Renting an apartment definitely has its advantages. Renters pay no property taxes, don’t have outdoor maintenance to worry about, and have the luxury of packing up and moving on short notice.
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From a security standpoint, however, renting also has a downside: apartment-dwellers are much more likely to be the victims of a break-in than homeowners. Why?
Perhaps ease of access, perhaps the anonymity of a large building with many tenants. Whatever the reason, you certainly don’t want to number among those victims. Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take, both prior to signing a lease and after you move into your new place, to increase your safety and deter thieves.
Stop thinking like a tenant. Put your mental burglar’s cap on and look for weaknesses that could be exploited. Thieves prefer easy access with no hassles. Are the doors to the building locked? Are stairwells and common areas well lit? Is there a concierge or a buzzer system that prevents strangers from entering? Check to see if the building has restricted floor and stairwell access. If the building doesn’t, what’s stopping a thief from reaching your front door?
Don’t just inspect the premises during the day. Drive by and around the building at night. Is the property well lit? Are there motion lights and video cameras in the parking areas? Do you see people about? Are they engaged in innocent activities, such as dog walking, or do you get a more sinister vibe?
If the property you’re considering isn’t well maintained, it should set off warning bells for you. A property manager who doesn’t value upkeep probably isn’t too concerned about security either.
Ask your local police—using the non-emergency phone line—for a safety report or any crime statistics on the area; they should be publicly available. Chat with neighbors to get a sense of what it’s really like to live there. If there is a Neighbourhood Watch group, touch base with them, too. Get an estimate from your insurance provider for renter’s insurance and compare it with the rate in your current neighborhood. Higher rates generally mean the area isn’t as safe.
Inspect your apartment carefully before you commit to living there. Is there a peephole in the door for viewing visitors? If not, can one be installed? Is there a deadbolt or a chain lock in addition to the general door lock? Do the windows have locks? Be sure that these features can be added if you wish.
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Ask the landlord to replace your door lock or arrange to have it done. Why risk having a past tenant let themself in using a key that hasn’t been returned? Some landlords rotate locks between apartments in a building, which is safer, but not foolproof. An entirely new lock offers a feeling of security.
If a deadbolt is permitted, buy one and install it. Its locking mechanism is much harder to open without a key than your standard lock. A chain is also useful as another layer of prevention. Remember, thieves are seeking the path of least resistance. If you have more locks than the neighbors, they may target the easy entry. Be sure, too, that sliding glass doors to a balcony are secured with a security bar. Such doors are inherently weak and allow easier access.
In today’s wireless world, you don’t need a system that’s wired into the walls. You can get a monitoring system that keeps an eye on your abode and can be transported to your next apartment. If monitoring doesn’t appeal to you, there are alarm systems that alert you to an intruder instead. Some of these systems and devices can be controlled by your smartphone for ease of use and access. Be sure to ask the company for stickers to alert others that your home is under surveillance.
By investing in good blinds or drapes, you prevent potential intruders from seeing your possessions, including electronics such as a laptop. Be sure to close them when you leave home so curious eyes can’t scan the interior.
Purchase a home safe and ask your landlord if it’s okay to secure it to the floor so thieves can’t make off with it in its entirety. It’s the last line of defense against burglars and natural disasters, so be sure that it’s fireproof. Store cash, valuable papers, and jewels there. You’ll have them on hand, but not vulnerable to theft or damage.
Tenant insurance is readily available and is relatively inexpensive. It secures the contents of your apartment against theft. You may not think your possessions amount to much, but the cost of replacing them could be steep.
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Even when you take precautions, accidents can happen. Home insurance is one way to protect your family against financial losses from accidents. And, home insurance can start from as little as $12/month.