With the summer months comes the season of moving. For those of us who are fortunate enough to rent an apartment, the eventual time comes when our lease expires, rents are hiked and we have to look for a new abode. Knowing this, I started looking for apartments months in advance to try and get a good idea of what buildings were available and what safety measures are taken to ensure my safety as a tenant. The findings diverse, I wanted to take just a moment to write down some safety ideas in contrast to the unsafe things that I saw on the apartment trail.
Mail boxes and apartment signage: Not many people really think about the information that is posted on their mail box or intercom system, as we want to get the correct mail and have friends access our apartment easily. The problem comes however, when people we don’t know or “scary bad guys” get a hold of the same information. Instead of writing your full name on your mailbox and intercom, consider putting only your initials. Your friends already know your name and if they are privileged, you will have given them your address information prior to their visit. Same goes for your mail or delivery person, who will have your address in advance.
Invitation only: During visits to potential apartments, I walked into several complexes by way of people opening the door for me without question or doors being propped. I even called random apartment codes addressing myself as a delivery person and don’t you know, they buzzed me up. Scary! Communities and individuals need to take responsibility for their own safety as well as their neighbors. A word of caution that propping doors is a big no-no. It only takes a moment for someone to gain access to your building and front door when you prop your doors. Think smart! No invitation, no access.
Peep holes: Should you be fortunate enough to find your next awesome apartment, check to see if your door has a peep hole. If it doesn’t, ask your manager about installing one. S/he should be more than happy to assist you with this, but should they decline ask if you can install one yourself. Peep holes are super simple to install and are a cost effective way to add an extra security measure to your home.
Lighting and overgrown foliage: I went to a few apartments at night, for the sole purpose of seeing what the complex and area was like at night. At several of these locations, I saw things that I would have missed during the day, one of which was lighting of common areas. I brought the lack of lighting to the attention of the managers, who quickly replaced the bulbs and instantly made the space safer visually. Be sure to report lack of lighting and even overgrown shrubbery on site to a manager, so that they can remedy the situation.
Locks: In addition to the common sense that doors should always be locked (I’ll save you my rant on that one…) be sure to check to see if the locks on your new potential apartment are new. Many managers do not change the locks with each new tenant, which is simply not cool. Despite the fact that some keys are marked with a lovely “Do not duplicate” engraving on them, this is no deterrent for key cutters to make extra copies for you. (Yes, I have tested this theory) That said, we can never know how many previous tenants and extra copies of your apartment locks are floating around. Let Managers know that new keys are a must for all apartments. If their response to your comments or suggestions goes unnoticed, pay attention and trust your instinct about whether this is somewhere that you want to live.
Apartment ratings: Go online and search ratings for the apartments that you are interested in. Speak with current tenants on-site (away from the Manager) and casually ask them questions about their time there. You will find some surprising comments that may convince you to rent or look elsewhere. Factor in that some people are just never happy with apartment managers and often take out their frustrations online as a form of retaliaiton. Do pay attention to the numbers and feel free to use this tool as a guide to help you find the right place for you.
Finally, trust your intuition! Pay attention to how you feel as opposed to how your roomate reacts or Manager speaks about the building and apartment. Ultimately, you will be the one signing the lease and living there, so trust your gut and listen to yourself. You are your own best protector….
Good luck and happy house hunting!