Apartment Safety Tips for Renters
Whether you’re coming home from a long day at work or a night out on the town, locking the door behind you comes as naturally as breathing. The click means food, rest, and privacy are just around the corner—but it’s not a complete guarantor of safety.
Indeed, there’s a lot more renters can do to secure their apartments, their belongings, and themselves. The best part is you don’t have to be a security expert or break the bank to beef up apartment safety. With that in mind, here’s what this guide will cover:
- Door and window security
- Security cameras and alarms
- Lighting and blinds
- Valuables storage
- Damage control
- Renters’ insurance
- Getting to know the place
Just keep in mind that as a tenant, you may need to greenlight significant security changes with your property manager or landlord.
1. Door and window security
Don’t underestimate the importance of locking your door, as it’s your apartment’s first line of defense. Whether you’re leaving for the day or heading down to the mailroom, make sure to lock your apartment door and store your keys in a safe place, such as a zipper-secured pocket in your purse or jacket.
On average, Americans spend 2.5 days per year looking for lost items, and keys are among the most common. Don’t feel ashamed to write yourself reminders or leave signs on your doorknob to grab the keys and lock up.
Of course, the lock itself also matters when it comes to home security. A solid deadbolt paired with a chain lock works, but smart locks have risen in popularity over the past few years, and for good reason.
On top of canceling the need for keys, they can be automated to lock themselves after a set amount of time and hooked up to your home security system. Plus, they aren’t easily hacked. And whenever you need to change a setting, no trip to the locksmith is necessary: It’s all on the linked app.
Sturdy-looking, visibly locked windows also play their own role in apartment security. Casement windows, for instance, only open from the inside, and they’re reinforced with laminated glass, serving as effective deterrents.
However, it’s important to note that not every type of lock works with every kind of window, but here are a few options for home security:
- Window latches: These work as you’d expect a latch to, folding down and securing the window.
- Sash locks: These are fixed to the window to prevent it from opening.
- Keyed locks: Like standard door locks, you need a key to open these types of windows.
2. Security cameras and alarms
While your building may have security cameras of its own, adding a few cameras or an alarm system to your entrance can help to secure your apartment.
Aside from being a top burglar deterrent (they don’t want to be identified from the footage, after all), security cameras can also help keep an eye on your furry friends, watch for fires, and—depending on the security system model—act as intercoms.
Certain security cameras come with additional features to consider when purchasing, including:
- Continuous recording or motion-based sensors
- Highly detailed resolution
- Night vision
- Smart features, such as integration with other in-home smart tech
Keeping the security camera rolling does mean compromising privacy to some extent, but most modern security cams can be remotely shut off via your smartphone. To prevent visitors or other residents from worrying about your apartment security feature, it’s common courtesy to post clear signage indicating the presence of a camera. Be sure to check what the law is in your state before installing your security system.
Often paired with cameras are alarm systems, which renters can either monitor themselves or pay professionals to oversee. Once again, privacy is a concern with this type of security system, but professionals are more likely to know how to handle a variety of situations, and they can guide you through the next steps to maintain your apartment security and privacy.
Whatever you choose for your home security, connecting sensors to the appropriate doors and windows boosts your apartment’s safety: 83% of intruders are warier if they know security systems are in place.
3. Lighting and blinds
It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing security for apartment renters, but good lighting matters. You can’t place lights all around your apartment like you could on a larger property with front yards and backyards, but making a note of lights in and around the building is important.
Criminals are less likely to act when it’s easier to spot them, so a properly lit apartment building is a good indicator of apartment security.
As for your specific apartment unit, leaving the lights on when you’re out isn’t always advised for your own security.
Typically, you turn them on when you enter a room and switch them off when you leave, so if they’re constantly on, that could signal to potential burglars that no one’s home. That’s where motion detectors and timers come in: The former can catch criminal activity as it happens, and the latter simulates your being home.
Space out LED lights well and there won’t even be shadows to hide in. No renter should be blind to the benefits of blinds, either. Installing blinds can help ensure home security by:
- Maintaining privacy
- Covering up targetable valuables near windows
- Reducing night visibility
- Making getting in through windows more difficult
With the right lighting and blinds alone, your apartment can become a safe haven against intruders.
4. Valuables storage
A safe is as “classic” a method of protecting your valuables as it gets, but is it actually worth it? By and large, the answer is a resounding yes. Investing in a well-built safe offsets the cost by guarding against thievery, fires, and water damage.
The different types of safes—small and large, floor and wall, key and combination—present you with options that you can work into any apartment. And, you can store more than just vital documents inside. Stow away everything from family heirlooms to flash drives containing important data. If it fits, it’s an option.
For all their benefits, however, a safe can stick out like a sore thumb—which is why you might want to scope out a few unorthodox hiding places, just in case. Everyone and their mother knows about the key under the welcome mat, so here are some alternatives:
- DIY false containers: Rather than throw out personal hygiene packaging, old tubs of cat litter, or empty food boxes, clean and reuse them for smaller valuables.
- Fish food: Bury a watertight container beneath the gravel under an object in your fish tank.
- A bookish solution: Didn’t sell that outdated dictionary at your tag sale? Hollow out a portion of the inside for storage.
- Bag within a bag: Put some valuables in a bag, fill up a broken-down vacuum’s own bag (or container) with dirt and such, and obscure the former bag inside.
- Potty privacy: Especially effective if you have a full towel rack over your toilet, taping a watertight bag of valuables to the bottom of the cistern cover isn’t a bad idea.
5. Damage control
Much of what’s been discussed so far has had to do with protecting your apartment from grabby hands, but crime isn’t the only thing renters should consider in terms of safety. Mother Nature has her own unique ways of putting your apartment at risk, including:
No matter where you live, fire safety is crucial, so having a smoke detector (which usually warns of carbon monoxide as well) in place is invaluable. What’s even more invaluable is checking that it works and that the batteries still have some life.
Of course, an alarm is one thing, and properly reacting is another. It’s important to map out an escape route, as an apartment fire can happen suddenly and spread quickly. Check for a fire escape before you officially move in and note where the nearest accessible staircase is at your apartment complex.
Electricity presents its own hazards, such as when power surges occur. Surge protector power strips are readily available as a countermeasure, preventing significant damage to your electronics.
Water can not only affect your own apartment, but also your whole apartment building. From heavy rain to busted pipes, you can weather the storm by elevating not only your belongings, but your furniture. For instance, you could slip equally sized 2×4 blocks of wood under the four corners of your bed frame or invest in waterproof storage, from bags to containers.
6. Renters’ insurance
Simply put, renters’ insurance protects you from certain damages and expenses, including:
- Lighting, wind, and hail
- Fire, smoke, explosions, and volcanoes
- Theft, vandalism, and forgery
- Water (non-flood), snow/ice, and mold damage
- Liability claims (e.g., your dog bites someone)
- Some medical expenses (e.g., someone is hurt in your home)
- Compensation for non-livable circumstances, food spoilage, and building changes
However, be aware of the things renters’ insurance doesn’t cover, as well:
- Pests, from bedbugs to rats
- Earthquakes, sinkholes, and floods
- Car damage/theft
- Roommates’ personal property
With all that laid out, you can see why renters’ insurance is worth it. It may not cover everything, and you’ll have to pay premiums, but renters’ insurance accounts for a substantial number of situations. Not all landlords or property managers require it, but life happens sometimes, and covering your bases is one of the safest things you can do.
7. Getting to know the place
Above all, knowing your neighbors can help you feel safe. They can be your eyes and ears when you’re not around, and keep you posted on the latest happenings in and around the building.
But how exactly can you forge bonds with complete strangers? Try the following:
- Check online: It may not be the classiest first impression, but wanting to get a feel for people you’re unfamiliar with is understandable. WhitePages provides reliable background checks and free sites like Family Watchdog can reveal criminal pasts. There’s also NextDoor, which is basically social media for your whole neighborhood.
- Pet pals: Have a dog that loves making friends? Take them for a walk and see who you meet along the way. Even if other tenants in your building aren’t dog people, there’s still opportunity for conversation.
- Food friends: If you can cook or bake, flaunt your skills and offer some fresh treats to your neighbors. At the very worst, they have a food allergy you can plan around later. At the very best, they love your food so much that you can host a housewarming party.
- Pay attention: This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. If one of your neighbors is particularly good at something, maybe you can ask them for help. On the other hand, if they need help and you can offer it, then by all means help! Such simple moments can mean more than both parties realize down the line.
As mentioned earlier, knowing where fire escapes and exits are is important, but having a general understanding of the building will prove invaluable for apartment safety. As a new tenant, be sure to take a look at the place and examine the entrances and their respective locks. Make note of poor upkeep, like shoddy carpets or fences with holes in them. And again, check for healthy lighting, especially in common areas.
Bring all concerns up with your landlord-to-be. How they answer your questions now is a solid indicator of how they might answer them later, so be ready to pivot your approach to ensure they stay accountable.