Not everyone owns the home they live in. Census numbers show that in 2011, the home ownership rate in the U.S. was only 66%, about two-thirds of the population. But you don’t have to own a home to need home security! Anyone who rents a house, condo or apartment is just as vulnerable to burglaries, and in apartments maybe more so due to the higher number of people living, coming and going in an apartment complex.
To help you keep your family and your possessions safe as an apartment dweller, put these security tips into practice–and make them lifelong safety habits you’ll use no matter where you live.
Scope out the joint before you move in
Ideally you’ll have a chance to review the safety potential of an apartment complex before signing a lease. If so, make sure to check:
- The exterior lighting, both in the parking areas and in front of the apartments: Is the lighting bright enough to potentially deter burglars and to help you easily find your way to your front door in the dark?
- Hiding places: It seems like every time I visit a friend or relative living in an apartment complex, I see shrubs and bushes aplenty. I understand how this kind of landscaping makes the area more attractive, but make sure these leafy additions aren’t planted in areas that provide good hiding places for burglars looking to get in through a door or window unseen.
- Entries: If the apartments have external entries, this doesn’t apply. But if you go into a building to get to the door of your apartment, find out how many entry points the building has and how easily someone can get through them. Are they locked? Do they require a keycard or code? Or are they open to anyone?
- Fire escapes: You want to review fire escapes for two reasons, the first being your family’s safety in the event of a fire, and the other being you want to make sure a fire escape won’t provide easy access to your apartment.
- Crime rate: Do a little research and find out the crime rate for the area, and in particular for that apartment complex. Talk to the people already living there. Ask management. And ask the local police department.
Once you’re living there
After you’ve moved into an apartment, there is still plenty to do to keep you, your family and your possessions safe, and most have to do with prevention when you’re gone. As with houses, most burglaries happen during the day while people are gone to work or school and an apartment is assumed to be empty. Take steps to make it look like someone’s home, and to deter burglars by making it hard to break in.
- Get new locks and more locks: If the manager doesn’t change the locks between tenants, ask that your doors get new locks and keys. Add additional locks like deadbolts if you need to (and you’re allowed to). Also bolster the window locks if you’re on the ground floor. Fix any sliding glass doors so they can’t be opened all the way from outside. And if your apartment includes a garage, pay attention to those locks as well.
- Apartments usually aren’t set back from the parking areas or sidewalks at all, giving easy access to prying eyes that want to look into your windows. Get good blinds or curtains and use them to close up your apartment when you’re not home.
- You likely won’t have any control over exterior lighting, but you can use interior lighting to make it look like you’re home when you’re not. Also leave a TV or radio on when you’re gone so there is noise coming from your apartment.
- See if you can invest in a home security system for your apartment, if the complex doesn’t have one already.
- Get to know your neighbors, and practice commonsense when you’re gone by asking them to pick up any packages that might be delivered when you’re not home.
Finally, get covered
Not owning your home doesn’t mean you’re any less vulnerable—to burglaries, fires or other disasters. In addition to taking steps to be more secure, also take steps to protect yourself should something happen. Get renter’s insurance and document your possessions just in case.