Living in your own apartment is not like living in a dorm or your parents’ home. Often times, we take our safety for granted. But if you’re going to live in your own rental, with or without roommates, there are a few precautions you should put in place to help make your apartment secure.
1. Get new door locks when you move in.
And don’t take your landlord’s word for it that they’ve been changed unless you witnessed it yourself. Yes, some landlords will actually say that they’ve replaced the locks when they really haven’t. The last thing you want is for previous tenants to have a key, or worse yet, their last significant other, cousin, dog walker, or anyone else who was entrusted with a spare key. Ask management if you can call a locksmith yourself, and as much as you may want to bill this expense to your landlord, for your own safety, and the cost of what amounts to a couple of nights on the town, go ahead and eat this expenditure for your own peace of mind. Your landlord may even surprise you and reimburse you for the bill.
2. Get to know your neighbors.
No, you don’t have to go over with a tray of freshly baked cookies, but do say hello when you pass them in the halls or see them at the mailbox. Paying attention to who lives around you will help you identify when strangers or new faces come around. It’ll also help your neighbors come to care about you, in case you ever need assistance or something seems amiss around your unit. Plus, research shows that fewer crimes occur where people speak to fellow strangers, since criminals prefer areas where they’ll go unnoticed.
3. Knock knock. Who’s there.
There is power in finding out who is at your door before you open it — and even more power in not jumping up and heading to the door just because the bell rings. If you’re not expecting anyone, take caution. If you live in an apartment building with a security camera at the lobby door, find out from the property manager if there is a closed circuit TV channel that broadcasts the live footage. If so, tune in to see who it is before you even ask “Who’s there?” If the knock is directly on your unit door and there is a peep hole, use it. If there’s not, see if the super will install one.
4. The good guys will understand.
Even if you recognize your neighbor’s charming boyfriend ringing her buzzer as you’re heading out the door, you don’t have to let him in the building just to be polite. We all know it’s often explicitly stated in lease agreements that buzzing someone into the building who isn’t coming to see you is a no-no. Use a different exit if you can’t face the person, or simply say: “Gee, wish I could let you in Chad, but please understand it’s against policy.” After all, you never know when the two lovebirds might be in the middle of a breakup or argument, and you don’t want to be responsible for an unwelcomed visit.
5. Train your neighbors and friends to text or call before they head over.
Everyone has a cell phone, so it shouldn’t be much trouble for a friend to text you before wrapping on your door. Let them know that for your own security, you won’t be answering the door unless they notify you before they knock. If a neighbor rings your bell, and when, in turn, you knock on their door, get in the habit of announcing who it is right away. “Hey Bill, it’s Staci. Are you home?” It’s an easy step that instantly ups your safety.