The Renter’s Guide for Apartment Security

There are many factors to consider when it comes to apartment hunting and renting. Security is a big one, because you want to live in an area that is safe, yet in close proximity to convenience stores and shopping centers. If your apartment has a lot around you though, chances are, it's a high foot traffic area. This may mean an increased risk of theft and intrusion. This guide is designed to give you some important things to think about before deciding on an apartment, and some tips on how you can keep your place safe once you've moved in.

The Apartment Search Process

Apartment shopping can be overwhelming especially if you really want to find a place that is safe, close to everything, and will give you the bang for your buck. Before deciding on an apartment, you'll want to do some research on the following:

Local Crime

Be sure to see what the crime data is like in the area you plan on moving into is like. Before committing to a place, you want to know what kind of crime activity happens so that you either:

  1. know to avoid it or if you must stay in that area, then
  2. take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your home

If you're in the area physically shopping around, it may be wise to talk to potential neighbors if you can to see what they have to say. Chances are, they've lived there long enough to provide you with some honest insight about the neighborhood. This way, you'll also get a better picture of what life will be like in your potential new home! As far as crime history is concerned, you can easily pull up data on sites like SpotCrime.com and CrimeReports.com.

Neighboring Cities

If you're already in the area looking around at apartments in a given area, you may want to consider driving around to other areas and checking out the apartments in the neighboring cities to see if they are safe. Every main city is bound to have some spots that have higher crime activity, and some spots that are safer. It may be worth commuting a little further when necessary if it means living in a safer area. If you're doing research remotely, you may want to consider checking out the neighborhood on apps like Safe Neighborhood or StreetAdvisor. These are designed to give you an idea of crime statistics in the past and neighborhood ratings overall, respectively.

Landscaping and Maintenance

How a neighborhood is maintained can say a lot about it. Is the grass regularly mowed? If you're looking specifically into an apartment — does the pool look clean? Leaves raked nicely? Garbage areas well-kept? If the answer is no to any of these, then you may want to keep looking. When areas are not well-kept, it can attract crime. If garages are not gated, that may be a problem if you live in a higher crime area. If you drive a nice car, you may just attract intruders if you end up parking in a car port. In addition to these things, you will also want to listen to your gut. If you don't feel safe somewhere on the first instinct, it wouldn't hurt to keep looking around.

Day and Night Activity

Before committing to a place, you'll want to familiarize yourself with what it's like in that area both during the day and at night. Are the streets super busy at a particular time? What kind of people frequent the area? Is the area well-lit? These things can also affect the level of safety and how you feel about the neighborhood.

Insurance Rates

Depending on your zip code, insurance rates for your home, car, and rent will vary. It may be helpful to call your insurance providers and ask for estimated quotes on your potential new location. Riskier neighborhoods will have higher rates, while the safer neighborhoods will have lower rates.

Before Moving In

Now you may have decided on a place — but what are some things to do before officially signing the lease and moving in? Here are some things you may want to do to keep yourself safe.

Pay Attention to General Upkeep

If the complex is well maintained, that's great news. This means that the landlord prioritizes the wellbeing of his/her tenants, and want to provide them with a pleasant living experience overall. If the place looks rundown or unkept, it may be a red flag that the landlord could care less about basic maintenance and general security.

Check the Entrances

Does the apartment have security outside the entry? Often times, entrances will require a buzz-in or passcode to access the doors and hallways of apartments. This is designed to make residents feel safer and keep people who don't belong there out of the complex. This extra level of security allow residents to control who can enter the apartment, and reduces solicitors and intrusions.

Get New Locks for your Door

You never know who may have access to your apartment. Past residents could have made copies of their keys and potentially distributed them to friends and family to use during their stay. Many landlords will tell you that they have replaced the locks, but many will also just rotate the old locks between apartments. To reduce the risk of unwanted persons being able to access your new place, it's a good idea to ask your landlord to have your locks replaced with brand new locks. This will prevent somebody from being able to enter your apartment with an old key.

Familiarize Yourself with the Fire Escape Paths

In an emergency, your time is limited when it comes time to reacting. By knowing where the fire escapes are and safe pathways to take in case of a fire, you will be prepared and can safely exit any danger zones. Exterior fire escapes come in really handy in emergencies, but you'll want to make sure that they are stored properly off the ground so people can't use them to get into your apartment through a window or balcony.

Make Sure Window Locks Function Properly

Even when you think a window may be closed, it may not necessarily be secure. Burglars can still enter through a window that doesn't have a properly functioning lock. Windows are potential entry points, just like doors, so you'll want to make sure that they can lock properly and not tampered from the outside.

Observe the Lighting

Poorly lit areas will not only make you feel unsafe wandering at night, but will also attract criminals. Robbers and intruders feel safer in dark areas because the chances of them being seen are a lot less likely. So, before signing that lease, make sure that the apartment entrances, walkways, hallways, elevators, staircases, mail areas, and laundry rooms are well-lit especially at night for your own safety. If not, you may consider speaking with your landlord about this concern. He or she may install more lights in the complex, or you can at least consider installing your own motion sensor lights around the entrances of your unit. Don't give any intruders a place to hide!

Test the Peephole or Consider Smart Doorbell Camera Options

Your unit will most likely have a peephole allowing you to see who's at the door when the doorbell goes off or you hear a knock. If not, then you may want to ask your landlord if you can have a smart doorbell camera installed outside the unit. This way, you will be able to see who is visiting your apartment through your smartphone.

After Moving In

After moving in, you'll want to take extra measures to ensure optimal security and safety for yourself and your family.

Get Renter's Insurance

Many apartment complexes today will require you to get renter's insurance just to err on the safe side, but regardless of whether you're required to or not, it's a good idea to have. Renter's insurance will protect the value of your belongings in case theft are stolen or damaged by a natural disaster. Renter's insurance can also protect you from lawsuit cases where you are deemed responsible for the damage of someone else's property. Even if you don't think you own very much, it's still always good to have peace of mind. In case of a disaster, you won't have to scramble and worry about not being able to recover from the loss.

Install a Security System

Security systems are great because they not only keep you and your family safe at home, but also will essentially monitor your home even if you are away for work or travel, for example. Many home invasions take place when burglars are aware or sense that someone isn't home. A security system will discourage break-ins and if not that, it'll at least inform you of them so you can act fast and accordingly. Depending on the type of security system you get, you may be able to record footage of events happening at home too.

Buy and Utilize a Safe

Place your irreplaceable items and most valuable items in a fireproof safe. Safes come in various sizes and will have different costs depending on the features. They can be as cheap as under $100 or can cost thousands of dollars. It's all about finding the safe that is right for your lifestyle and budget. Speak with your landlord about having the safe bolted into a wall so that nobody can take it if they were to enter the apartment. Having a safe at home won't discourage people from breaking and entering, but at least it will minimize the chances of your valuables being stolen in plain sight.

Purchase Quality Blinds

Quality blinds are really important to have especially if you aren't home a lot. You'll want to cover your windows so that nobody can see the valuables inside your home and be tempted to enter and steal.

Invest in More Locks

More locks mean added safety. If your door doesn't come with a deadbolt or chain lock, you may want to install one. This will provide an extra layer of protection for you and your family. Chain locks allow you to open the door just a tiny bit to see who's at the door and ask for identification before completely opening up.

Use Bar Locks on Sliding Doors and Windows

It's wise to use bar locks on your balcony doors and windows because they provide optimal security, especially when you are away. In the event that your door and window locks aren't working properly, these bars will make it hard for intruders to enter.

Conclusion

It is crucial to take safety measures into your own hands when you're renting an apartment. You can't simply rely on the landlord to provide everything you need to live safely. Be sure to do your research and take personal steps to keep your residence and family safe. If needed, work with your landlord to make sure your apartment is secure. You'll live a lot more comfortably having that peace of mind and security!