Renting a home doesn't eliminate your burglary risk. If you have something valuable and it's easy for someone to break in, they'll do just that. Security systems are made to deter thieves, so they're less likely to walk away with your possessions, whether you own or rent your home. A security system is an intelligent purchase for anyone to make. But renters need to take a few precautions before they get started. Skipping steps could cost you money. In some cases, your decisions could wreck your ability to rent another home in the future.
Living in an apartment presents some unique security concerns. The additional presence of other tenants surrounding your apartment and the increase in foot traffic in and around your home may offer fewer opportunities for crime to occur. As such, you were finding the correct method for how to secure an apartment can present a unique challenge.
Apartment security is vital to ensure that you, your family, and your possessions remain as safe as possible. To help you create the right plan for making sure your apartment is secure, our security experts have compiled a handful of apartment security tips to consider before moving in and after.
Do I Need A Security System In An Apartment?
If you rent an apartment but still want the peace of mind that comes with a security system, opportunities may seem limited. Yet, in reality, you have many options available to improve the security of your home, even if your home is an apartment.
- Familiarize yourself with the risks of your new neighbourhood: Research the area where you live and find out what might pose a security concern, such as a high theft rate. Speak to neighbours, police, and local businesses to find out more about your neighbourhood and what precisely to expect.
- Check out the apartment building’s security measures: Does your apartment have good lighting in common areas? Are there working security cameras? Is there an additional locked door or gate to keep strangers from entering the complex? Take an inventory of the features your apartment building has or lacks. This will help you decide if you feel comfortable in this space, as well as identify any measures you may need to take to make your apartment safer.
- Check the doors and windows: Access points are the most vulnerable part of any home or apartment. Make sure that all locks are working. Additionally, keep an eye out for other security features such as peepholes, chain locks, key codes, security cameras, and remote unlocking.
Security systems are made to tell burglars that you're serious about security. But depending on the equipment you choose, you could damage your home during installation, and you might be forced to leave some systems behind when you move. Your landlord may also object to some of the components you use to protect your home.
In most rental agreements, your landlord retains at least some rights of entry. Access might be required for:
- Repairs. Creaking windows, buzzing wires and more are the responsibility of your landlord. These aren't issues that can be handled remotely.
- Emergencies. A burst pipe could flood the entire building, ruining many homes. Your landlord may not have the time to notify you that entry is required.
- New renters. In a hot market, your place may get rented before you've moved out. But most people want to see the space before they sign the paperwork.
- Building sale. Landlords may seek buyers for the buildings they own. When they do, plenty of visitors may arrive to see your space.
Your landlord may be required to give you notice before coming in, but that isn't always true. In some states, landlords retain the right to enter whenever they'd like to do so.
Your security system may include components that block landlord entry. Some plans lock doors automatically, and you must unlock them with your phone. That could put you in violation of your lease, as your landlord may suggest that you've changed the locks.
Some alarm systems come with very loud signals, and they could go off due to entirely innocent triggers. A cat walking by your sensors could prompt the chimes, and those sounds could awaken or annoy the people living near you.
Other systems come with cameras, and in shared buildings, the footage you capture could violate the privacy of others. If you aim a camera out in the hallway, for example, you must ensure that you're not grabbing footage of a neighbour's apartment.
Security Tips For Apartment Renters
Renting an apartment 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.
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 the ease of access, maybe 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 some steps you can take, both before signing a lease and after you move into your new place, to increase your safety and deter thieves.
Before You Move
Inspect The Building
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 installation doesn’t, what’s stopping a thief from reaching your front door?
View The Property At Night
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.
View Crime Statistics For The Area
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 neighbours to get a sense of what it’s like to live there; if there is a Neighbourhood Watch group, get in touch with them, too. Get an estimate from your insurance provider for renter’s insurance and compare it with the rate in your current neighbourhood. Higher rates generally mean the area isn’t as safe.
Inspect Inside The Unit Carefully.
Scrutinize your apartment 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 available door lock? Do the windows have locks? Be sure that these features can be added if you wish.
After You Move
Get A New Lock
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 wave offers a feeling of security.
Add More Locks
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 waves than the neighbours, 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.
Install An Alarm System
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.
Cover Your Windows
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
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 defence 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.
Ensure Your Apartment
Tenant insurance is readily available and is relatively inexpensive. It secures the contents of your apartment against theft. You may not think the number of your possessions too much, but the cost of replacing them could be steep. Tenant insurance can also help pay your extra expenses if you’re forced to move out due to an insured loss.
Can You Install A Security System In Your Apartment?
Yes. Although, installing a security system may depend on whether you rent or own your apartment or what your landlord will allow you to do within the terms of your lease. There may also be specific rules that you have to follow based on the Homeowners Association in your apartment complex or community. Generally, it would be best if you did not face any trouble installing a security system in your apartment while being mindful of the space.
Steps To Get A Security System For Renters
Despite these risks, investing in security is smart. The system you use can deter people from entering your home. If they're foolish enough to steal from you, the footage your cameras capture could help the police solve the crime. You can use systems in rentals, but you must take a few steps first.
- Your rental agreement should include information about construction. Read that section carefully.
- When you signed, you may have agreed that anything hardwired in your rental becomes the property of your landlord. That means you might be required to leave all your equipment behind when you move.
- Sophisticated systems require professional installation, and some companies won't do the work without written landlord approval. Before you hire experts, please talk with your landlord about your plans and prove that it is acceptable. You'll need to show that documentation on installation day.
- As an alternative, choose a standalone system. Skip the wires, bolts and mess that come with hardwired equipment. Use tools that connect to your Wi-Fi and control everything with your phone. You won't violate rental agreements regarding construction, and you'll get the protection you need.
- Take the needs of your neighbours into account as you install your equipment. Don't point cameras at your neighbours’ doors. Don't put tacky signs up in common areas. Be respectful of others who share your space.
- Tell your neighbours about your system, and test the sound with their permission. Make sure they can hear alerts and ensure they don't feel annoyed by the sounds.
- If you trust your neighbours, give them your contact information. That way, they can call you (and not your landlord) if anything about your equipment causes them distress.
What Else Can You Do?
A security system gives you robust protection against robbery. It's not the only solution you can use to keep your rental home safe and sound.
If you haven't done so yet, meet your neighbours. Talk to them frequently, and work to gain their trust. When people like you, they are more likely to be your security allies. They might call you or help you when a problem happens. They'll be less likely to step in if they have no idea who you are.
Talk to your landlord about your security concerns. Together, you can perform meaningful upgrades, such as:
- Installing a peephole, so you can see out the door before you open it.
- They were adding deadbolts, which are more challenging for burglars to get around.
- I am purchasing window locks to keep burglars from climbing in.
- They were using cameras in lobbies and shared spaces to prevent burglars from entering the building in the first place.
You can also work to create the illusion of tenancy even when you're away from home. Put your lamps on timers, so they turn on and off as they would when you were home. Put curtains on your windows to keep people from peering in. Most importantly, lock your door. It's vital to keep things locked up when you're gone, but get in the habit of doing the same when you're home, so you're not surprised by an intruder. These simple steps, combined with a security system, are sure to keep your rental home safe from the unexpected.
How To Choose The Right Security System For Your Apartment
The first step to finding the right security system for your apartment is to determine the most vulnerable entry points. Remarkably, almost 40% of burglars enter right through the front door, so you’ll want to keep this in mind as you’re browsing for systems. You’ll also want to note any windows at ground level or that are accessible via a fire escape.
It’s also important to consider the size of your apartment, as well as the number of rooms in your space. Before you buy, do some research on some security companies that offer smaller home security packages or allow you to custom build your own. This will ensure that you don’t end up stuck with extra equipment you have no need for.
With all that in mind, an apartment is a unique housing situation and requires technical considerations when looking for the right home alarm system. For example, your apartment may have a balcony that needs additional security. If your apartment is on the ground floor, extra security precautions should be taken to secure windows that are accessible at street level. You can also take some additional steps to boost your safety:
- Install a deadbolt, chain lock, or door reinforcement lock
- Get a door jammer security bar for any sliding glass doors
- Keep your windows covered with blinds or curtains
- Invest in a safe for valuables and important documents
- Get renters insurance for extra coverage
- Be discrete when going out of town
- Install automated lights to keep your place lit when out
- Attend neighbourhood watch meetings if possible
Why DIY Systems Makes The Most Sense For Apartment Renters
The average renter only spends two to three years in one apartment before moving. DIY home security systems are easy to pack up and move from one apartment to the next, making them ideal for renters. And while the cost of a DIY approach may be more upfront, the ability to take it with you from one dwelling to the next makes them less expensive over time.
Professionally installed systems, on the other hand, make more sense for larger homes with more space to cover and more entry points.