apartment security tips

How to Choose a Safe Rental Home

Safely choosing a rental home can be tough. I recall my first experience of renting a cottage on a plot of land.

It ticked all the right boxes.

The place was affordable, the people in the main house were nice, there was lots of space and we could even get a dog.

My rookie brain glossed over the obvious signs that we were in the process of making a significant mistake. As the landlord shuffled around the cottage rubbing his hands together, I accepted his assurance that the area was safe.

Confirmation bias ensured that I ignored the alarm system, security gate, previous hacksaw marks on the burglar bars, and my gut-feel about the landlord.

I signed the lease.

The first incident was a burglary when we went on holiday. Our ever-competent South African criminals simply unbolted the badly installed security gate and broke the frame off the door.

Then there was the brutal home invasion that changed my life forever. 

There are all sorts of rental choices out there, some with hidden surprises. A crime targeted suburb, a rave loving neighbor with four children addicted to sugar, or a landlord who insists on inspecting the property every Saturday morning at seven o clock.

To make it worse, you need to sign a lease that binds you to someone else’s set of rules. With a little planning, it’s possible to take some steps to secure yourself in a rental home. 

Here are some apartment security tips:

Apartment Security Tips

Now these tips are designed to give you a pretty good options you might not have thought about.

With that, let’s dive in…

Research the Area

Start by researching the area that you are going to stay in.

There’s nothing worse than discovering you have legally tied yourself to a neighborhood that is a hot-bed for crime.

Jump onto Google Street View and local social media groups.

Find out about crime trends and local danger hotspots. Chatting to people who you know from the area or even local store owners can give you a crime and safety snapshot of what you are in for.

Take a walk through the area. Notice whether people have consistently mounted security measures on their properties.

People don’t spend money on security unless they need to.

Razor wire covered fences, burglar bars, CCTV, security company signage can be sure signs that crime is present.

If for whatever reason, this is the neighborhood for you, then you need to pick a place that has equal amounts of security to the neighboring houses. Not doing that, would result in you being going to be the weakest link. 

If your property is under-secured, this needs to be raised with the landlord during the negotiation process. 

Conduct a Risk Assessment of the Home 

Rental shopping is always a strange experience.

There’s that first meeting with the prospective landlord, strange smells (sometimes the landlord), and the occasional surprise when you discover that the real place looks nothing like the online photos.

Then there’s the walk through the home.

What is the kitchen like? Which is the best room for the kids? Where will the computer go and what about Grandmother Martha’s table?

Part of this assessment process needs to be “how safe is this place”?

Be it an apartment or house, take a walk through the building, and look for vulnerable features and previous signs of crime.

This could include screwdriver scuffs on door frames and windows.

Ground floor apartments and houses next to greenbelts will need more security than other properties that have less exposure to the public environment.

If possible, visit the property on more than one occasion, once preferably after dark. People renting properties want you to sign, so they may have a tendency to gloss over obvious risk.

Your second visit should be without the landlord. This is the time to take in the area and let your gut-feel do the talking. 

Rental Home Security Improvements

Negotiate small security adjustments that act as crime deterrents and limit access to the home.

Establish how many modifications your landlord will allow and record those modifications in your lease.

Most people renting their properties will allow enhancements that increase value and do not detract from the visual appeal of the property. 

Here are a few ideas: 

  • Add better quality locking mechanisms to external doors or additional locking products like deadbolts. If you choose this option, you need to modify all external doors, not just the front door.  
  • Sliding doors and windows can be bolted with discrete locks that are designed for aluminum frames. 
  • Consider a wireless burglar alarm or CCTV system. There are several systems that are less invasive than hanging a picture on the wall. If your landlord has an aversion to drilling holes in his beloved investment, passive detectors can even be installed with double-sided tape. Best of all, when it’s time to move, you can take the alarm with you. 

Take steps that will give you better natural surveillance of the surroundings. You want to limit visual access to people looking for opportunities to break in. This is especially important for properties that are close to the road. 

Consider the following:

  • Install curtains and blinds the first day you move in. Roadside windows need to be screened by curtains that are sufficiently thick and will not provide a convenient silhouette of you changing into your pj’s. 
  • Add external lighting in dark garden areas and to weak perimeters. If you can’t add more lighting, consider changing the lightbulbs for ones that will provide stronger light. 
  • Trim bushes so that gardens can be easily scanned. 
  • Try not to place valuables like laptops and sound systems next to windows. 
  • Remove your moving boxes from public view. To a predatorial person, new dwellers in the area may mean new opportunities. 

Lastly, you want to get the home ready for self-protection. A vigilant neighborhood goes a long way to deterring crime.

Get to know the neighbors and exchange numbers so that you can look out for one another. You might also want to join an active neighborhood watch.

It’s also important to add the numbers of local emergency services onto your phone. Self-defense measures in the home may include:

  • The strategic placement of pepper spray. You should have one near to your most-used entrance and next to your bed.
  • Purchase one or two quality flashlights. 
  • Off-the-shelf airhorns function as excellent alarms in apartments or houses that have neighbors close-by. 
  • Bedroom doors can be secured with deadbolts. If this is not possible, even a good old-fashioned door stopper, tightly jammed under the door can buy you some precious time in an emergency. 
  • Some landlords will also allow dogs, which function as faithful security guards and the best of friends. 

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