Locked Out? 8 Things to Do Before and After Losing Your Key

doorknob-justinbaeder-flickr-editedIt’s no fun being locked out of your apartment, but it’s bound to happen sooner or later. You walk up to your front door and the key that unlocks your world is nowhere to be found. And where exactly is that handy spare key? Oh, it’s just a few feet away. Inside the hallway junk drawer. You know, inside your apartment.

Nice.

There’s no need to panic. Everything is under control. Breathe. Chances are that Fido actually isn’t tucked away in the closet quietly feasting away on your new blue suede shoes. But then again, anything’s possible.

Okay, enough with the wisecracks. We’re going to tell you how to prevent this inconvenient dilemma from ever happening, so take notes.

Here’s how to prevent locking yourself out:

  1. Appoint a close family member or friend as your keymaster. This basically involves giving a spare key to someone you trust – a lot. This person should also live nearby for your convenience and theirs. Just keep in mind that if you ever go out of town, that person has full access to your place. Make sure it’s not someone who will come over and pour bleach all over your thrift store treasures if the relationship goes south. Sporadic boyfriends and frenemies need not apply. Tip: the spare key should be distinctive so that it doesn’t get lost in a sea of other keys in a messy junk drawer.

  2. Save important numbers in your phone – landlord, building manager, a local locksmith, apartment maintenance staff, police station, etc.

  3. Never leave a spare key under your welcome mat. It’s so predictable and criminals know to look there.

  4. Giving a key to your neighbor is risky, but it is an option. Keep in mind that even if your neighbor is trustworthy, someone else could gain access to your key without your knowledge. Also, when that neighbor moves out, you may not remember to ask for it back.

  5. Is your smartphone protected by a case that’s hard to remove? It’s the perfect place to hide a key!

phone screenshots

Read more: 4 Reasons Why It’s Smart to Meet Your Neighbors

Now if all else fails and you still find yourself keyless, here’s what you can do:

  1. If it’s during business hours, a short walk to your leasing office should solve the problem quickly. If your landlord or superintendent is off-site, a phone call should be enough to get them to swing by and let you in. If it’s after business hours, don’t call your landlord. They shouldn’t have to miss out on sweet dreams because of your mistake. Hopefully there’s a neighbor or a trusty friend who lives nearby who you can crash with until morning.

  2. As an apartment renter, you have to be resourceful. Think about this: if a masked robber wanted to break in and steal your Ikea knick knacks, how would he get in undetected?  Would he climb (safely) up the fire escape and through an unlocked window? Think like a criminal and you may find yourself inside your apartment in no time.

  3. Calling a locksmith should be your absolute last resort. It could take an hour or more for them to arrive, and of course, it’ll be at a premium price. Before you call, be mindful of whether you are trying to gain access to the building versus your individual apartment unit. Some locksmiths choose not to service shared entrances, and others don’t have the ability. Another thing to keep in mind is that if the locksmith damages any door, frame or lock, you will likely have to foot the bill for that.

Read more: How to Assess the Safety of a New Apartment 

Have you ever been locked out? Tell us all about your experience on Facebook!

Photo credit: Flickr creative commons / JustinBaeder

Fire Prevention Tips: 14 Ways to Avoid Setting Your Apartment on Fire

Fire Prevention Tips: 14 Ways to Avoid Setting Your Apartment on Fire

Winter may be halfway over, but much of the U.S. is still experiencing some of the most extreme weather on record. Need we remind you? Messy mixtures of snow and ice paired with below freezing temperatures have made it necessary to crank up the heat at home. Staying warm and toasty during the frigid winter months is no doubt a basic human necessity. But as renters get resourceful with their techniques, the risk of disaster lurks.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, how we heat our living spaces is largely to blame for the many fires that take place each year. In 2012 there were reportedly 97,000 apartment structure fires resulting in 380 deaths. If there’s any silver lining to highlight, it’s that, possibly due to increased awareness or prevention methods, the number of fire-related apartment deaths has fallen by over 62 percent since 1980.

Heating your small space is a must, but the right safety precautions have to be in place to avoid a potential life-threatening catastrophe. Below, we outline some of the main causes of apartment fires and how you can prevent one from setting your humble abode ablaze.

Continue reading

Dollar Store Haul: Create a $10 Emergency Car Kit

It was just two weeks ago when the heart of Atlanta was paralyzed by what’s been dubbed many things – “Snowmageddon”, “Snowpocalypse”, “Snow Jam” and “South Parked”. Well played, late night comedians. In fact, there are still dozens of horror stories being recounted around the water cooler right here at Apartment Guide’s metro Atlanta headquarters.

snowpocalypse-William Brawley-flickr-original

Well, here we go again. A severe winter weather alert has already been issued across the South as far west as Houston, TX and stretching past Atlanta up into northeastern Virginia. A healthy mix of rain, sleet, snow and ice are to be expected. And apparently it’s going to be even more of a whammy than last time.

Read more: Identify Safe Locations in Your Apartment Building for Sitting Out Bad Weather

We cannot control dear old Mother Nature, but we can prepare for her wrath. Thousands of drivers were stuck in their cars for hours on end without the essentials that would have made the ordeal a tiny bit less exasperating. Let’s be honest – an emergency car kit isn’t something you really think about until after you need it. And, as we vividly recall here in Atlanta, even the trusty roadside assistance service you pay for might not always be able to swoop in and save the snow-filled day.

So to help you get ready for another roadside mishap, we took a trip to the dollar store and gathered some potentially life-saving items that will come in handy if you ever find yourself stuck in your car for an extended period of time.

Reminder: Each item pictured here cost just $1.00!

Continue reading

Renters Insurance: What You Need to Know

Insurance for your rental apartment can do a lot -- and really add to your peace of mind!

Insurance for your rental apartment can do a lot — and really add to your peace of mind!

You might think you can get away without buying renter’s insurance — and you may have plenty of excuses for why you don’t need it:

  • Your landlord already has insurance.

  • You don’t want another monthly expense.
  • You’re not required to carry it.

Sound familiar?

But we’re betting you’d throw those excuses right out the window if you truly understood the kind of protection that renter’s insurance offers.

If you have an apartment and you don’t have this protection, there are a few things you really should know about the benefits of carrying renter’s insurance. Read on!

Continue reading

Protect Your Holiday Gifts with a Home Inventory

Planning on racking up the gifts this holiday season? In case of emergency, inventory them and the rest of your belongings with an app on your phone.

Will you be receiving new electronics, jewelry or other big-ticket items as gifts this holiday season? And (hint, hint), will you also be getting the receipts?

The holidays are an ideal time to take a home inventory and make sure all your pricey new gifts will be protected in the event of a loss: a fire, a burst pipe due to freezing, a natural disaster or even theft.

Continue reading

Fire Prevention Tips

Use these tips to prevent fires from starting in your apartment.

Within minutes, a small fire can spread and grow into a deadly fire. But with a few steps, you can protect yourself, your home and your belongings. First, closely inspect your home to eliminate potential hazards. Then, use these fire prevention tips and strategies to safeguard your home.

Apartment Safety

  • Protect your appliances and your home by using surge protectors.
  • Do not overload circuits or extension cords.
  • Check electrical cords for appliances. Cords that are frayed or cracked are potential fire hazards. Unplug the cord immediately and replace.
  • Do not run cords underneath rugs or between rooms.
  • Never place portable space heaters near flammable materials, such as drapery.
  • Turn off space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Do not smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended.
  • Keep lighters and matches out of reach of children.
  • Do not leave candles or incense unattended, and place these items away from drapes, curtains or other flammable materials.
  • Do not store flammable materials, such as gasoline cans or a propane tank, in your apartment.

Kitchen Safety

Laundry Room Safety

  • If possible, have your dryer installed and serviced by a professional.
  • Avoid using a dryer without a lint filter.
  • Clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry, and remove lint that has collected around the drum of your dryer.
  • Check to make sure the right plug and outlet are used, and make sure the machine is connected properly.
  • If you leave home or go to bed, turn the dryer off.

Smoke Alarms
Make sure there is a properly functioning smoke alarm installed in your apartment. To be extra cautious, install a smoke alarm outside of each sleeping area. These alarms can be battery-operated or electrically hardwired in your home. For renters who have hearing problems, use alarms that include flashing strobe lights and vibration. Test smoke alarms once a month, and replace batteries once a year. An easy reminder is to change the batteries when the clocks spring forward.

Escape Route
Though your apartment may be prepared, accidents do occur. Plan an escape route, and if you have roommates, plan for a safe place to meet outside.Have at least two escape routes planned in case one is blocked.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/esp_imaging

8 Tips to Prevent Kitchen Fires

Prevent kitchen fires by using these eight tips.

Don’t let your next dinner party go up in smoke! Cooking fires are the most common cause of household fires, and you don’t have to own a commercial-sized Viking range to feel the heat. From grease spills to stray dishtowels, even a tiny cooktop in a studio apartment can set a blaze. Follow these eight tips to reduce your risks for an apartment kitchen fire.

1. Stay in the kitchen. This may seem obvious, but, according to the National Fire Protection Association, unattended cooking is the number one cause of cooking fires. If you must leave a stove unattended, turn off the heat and move the pan to a cool burner.

2. Use a timer. Check food regularly, whether you’re simmering, baking, boiling or roasting. Using a timer can help remind you to check on your dish.

3. Keep the stove top clear. Keep dishtowels, oven mitts, paper towels—anything that can catch fire—away from your stovetop.

4. Dress for the occasion. Wear close-fitting clothes, and tightly roll up sleeves, when you’re cooking. Loose clothing can come in contact with burners and catch fire.

5. Wipe up spills. Cooking on a dirty stove, or in a dirty oven, is just inviting a potential fire. Grease buildup is flammable; clean your stove every time you cook and promptly wipe up any spills.

6. Don’t overheat your oils. Overheated cooking oil can start to smoke and bubble up, which can cause it to spill out and ignite. Not sure about the smoking point for your cooking oils? Refer to this handy chart.

7: Wait for grease to cool before disposing. Toss hot grease into your trashcan and it could go up in flames! Wait for it to cool before disposing of it in the garbage. Or, better yet, pour it into an old food can before tossing it out.

8. Keep your smoke detector working. A smoke detector is an important fire safety device and your first line of defense. Make sure your landlord has installed one. And make a mental note to change the batteries twice a year, when you change your clocks fordaylight savings time.

If a small fire does erupt on your stove top, you might try to smother it by sliding a lid over the pan; turn off the burner, and leave the pan uncovered until it has cooled. For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

But, when it doubt, just get out. Too many people have been injured trying to fight fires themselves. Close the door behind you to help contain the fire, and call 911. Renters insurance might help replace your valuables, but it can’t replace you!

This guest post comes from the editors of the the Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of life. Follow the Allstate Blog on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

How to Assess the Security of a New Apartment

When you’re looking for an apartment, make sure you select one that has a peephole in the door.

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:

Continue reading

Help Familiarize Your Tenants with Emergency Procedures and Home Safety

If an emergency were to hit your apartment community, how would you react? Read on for ways to help ensure that you and your tenants are ready, should an emergency situation occur.

 Have a procedure

Emergency procedures may seem unnecessary — until you actually need them! It is a good idea to check with your local government to see if there are specific requirements or recommendations for procedures to inform your tenants about what to do in case of earthquake, fire, tornado or other disaster. Be sure that your plan features a clear evacuation route that guides tenants out of the building to a safe gathering spot, as well as noting the location of fire extinguishers.

 Be sure that you fully familiarize yourself with any automatic systems in your building. If corridor doors close automatically to prevent the spread of fire when an alarm sounds, for instance, you need to know this. In some buildings, elevators automatically descend to the ground level and become inoperable. Make your tenants aware of these details.

 Provide emergency information

Furnish your tenants with a detailed list of emergency procedures and building systems, as well as a building diagram, posting these items near or on the back of the front door. Tenants should also have a list of essential emergency numbers, including your emergency contact number and those for the fire department, police department, gas company, electric company and poison control center. Also be sure to post the building address on the page of vital information, as it’s easy to become disoriented when placing an emergency call.

 Help define “emergency”

To help tenants decide whether or not they need your help urgently, provide guidelines for the types of situations which constitute an emergency. Inconveniences such as a slow drain, an interior door off the hinges, or a stove burner that’s not working are items that likely can wait till morning. A sewer back-up, lack of heat in the winter, storm damage or flooding caused by a plumbing failure, however, could require immediate attention and might affect more than one tenant.

 In the case of burglary, vandalism or a domestic dispute, a tenant should contact the police first. For fire or a carbon monoxide leak, instruct the tenant to call the fire department immediately.

 Do practice drills

All the best planning in the world won’t help without regular trial runs, so be sure to work practice drills into your emergency preparedness plan. Your local government may have requirements or recommendations on how often your type of residential housing should hold drills. Contact your nearest fire department for details.

You can do your part as a property owner or manager to assist your tenants with safety and emergency preparedness. By providing a thorough emergency procedure and giving tenants the information they need to handle a variety of urgent situations, you help protect everyone involved.

How to Select a Senior Friendly Apartment

How to Select a Senior Friendly Apartment

When the time comes to look for senior housing, so many options are available, from independent care to assisted living, from affordable to luxury apartments.

Reasons for moving to senior-friendly apartments vary and can include going through a divorce, becoming financially unable to continue making payments on a mortgage, death or relocation of relatives or friends, needing emotional support, desiring more close-to-home social activities, selling a home to free up equity or just a desire to be rid of home and garden maintenance.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed by all of the options, just learning what all of your choices are can help you decide what the right senior apartment is for you or a loved one. Most adults 55 years old and up will want to look into two types of senior living communities: independent living and assisted living.

Continue reading