This editorial was featured in
Holiday Villas and Cottages Magazine:
How many people have keys to your holiday property? If you own, and let out property, lending keys to lots of clients, that’s always a worry. One firm has been explaining its high-tech solution to John Kerswill
The key question
Earlier this year, some new access gates were installed to the block where I have an apartment in Spain. So I took the new key along to the ferreteria I always use for copying keys, and a few minutes later I emerged with six shiny duplicates, all of which worked perfectly. One for each of the five sets I use for visitors, and a spare.
The trouble is, if I could copy those keys so quickly and easily, so could any of the hundreds of people who have stayed in the apartment. Or, come to that, the dozens of cleaners, tradesmen or agency staff who over the years have needed to come and go in my absence. Once your keys are in circulation, you don’t know whose hands they might fall into.
Maybe someone has a nice little sideline in offering
accommodation when they
know your property is empty? (Or knows someone who will pay handsomely for keys (so much easier for burglars than having to break in). It’s even not unknown for someone having a clandestine affair to find the use of an unoccupied property very handy.
So what can you do to make sure only the right people can get into your property? You can get wall mounted key safes with combination locks and change the number frequently, but that doesn’t solve the problem because the keys stay the same. Changing all the locks and keys every year minimises the risk, but even if you only change the lock barrels, it’s an expensive and inconvenient business. And you still won’t know who’s been in the property, and when.
As usual, there is a high-tech answer to this problem. In this case it is a low cost, keyless, software based entry control system which solves guest key management and property security in one. Known as Villa Monitor, it has been developed by a team who between them have over 30 years’ experience of designing, supplying and supporting entry control systems, both in the UK and worldwide.
The Villa Monitor range of equipment was born from a system originally designed for a charitable trust which wanted to manage its 450 sheltered housing developments remotely. Their aim was to allow residents easy access without the necessity of keys, whilst giving the trust’s management control of entry into these buildings and comprehensive usage reports. The trust liked the designs and approved the system, which over the last three years has been installed in over 250 of its properties.
It was clear that the technology potentially had a much wider application, wherever people needed to maintain control of their property from a distance, and know who was going in and out and when. Holiday properties, especially ones rented out, are in the main left only weakly secured because of the number of keys in circulation for each property.
After talking to private owners and property management
successful trials,Villa Monitor was launched.
The system is designed not only to provide a higher level of security, but also to help maximise the properties potential. It works in a similar way to many workplace entry systems, but the system and software has been specifically designed for the holiday property market.
Communication with the system is by GSM (mobile phone), so it is possible to install just about anywhere without the need or cost of a landline connection. A small control unit is installed inside the property, and a vandal resistant keypad with inbuilt reader is installed adjacent to the door. The local agent sets up the connection and log-in with the Villa Monitor software.
For users it’s very simple – each guest, cleaner etc is given a unique four digit code which they punch in to the keypad. Provided the correct numbers are punched in and the user is allowed to enter your property at that time, the lock will activate and open the door. When they leave they simply pull the door shut. Propery Owners can also choose to have a card or key fob instead of a code.
New users can be added by notifying the local agent, and the Villa Monitor System will then create a unique code, then dial the control unit and instruct it to accept the code. A daily report lists every entry, the code used and the time of entry. This is forwarded, normally by email, on a monthly or weekly basis depending on the service level agreement.
The system has a battery back-up designed to last up to 24 hours in the event of power loss, and the stainless steel keypad is inset it the wall and resistant not only to attack but also water and dust.
At the moment, Villa Monitor is available in The Canary Islands and the Algarve, but new agents are being sought in other villa rental hotspots.It will also be rolled out in the UK, in 2012.
The company’s website: www.villa-monitorltd.com) has more
information and a full list of agents. Villa Monitor can be contacted on or by