Advice and Opinion

Safe living: security tips for property owners and landlords


Security is a top priority for most home buyers as well as prospective tenants. So, what should sellers and landlords be doing to make their properties more appealing?

Nina Smith of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says the security measures prospective buyers and tenants most commonly enquire about are alarms, beams, security gates, electric fencing and secure parking.

“An alarm, in particular, is an essential if you are selling your home or want to find a good tenant,” says Smith.

“The best crime deterrents would vary according to the family’s lifestyle, but I would say a layered security system would be most effective in preventing criminals from gaining access to a property. This could include perimeter electric fencing, security beams in the garden, passive sensors on exterior doors and windows, security doors on sliding doors and burglar bars on windows.”

Smith adds that good security begins beyond the property wall and there are a number of factors contributing to the safety and security of a suburb, such as ‘neighbourliness’ and reporting any suspicious events or people in the area.

“It’s important to take an interest in what goes on in your neighbourhood, and if you will be away for a time, tell your neighbours so that they can keep an eye out for anything untoward”.

“In certain parts of Newlands a licence plate recognition system has been installed and this is proving very effective. Local armed response companies have a strong presence in the area, which also helps to make residents and visitors feel more secure,” says Smith.

Fidelity ADT Security’s Cape Town South district manager, Jade Hanning, agrees with Smith that the best security solution is an integrated system, and says it should be one that can be phased in over time and one which creates a single seat control environment.

“More people are using technological safety systems such as CCTV cameras, remote surveillance, and other perimeter security systems such as infrared sensors. But this doesn’t mean you should become careless and leave your doors unlocked,” he says.

“Neighbourhood watches are also installing camera networks as part of the security systems they put in place, which have proven to be hugely successful,” says Hanning.

The advantages of camera systems are their ability to provide views of areas where one cannot be present, and supply crucial evidence that could be used in the apprehension of criminals.

“CCTV systems and networks allow security service providers and law enforcement agencies to respond faster when crimes take place, and to deploy their limited manpower and other physical resources more effectively,” says Hanning.

Home automation systems can also enable you to monitor your property remotely and respond to alerts in case of an emergency.

Hanning says the sophisticated security systems used by big corporates are now also available for private residential clients. He advises that you shouldn’t rush into a decision – do your homework and make sure the system you choose will offer the kind of protection you need.

  • The system you choose should be able to integrate with any upgrades or expansions you may install in future.
  • Whatever system you install should always be in a proper working condition and must be regularly serviced.
  • Test the security system regularly to ensure it is working and that alarm and panic signals are transmitted properly to monitoring centres.
  • Teach family members how to use the system, so they can call for help in case of an emergency.
  • Always arm your security system – even if you are at home – to provide an extra level of protection.
  • Look at the layout of your property to identify any outside risks. Overgrown hedges could offer easy hiding places for criminals. Unattended appliances left in the garden could also be used to gain access to your home.

When it comes to insurance, Bertus Visser, chief executive of distribution at PSG Insure, says security gates and burglar bars are essential to prevent or limit smaller losses. And burglar alarms can deter criminals from gaining access at all, especially when they are linked to an armed reaction service.

“Electric fences are valuable, but burglar bars and security gates are definitely considered to be the most important security features for insurance cover. In most areas, burglar bars on all opening windows are the minimum requirement, as well as security gates on all opening external doors. Some suburbs may also require a monitored alarm to gain insurance cover,” says Visser.

“Basic security is a requirement for an insurer to accept risk, so there is no guarantee you could get a discount on premiums. In suburbs that are considered to be safer, however, insurers may offer a slight discount, but this will have very little impact on the cost of the premium. One factor that could help lower premiums is whether your car is locked behind security gates or in a garage when parked at home, rather than on the street. But again, this will depend on the area in which you live.”

Visser says for homeowners living in security estates or apartment buildings, the area and the security on site will govern whether insurers consider better rates. Some factors that could influence premiums would be high walls, 24-hour security guards and certain access measures such as visitors signing in, for example, as well as electric fencing and other features that could increase security.

“It’s important to keep in mind, however, that any security features noted in your insurance policy need to be in good working order and in use at all times to avoid claims being repudiated,” says Visser.

Lew Geffen, chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, advises new buyers and tenants in an area to join their local neighbourhood watch.

“Membership is not compulsory, but there is strength in numbers and joining the neighbourhood watch will help you to become part of the community as well as have an influence on limiting crime in your area,” he says.