Picking a new apartment building is exciting.
But don’t be lured by the swimming pool or the new carpet or the perfect landscaping…put your safety glasses on and take a step back. Before you sign that contract, take a moment to look at your potential new home with a critical eye.
We rounded up the best tips to help you choose a new home that’s not only beautiful but safe.
Stalk The Apartment Complex
Take that first pass through to make sure you like the place and it has the right “feel” but take a second pass through the unit and check it for safety.
- Make sure all windows close fully and that the locks work.
- Make sure the apartment has sufficient and working smoke alarms. There should be one in each bedroom as well as in your common area. If the unit has multiple levels there should be at least one smoke alarm on each level.
- If smoke alarms look old, yellowed or dingy, they probably are. Smoke alarms must be replaced at least every 10 years — ask your agent when it was installed.
- Does the apartment have a carbon monoxide detector? If not, you should consider adding one after you move in. In many states, it’s the law.1.
- Make sure common areas like the pool, gym, laundry facility and storage rooms are secured and can only be accessed using a tenant or owner key.
- Look for video surveillance in the parking area or considering adding a camera that points toward your car after you move in.
- Stalk the balconies. Are there open-flame or gas-powered grills on the balconies? There shouldn’t be. That’s a fire hazard and a danger to you and your property.
- A daytime stroll is great but be sure to return at night. A place can look completely different after you move in and all the lights are out. Is it well-lit? Do you feel comfortable?
- Contact your local police department using their non-emergency number and ask them about your potential building’s security.
- Do your own research on the area and the apartment buildings. What do recent neighborhood news articles say? Is there a building portal with public comments?
- Talk to a potential neighbor. What do they love about their building and community? What are their top complaints?
Before You Sign on the Dotted Line
You’ve thoroughly stalked your potential apartment complex and you’re ready to sign. Before you do there are a few more things you should demand and a few more items you should budget for.
- Ask your landlord to provide a brand new lock. Why worry about unexpected visits from the previous tenant?
- Ask your potential landlord for permission to install a deadbolt and a peephole if the apartment doesn’t have one.
- Look into renter’s insurance and talk to your landlord about what their policy does and does not cover.
- Get nosy about building maintenance. Will they change the batteries in your smoke alarm? When? If a light burns out in the parking lot, how quickly will their maintenance team address the issue?
- If your apartment has a sliding glass door, look into a security bar—even if you are on the second floor. Sliding glass doors are inherently weak so they need extra reinforcement for home security.
- Invest in a Portable Fire Escape Ladder. Some ladders can reach up to 6 stories.
- Install a security system. There a ton of wireless security systems options for renters that won’t riddle walls with holes, such as Frontpoint. There are also no-contract options so that, once your lease ends, you can keep your security service or move on without penalty. If that's what you're looking for, we recommend SimpliSafe.
- Ask your security company for extra window decals and stickers in lieu of a yard sign to let people know your home is protected.
Once You’re In
Congrats, you’ve moved into your new apartment! Now that you’re ready to embark on your journey into apartment living, here are some guidelines:
- Always lock your doors when you’re gone, including your balcony door—even if you don’t live on the first floor. Consider adding a deadbolt, too.
- Your balcony is not a safe storage area. If you keep valuables like your bicycle on the balcony, be sure to lock it up.
- Do not rely on a chain lock—they’re easily clipped.
- Make your apartment look occupied when you are gone by keeping the lights on or automating lighting to a schedule.
- Get to know building employees that, including safety patrol, contract maintenance, and any grounds personnel. Report anyone that doesn’t look familiar.
- If one doesn’t already exist, start a Facebook page for your apartment building and share anything suspicious. Look out for each other.
If your building has locked entry ways, make sure that they remain closed and locked. Lookout for tailgaters and ask your neighbors to do the same.2.
Feature Image via Flickr3.