A lot of apartment hunters worry more about being close to friends or near the right subway line than assessing apartment security before they move in.
Of course, finding the balance between location, price and security can be tricky. Here is a checklist to make sure apartment security is part of the evaluation. The next time you start looking for a place, ask the following questions:
How far can you get without a key?
Some apartment communities leave their main office doors unlocked during business hours for mail or other deliveries. If you’re looking at a place that follows this practice, try to choose one with 24/7 controlled access or a dedicated front desk security guard. And be sure that secondary entrances, such as the courtyard or garage, are also secured. In smaller buildings without a security guard, make sure the front door is always kept locked—with a deadbolt, ideally.
Does your door have a peephole and deadbolt?
Your apartment doors should be made of steel with a one-inch deadbolt. Wooden doors with a simple doorknob lock are no match for the ol’ credit card trick, much less a determined burglar. All apartment doors should come with a peephole so you can safely see who is on the other side without opening your door. (In some older apartments, peepholes have been painted over; ask maintenance to fix this prior to your move in). Also, confirm that your landlord will change the locks before you move in.
Can anyone see into your unit?
This is especially important if you live in a ground floor unit in a major city. Can a passerby on the street see inside your unit? Are there security bars on your ground-floor windows? Window security is a first line of defense against criminals. Make sure your window locks work, and if they don’t, have maintenance fix them ASAP.
Is there an open, well-lit parking area?
If your building offers parking, assess the parking lot or garage. Is it well lit, even at night? Is access controlled? Does a security guard patrol the lot? Is it covered or below ground? Covered parking may be great for keeping leaves off your car, but remember that it can be very dark at night. Keep an eye out for any dark corners, overgrown shrubbery or open courtyards.
Are the gym, pool or other amenities secure?
If your building offers amenities like a pool, gym, business center or recycling center, confirm that access is limited to residents. Pathways to these facilities should be well-lit and in an open area.
Apartment security requires everyone in your building to be mindful and alert. Be sure to talk to your landlord about the safety practices of residents and whether there are any additional community safeguards in place. And it doesn’t hurt to research the neighborhood before you sign a lease.
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