Owning a home comes with quite a few perks, but chief among them is security. Renters are 85% more likely to experience a home burglary than homeowners. When you own your home, it’s easy enough to install a security system. But renting is a different story; you’re usually at the mercy of your landlord. Thankfully, renters have options.
Know Your Neighborhood
This ship may have sailed if you’ve already moved in, but before you pick your next apartment, know what you’re getting into. Research the neighborhood thoroughly. Use an app like Safe Neighborhood to check the crime statistics, and StreetAdvisor rates neighborhoods overall. You can also get stats straight from your local police department, just send them a letter.
The DMV offers a few additional tips for vetting a neighborhood:
Walk around the neighborhood you’re considering. Pay close attention to the upkeep. Are the lawns well maintained? If not, this could be a red flag sign. Is graffiti prevalent on fences and buildings? This too is indicative of high crime areas. Also, heed your gut feeling. Do you feel safe? Take the time to interview neighbors for their views on crime in the area.
Check with the local Neighborhood Watch group, if available.
Your home location influences your insurance rates for car, home, and rent. Ask any of your insurance providers for an estimate on rates based on your new location. The riskier the neighborhood, the higher the rates, the safer the neighborhood, the lower the rates.
You’ll also want to see how busy your street is, so be sure to check it at different times of day. It’s important to see what your building and neighborhood looks like after dark, so visit at night.
Beef Up Your Doors and Windows
We’ve told you before how most thieves break in from the front door first, then the windows, and then the back door. These are the most common entrance points, so you want to make sure you beef up security in these areas.
With doors, there are a few things you’ll want to check:
Deadbolts: If your door doesn’t have one, and your apartment manager won’t provide one, check to see if you can install one yourself. At the very least, you can probably install a chain lock. If there is a deadbolt, you might even consider asking the landlord to replace it, since anyone who’s lived there potentially has a key. You could even offer to do it yourself and then give them the spare. They may refuse, but it’s worth a shot.
Hinges: If your door hinges are on the outside of your apartment, a thief could take aim at those. You probably can’t replace the door, but State Farm suggests using setscrews to secure the hinges. You simply drill the screw through the middle of the hinge. They have a couple additional suggestions, too.
Strike Plates: Take a look at the strike plate on your door locks. This is the metal plate on your door frame. If you’re renting, chances are, it’s old and worn and probably not that secure to begin with. Consider replacing the screws with longer ones to secure it better. Apartment Therapy recommends replacing it with a more secure plate altogether.
With windows, you especially want to be careful when you live on the first floor of a building. Obviously, you want to make sure all of your windows lock, but beyond that, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Install a device like Doberman on your windows. It’s an alarm that sounds off if your windows are broken. You keep it turned on, and it detects any huge vibrations. It has an adhesive backing so it’s ideal for a rental. Bonus: the adhesive is also a security sticker, which can be surprisingly effective in deterring thieves.
Don’t make it easy for thieves to hide themselves near your windows. Avoid any tall plants or shrubbery near your windows, if you can help it.
Use a rod on the tracks of a sliding window or sliding glass door.
These tips are ideal for renters, because they don’t require much maintenance, and you won’t be making any drastic changes to the rental itself.
Get an Apartment-Friendly Alarm System
Traditionally, home security systems work like this: you buy and install the system and pay a monthly fee to have your home monitored in case of a break-in. The problem is, many of the bigger companies won’t sell to renters, Dwell.com reports. Also, traditionally, these systems required wiring and installation. But considering wireless has become so accessible, there are plenty of other options.
For example, Lifeshield offers monitoring specifically aimed at renters. And ADT has wireless security products available for renters, too. They’re simple enough to install and you can take them with you when you move.
If you don’t want monitoring, you could opt for alarms that simply alert you using motion sensors. The aforementioned Doberman does the trick for windows, and door stop alarms are another cheap and easy option for your doors (as well as 2GIG or Honeywell, OS Systems note).
It’s also easier than ever to monitor your home while you’re not there. Smart video devices like Canary watch your home and let you see what’s happening via your smartphone. Or, you could always build your own. We’ve covered quite a few options for building a DIY home security system. And there are plenty of apps available that let you turn any device with a webcam into a security camera.
Pay for Renter’s Insurance
If you don’t already have renter’s insurance, look into it. Compared to other types of insurance, it’s a great value. Most of them not only cover home burglaries, but also water damage, vandalism, and fire damage. Depending on the type of insurance you have, you may also be covered for liabilities if someone is injured in your home.
What’s more, many renter’s insurance policies also cover theft if your car is broken into, as long as the car was parked at the rental property. Of course, you’ll want to look into your own policy to see what exactly is and isn’t covered. The point is, while renter’s insurance isn’t exactly a security measure, it does protect you in case your home is burgled.
Get to Know Your Neighbors (and Your Landlord)
You don’t have to become besties with your neighbors, but it helps to at least get to know them. This way, should either of you encounter any security or safety concerns, you can coordinate.
And if you’re away on vacation, you’ll want to tell a trustworthy neighbor, so they can look out for any suspicious activity.
Similarly, it helps to keep the lines of communication open with your landlord. If you notice anything suspicious, let them know. And if you have any concerns, it should go without saying that it helps to voice them. Or better yet, send them an email and get your concerns in writing.
It also helps to know what your landlord is responsible for when it comes to keeping your apartment safe. City housing codes regulate your apartment’s “livability,” and this includes certain security measures.
Check your building’s security features. Make sure front door locks work, front gates are secure, and ask for any security upgrades like flood lights or even dummy security cameras on your building. It can’t hurt to ask, but if they’re not willing, these tips should help you keep your place more secure.