According to surveys, the number one concern of individuals and families seeking a new home or apartment is safety and security. Yet, only a small percentage of residents and potential owners understand what to look for or even what questions to ask in order to make an informed decision. Put another way, what does a safe community look like?
The most common misunderstanding that renters make is that each community takes the same deterrent measures to protect residents from either physical injury or loss of property; nothing could be further from the truth.
Ask the rental manager of the apartment community you are looking to rent these questions:
- Does the community have a property wide surveillance system?
- These images should be digital and they should be recorded on a reliable system that covers not only entrance doors, but parking lots and other vulnerable access points, including windows. In premium communities, these images are being made accessible to their residents. There should be signage notifying anyone entering the property that a surveillance system is in place.
- Is the exterior of the building and grounds well lit?
- Premium communities understand the importance of lighting when it comes to safety. Good lighting can not only be a deterrent to crime, but it allows residents to identify potential hazards in advance (ice and snow on walkways or pedestrians crossing a parking lot wearing dark clothing). The most advanced buildings are making use of LED lighting for both quality and coverage.
- Does the apartment door have at least one dead bolt lock?
- Management should change the locks to every apartment between residents? Unfortunately, most owners do not have such a policy. No one should assume that the previous resident did not have a criminal past, and/or did not retain a key.
- Are the lights to the building and hallways on “photocells” (versus “time clocks”)?
- Photocells are preferred because you want walkways and parking lots to be lit based on visibility (i.e. when it is overcast you need light), not simply based on predefined times.
- Do the exterior doors have automatic door closures (self-locking)?
- Common entrance doors should close immediately behind an authorized entry into a building. Exterior doors should not depend on a resident or guest to manually close the door.
- Is there a communication system between the resident’s apartment and common doors?
- At a minimum, there should be an Intercom system that allows the resident to verify the identity of anyone seeking access to the building’s common hallway.
- Do the mailboxes contain first names or otherwise reference gender?
- Mailboxes are within visual contact of residents and any other visitors of an apartment. Therefore, all mailbox names should be gender neutral (last names only).
- Does management’s maintenance staff wear badges or uniforms embroidered with their company logo?
- An apartment building’s staff should be easily identifiable by the residents.
- Does management provide notices to each resident with the name of all outside authorized vendors that may ask for access to their apartment in advance?
- Residents should be encouraged to call the management office to confirm the identity of any person requesting access to their apartment on management’s behalf.
- Has management posted signs regarding their no solicitation and no trespassing policy by unauthorized visitors?
- Management should not only post such signage but also enforce a no solicitation and trespassing policy whenever applicable.
- Does management of your apartment building keep copies of all apartment keys under supervised control?
- Additionally, management should not grant access to anyone’s apartment without first calling the resident, or reviewing proof of identity in the case of an unfamiliar resident.
- Has management installed “window bar locks” on first floor apartments?
- These window bars or similar devices consist of a singular lightweight folding bar that easily lowers in place to help prevent a window lock from being lifted off its latch. You should avoid any apartment that has grates on the windows with standard pad locks. While these grates provide security against burglars, they also have the potential to trap residents in their home in the event of a fire.
- Does every apartment have a hard wired smoke detector (not a battery wired smoke detector as its primary energy source)?
- New smoke detectors are being made to support hard wiring and battery backup. These smoke detectors will continue to operate even if the electric is not working. Do not accept smoke detectors that depend strictly on a battery. Batteries eventually die. Early warning is vital to a resident’s safety in the event of fire, and a working smoke detector is a proven and essential early warning system.
- If your apartment has a natural gas appliance, does it also have a carbon monoxide detector?
- Without a carbon monoxide detector, there will be no advance notice to a resident if an appliance is defective and emits carbon monoxide gas. Carbon monoxide is very lethal, and it is odorless and colorless.
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A lot of consideration should go into the selection of a new residence, no factor is more important than safety. When shopping for a new apartment residence, find out the answers to the above 14 questions.