Apartment Security 101 For the First-Time Renter

You’ve put down your deposit and you’re excited about your new place. And you should be: it’s your first apartment and you’re ready to make it your home. However, along with having a home comes responsibility. You need to make sure your apartment is secure. So, here are a few tips:

Make sure your smoke alarm has batteries. It’s a pain, I know. But what’s the point of having a smoke alarm if it doesn’t work? Also, you’re probably right that you won’t ever actually need one. …Except, if you do need one, and it’s not working, it’ll kill ya. So….

Get a carbon monoxide detector … and make sure it has batteries that work. Again, it’s irritating, but so is flossing your teeth and remembering to put the toilet seat down. Still, you do those things, so do this.

Make sure your apartment has a deadbolt. If it doesn’t, complain. Why? Deadbolts are what keep doors shut. In the movies, when the cop kicks in the door of an apartment and storms in, it’s exciting. It’s also an example of a door did not have a deadbolt.  A door with a deadbolt requires far more force (a battering ram or a gun shot) before it can be forced open. Oh, and lock your doors, even when you’re home.

Make sure the outer lock to the building works. That’s your first line of defense – and if any Tom, Dick or Harriet can wander right into the complex, they will. But when the place is secure, you’ll have already dissuaded potential trouble-makers. If there is any problem with the lock, it is the responsibility of the building’s owner to fix it, so you need to notify them immediately when you discover that the lock is not working.

If you live on the first floor, you need to take extra precautions: First, make sure all the windows have grates, or some type of secure locking mechanism. Second, much like you wouldn’t leave a iPhone in plain view in the backseat of an unattended car, don’t leave your shades open when you’re not home. People can look right in and see that you have nice stuff and that there’s no one there to guard it. In other words, it can give them ideas.

Also, if someone buzzes and wants to be let into your building, but you don’t know them, don’t buzz them in. Either ignore them, or go downstairs, and see who they are. By buzzing anyone in, you’re subjecting your neighbors to canvasing by Seventh Day Adventists (this has happened to me – and I was the one who buzzed them in!), people sliding fliers under everyone’s door, people soliciting donations for political campaigns, people selling magazine subscriptions, and also, more seriously, the unbalanced ex-boyfriend of the woman on the fourth floor, or someone else who may be scoping out the place with nefarious plans.

Make sure the peephole on your door works. If it doesn’t, or if you don’t have one, don’t open the door just because someone knocks. Figure out who it is first. If you can’t figure it out, or something seems fishy, don’t open up.

Finally, if you are in a particularly dangerous neighborhood, or you feel you would be more comfortable with even more security, you can invest in some high-tech security measures. And if you suspect that your building’s handyman is using your apartment as his break room when you are not home, there are also security camera set-ups you could install to catch him in the act.

I know that getting burglarized is a frightening prospect, and it does happen: according to the FBI, there were approximately 2.2 million burglaries in the United States in 2009 (the most recent year of record-keeping on the subject). But, before you start hyperventilating, you need to keep things in perspective. For example, in 2009, there were 5.5 million car accidents in the U.S.  Which means that while burglary is a problem, it’s not nearly as big a problem as poor driving and many other everyday risks.

The broader takeaway here is that life is full of risk, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. Getting burglarized is merely one of many risks, so if you spend an undue amount of time worrying about being burgled, you will end up a neurotic mess and it won’t help you any. Far better to take the precautions above, know you are doing your best to be safe, and otherwise not worry about it. You’ll be happier this way, and just as safe as if you worried the whole time.

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Author My First Apartment

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Alex has rented in Minneapolis, Queens, Brooklyn, and now Chicago. He can kill rodents and roaches when required, and loves picture-hanging projects. If you're ever in town, give him a shout.

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Comments (5)

  1. Avatar Kim

    And your best security…in my opinion.. a dog. lol I won’t live anywhere that won’t allow me to have my dog inside.

  2. Avatar christina

    I think you may have forgotten renters insurance. Sooooo important! (Especially if there’s a fire or burglary!)

    • Alex Alex

      That’s a great point, Christina. We strongly endorse renter’s insurance and recommend every renter get it — see one of our articles on the subject here.

  3. Avatar tally

    My mom growing up was always big on not leaving things in plain sight. It has definitely rubbed off on me.

    Great tips keep up the great writing.