The apartment security guide for renters

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As a renter, you have limited options for adding security. But it might surprise you that there are tons of easy security measures you can implement—even in a large apartment building or complex.

We put together a guide to help you understand what apartment security factors to consider before signing a lease, plus things you can do after you move in to give yourself top-notch apartment security.

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Before moving in

1. Research local crime

Your realtor says it, and it’s true: it’s all about location. (And we’re talking about more than how close your new apartment is to your favourite burger joint.)

Before you decide on a place to call home, it’s wise to research the area’s crime rates and talk to residents. Check online sites like BOCSAR to see what’s happening in your area crime-wise.

You can also talk to neighbours, police, and local business owners to learn more about the neighbourhood before signing the dotted line.

2. Check the lighting

Best motion sensor security light
CTZLED solar motion sensor light

Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Apartment buildings and complexes sometimes have dark nooks and crannies, making them perfect for people who want to sneak around.

It’s important to have good lighting (security cameras are a bonus) in common areas:

  • Hallways
  • Parking areas
  • Storage rooms
  • Waste management areas
  • Stairwells
  • Laundry rooms

If possible, bring a friend along and check it out at night for a clearer idea of how well everything lights up. Also, find out if there are any motion sensor lights.

3. Check the entrances

The first lines of defence in a renter’s security are the entrances, both to your apartment and the building or complex.

Check all entrances for secure locks and additional security features:

  • Peephole
  • Chain lock
  • Key codes
  • Cameras
  • Remote unlocking

Ask management how often they change the keys and key codes. You don’t want to run the risk of a past tenant accessing your apartment.

4. Check the windows

Best overall

If doors are your first line of defence, windows are your second. Check windows for sturdy, easy-to-use locks, especially if you’re on the ground floor.

Make sure windows are secure from the outside, and try to think like an intruder: could you get into your apartment through a window?

Also, keep an eye out for any windows with door locks close by, as intruders can easily smash a window to reach in and open a lock. Check with your landlord to see if window security film can be added to your windows for extra protection.

5. Note the general upkeep

Little things like burnt-out light bulbs, peeling paint, or leaky taps might seem like easily fixable annoyances, but they can also be telltale signs of a less-than-attentive landlord. The last thing you want is to have a major security issue—like a broken lock or window—and wait weeks for a proper fix.

Start evaluating the apartment's safety as soon as you arrive at the building or complex. Then make notes documenting the signs of poor maintenance. Here are some examples:

  • Broken fences
  • Overgrown landscaping
  • Peeling paint
  • Worn carpeting

At this point, you're not a tenant yet, so hold the landlord accountable by asking if they plan to fix the issues before you move in (or shortly after)—don't accept vague answers.

6. Consider the emergency exits

Best smoke & carbon monoxide detector
Nest protect
Google Nest Protect
4.5 out of 5 stars

Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

As important as it is to secure your apartment against theft, security is also about making sure you can get out in case of an emergency.

Look for posted fire escape plans, and if you’re close to ground level, check that your windows can open easily.

Check for working smoke detectors and make sure any fire escape ladders have proper storage so intruders can’t reach them from the ground.

Couple at home relaxing

After moving in

1. Get renters insurance

Renter's insurance

Despite all the safety precautions you might take, unfortunate events still happen. So it’s a good idea to hedge your bets with renters insurance.

Unlike your landlord’s insurance, which covers only the building you live in, your renters insurance policy covers personal property like furniture, electronics, clothing, possessions, and damages affected by a burglary or disaster. It also helps cover liabilities and medical costs if a visitor injures themselves in your apartment.

Expect to pay around $20 a month—it's worth it—to protect your stuff and your bank account from an unexpected loss.

2. Meet your neighbours

Mr. Rogers was really on to something when he spent so much time getting to know his neighbours. Knowing your neighbours is like having intelligent security cameras all around your building.

When neighbours know each other, they’re more likely to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and warn others if they see anything fishy. Watch for people in your apartment complex who you think you might like to get to know. Strike up conversations with them in common areas.

If you're too shy for face-to-face contact, you can also join social media groups on Facebook for most complexes and neighbourhoods to break the ice.

3. Cover your windows

Blackout curtains
sun zero curtains

Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

It’s creepy to think about, but many intruders “shop around” for good pickings before deciding on a place to burglarise.

The best way to keep your place off the top of their list is to hide the goods by covering those windows with blinds and curtains. Keep them shut when you aren’t home and anytime after dark. Always angle closed horizontal blinds so folks can't see through the small gap.

Remember, when your lights are on at night and your blinds are open, it’s like you’re performing on a brightly lit stage in a dark auditorium: your outdoor audience can see everything!

5. Upgrade your door locks

Best for security
Schlage B60N

Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Hopefully, your apartment already has a deadbolt, but if not, be sure to install one when you move in (with the landlord's permission). Ask your landlord to change the regular locks on your door as well.

You never know how many duplicate keys are out there, and you want to be sure you’re the only one with access to your apartment (and your landlord should give a warning before using their keys to enter an apartment).

Installing additional door locks, like chain locks or a door reinforcement lock, are another way to make sure your apartment stays secure while you’re in it.

6. Get a door security bar

Best overall
Master Lock Door Security Bar

Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

A door jammer is a great security measure for apartment dwellers. Most are easy to install and remove, with zero damage to doors. Plus, it's not vulnerable to lock bumping, picking, or duplicate keys floating around.

For sliding doors on your balcony or patio, sliding door locks are perfect for adding extra protection, and you can also get a jammer for your front door that acts as a heavy-duty doorstop. Most door jammers are portable as well, so you can take them with you when you travel.

7. Invest in a safe

Best overall
sentry safe x055

Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Just because someone might get into your apartment doesn’t mean they should be able to take all your stuff. A tough home safe is a good deterrent not only for intruders but also for snooping roommates and less-than-trustworthy guests.

Store cash, jewellery, firearms, heirlooms, important documents, and other valuables inside, and talk to your landlord about bolting it to a wall or floor for maximum security.

8. Consider cameras

Best wireless security camera
Reolink Argus 3 Pro
Reolink Argus 3 Pro
4.5 out of 5 stars

Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Affordable security cameras can be excellent additions to your apartment security monitoring. You might think that cameras need a full security system. Still, there are plenty of standalone cameras that send a feed directly to your smartphone, so you can monitor your apartment from anywhere.

Most security cameras and smart video doorbells usually have motion detection, night vision, and two-way talk. We highly recommend smart doorbells because you can safely chat with people at the door without ever having to open it. There are even models that attach to your door.

Final word

Moving into a new place is exciting, and knowing your new home is secure makes the experience even sweeter. Real apartment security is about doing the small things that make a big difference.

Apartment security FAQ

Probably. You can usually install a DIY security system in an apartment.

Probably not, especially if an apartment security camera affects the privacy of other tenants. It's best to check with your landlord first before you install a security camera or video doorbell outside your apartment.

Yes, apartments are generally safer than houses, at least as far as home security is concerned. High-density apartments have more people around to spot an intruder than single-family homes and may not have easily accessible entrances.

For the most part, first-floor apartments might have less privacy than units on upper floors, but they’re also easier to leave during an emergency like a fire.

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time of publish and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the retailer’s website at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SafeWise Australia utilises paid affiliate links.
Kasey Tross
Written by
Kasey Tross

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