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.
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 favorite taco place.)
Before you decide on a place to call home, it’s smart to research the area’s crime rates and talk to residents. Check online sites like SpotCrime to see what’s happening in the neighborhood crime-wise.
You can also talk to neighbors, police, and local business owners to find out more about the neighborhood before you sign on the dotted line.
2. Check the lighting
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:
Waste management areas
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. Note the general upkeep
Little things like burnt-out light bulbs, peeling paint, or leaky faucets 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 tedious notes documenting the signs of poor maintenance. Here are some examples:
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.
4. Check the entrances
The first lines of defense 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:
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.
5. Check the windows
If doors are your first line of defense, 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 a burglar: 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.
6. Consider the emergency exits
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.
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 neighbors
Mr. Rogers was really on to something when he spent so much time getting to know his neighbors. Knowing your neighbors is like having intelligent security cameras all around your building.
When neighbors 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 and Nextdoor in most complexes and neighborhoods to break the ice.
3. Cover your windows
It’s creepy to think about, but many intruders “shop around” for good pickings before deciding on a place to burglarize.
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 between slats.
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!
4. Upgrade your door locks
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 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.
5. Get a door security bar
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.
6. Invest in a safe
Just because someone might get into your apartment doesn’t mean they should be able to cart off all your stuff. A tough home safe is a good deterrent not only for burglars but also for snooping roommates and less-than-trustworthy guests.
Store cash, jewelry, firearms, heirlooms, important documents, and other valuables inside, and talk to your landlord about bolting it to a wall or floor for maximum security.
7. Consider cameras
A security camera can be a surprisingly affordable addition 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.
8. Install a security system
Drilling holes in apartments is usually a big no-no (and can affect getting your whole security deposit back), so many renters think their apartment security system can’t extend beyond a pyramid of cans stacked in front of their door.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. Wireless alarm systems use adhesive to fix door and window sensors in place, and you can use your smartphone for monitoring.
Many security systems for apartments also come with freestanding sirens (no clunky keypad and siren that mounts on the wall) to alert you to any problems and scare off intruders. A bonus: having an apartment alarm system can score you lower rates on your renters insurance.
Our top picks for the best security systems for renters:
Our top pick for renters has to be SimpliSafe. Its base package comes with everything you need for a small space for less than $250. The equipment is attractive and easy to install, and the contract-free monitoring plans are very affordable.
With no contracts and a complimentary moving kit, Frontpoint makes a lot of sense for renters. The equipment has competitive prices, and installation is a breeze. Plus, Frontpoint’s customer service is top-notch.
Cove is a great system for professional monitoring, and it offers custom packages so you can select only the equipment you need. It’s also contract-free, so you can cancel anytime with no penalty fees.
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.
Check out our review of the best security systems for renters to see if it’s a good choice for your security needs. Or browse the related resources below to learn more about how you can be safer in your new place.
Apartment security FAQ
Can I put a security system in an apartment?
Probably. You can usually install a DIY security system in an apartment while many professional installers don’t sell to apartment dwellers.
Can I put a camera outside my 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.
Are apartments safer than living in houses?
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 a burglar than single-family homes and may not have easily accessible entrances.
Is a first-floor apartment safe?
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.
Kasey is a trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and a freelance writer with expertise in emergency preparedness and security. As the mother of four kids, including two teens, Kasey knows the safety concerns parents face as they raise tech-savvy kids in a connected world, and she loves to research the latest security options for her own family and for SafeWise readers. Learn more