Home Security — what happens when a rental is robbed?
Having your house broken into is enough to ruin anyone’s day, but what happens if the property is rented? Is it the tenant’s responsibility/fault as they’re the ones who live there, or the landlord’s fault for not ensuring the property is properly secure?
Renting is a complicated relationship between a property owner and their tenant. As a tenant, you are restricted in terms of how you can alter the property, so there are certain obligations that fall to the landlord. One of these obligations is ensuring that the property is ‘reasonably secure’. But what makes a property ‘reasonably secure’?
What is ‘reasonably secure’?
First of all, there is no fixed definition for ‘reasonably secure’ (unless you live in Western Australia). Not all properties need to have locks on the windows, or deadbolts on the doors. What counts as ‘reasonable’ security can be impacted by the area the property is in — a rural property isn’t going to need the same level of security as a ground-floor inner city apartment, for example.
If you’re a tenant, you may well know the day-to-day reality of your property better than your property management team. Have there been a lot of robberies in the area? Do you have a lot of people using your property as a thoroughfare? Can you secure your backyard? Does it matter? If you have questions or doubts about your home’s security, you should contact your property manager (possibly in writing) and let them know your concerns. It’s quite likely that the landlord is also interested in knowing how the property and surrounds are being used, and they don’t want their investment being broken into either!
The landlord’s obligations
The landlord (or their property management team) is responsible for ensuring that every person named on the lease has a set of keys to enter the property. They also need to provide you a single set of keys for lockable areas, whether buildings or storage spaces. They are also obligated to fix any broken doors or windows within 24 hours.
The tenant’s obligations
Of course, tenants are also required to do their part for home security. They’re responsible for the people they let into their house, and any damage that those guests may cause to the property. They’re also responsible for ensuring that any security is used regularly and appropriately, so they still need to make sure that doors are locked, and windows are closed. Most leases these days clearly outline what tenants are responsible for, as well as what their rights and obligations are when changing locks. For example, they may be permitted to change the barrels of the locks at their own expense, then make sure the landlord has a copy of the new keys. They are also required to inform their landlord if any doors or windows are broken — as mentioned above, these must be fixed within 24 hours. In the unhappy case that their home is broken into, tenants should first notify the police, then their landlord.
A note on insurance
Even though a landlord most likely has landlords’ insurance for a property, tenants will not be able to claim on their insurance. The Residential Tenancies Authority states that the contents of a rental property are the tenant’s responsibility — they must have their own contents insurance.
As a tenant, you’re entitled to a reasonably secure property, and what that means will change depending on the type of property and where it is. If, however, you are following your obligations as a tenant and still feel the property isn’t reasonably secure, talk to your property management team. They want you safe and happy! Tenants and landlords play equal parts in property security, so it’s important to discuss any concerns sooner rather than later. No one wants to be playing the blame game when there’s insurance paperwork to fill out.