuable items in the house over these periods. An empty house, replete with TVs, computers, music systems and the like will be like the holy grail of burglary targets to criminals.

Don't leave your property and possessions vulnerable

Most of these tips are not purely for students and rather apply to all of us. But students do seem to take the brunt of more than their fair share of break-ins. Times have moved on since Vyvyan, Rick, Neil and Mike burst onto our TV screens, and student life is now a lot more preoccupied with debt, grades, and the worry of a job on finishing. There's enough worries there to be getting on with. Don't add to that extra hassle by leaving your property and possessions vulnerable.

For advice on anything lock-related, or to enquire about repairs or replacements, call 01709 711 055 or 07990573857 and ask for Stephen at SF Locksmiths Rotherham 



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