Moving into your own place is so exciting that apartment security may be the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, bad things can happen even in best places. Luckily, you can minimize the chances that they happen to you by taking a few simple safety measures.
For your additional peace of mind, make sure to get renter’s insurance. It is affordable, usually under $200 a year, and it will help you get back on your feet if your possessions are lost or damaged.
1. Smoke Alarm
First, make sure that your apartment has a smoke alarm. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to provide one. Next, check that your smoke alarm has working batteries. It’s really simple – just press the button on the alarm and it should peep. No peep, replace batteries.
2. Carbon Monoxide Detector
If your apartment comes with one, make sure it has batteries that work. Some states do not require landlords to provide these detectors, so get your own at any hardware store or order online for as little as $15.
3. Door locks and keys
Verify that your landlord replaced the locks when you moved in. Find out how your building stores tenant’s spare keys. They should be kept in a locked cabinet and coded, so that if someone gains unauthorized access to the cabinet they will not know which key goes to which apartment.
If you have lived in your place for a while, verify the location of all the copies you may have made of your keys. You may have given a set of keys to a neighbor or a friend or your ex. Do you still trust them to have your keys? Or have you hidden a set outside your apartment? Confirm that the keys are still there and the location continues to be safe.
If you have sliding glass patio doors make sure they have a rod in the track (so that they cannot be forced open from outside) and pins in the overhead frame (so that they cannot be lifted out).
Also, check that the peephole is not painted over and use it always to verify your guests.
4. Window locks and gates
All ground floor unit windows that open should have working locks and security gates. In case of fire, all windows should be easy-open from the inside. Make sure that the window locks work and, most importantly, verify the location of the key. (As extra safety measure, keep your shades drawn, so passers-by can’t peek in and be tempted the things they see inside.)
5. Outer door and intercom
Your first line of defense is the outer door and lock to your apartment building. The door should close automatically behind you and the lock should work easily, so you are not fumbling trying to enter. If the lock does not work properly notify the landlord immediately. It’s his responsibility to fix. Likewise, if the building’s intercom is not working properly it is another safety risk and must be fixed.
Also, check that the outer door area is well lit at night allowing you to see if anyone is hanging around the doorways as you come home at night.
6. Electrical equipment
To prevent fires, check all your power cords and replace any that are frayed or have loose plugs. Don’t overload your outlets with multiple power strips. Keep your electrical appliances (stove, toaster, etc.) clean. Use recommended wattage bulbs in all your light fixtures.
7. Fire escapes and stairs
Make sure you know the location and access to your building’s fire escapes and stairwells. If you are new to living in a highrise building, you need to know that you should NEVER take the elevator when there is a fire. The elevator could go to the fire floor, open the doors and leave you stranded. Use the designated stairwell.
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