Moving into your own apartment is really exciting, but along with the awesome feeling of having your own space, you might also be feeling a bit concerned about how you can keep yourself and your valuables safe in your new digs. When you rent an apartment, landlords are typically responsible for securing the building itself, but the contents of your apartment are your responsibility alone.
Renters looking for apartment security have different needs than homeowners. Your lease agreement may limit the equipment you can install and you may not want to pay big bucks for a permanent system you can’t take with you when you leave. You also have to contend with different dangers, such as transient guests or irresponsible neighbors providing access to your building.
The good news is, there are options available. Whether you’re looking for an apartment security camera, a full alarm system for apartment renters or just some ideas about how to keep your property safe, this guide will help you find what you’re looking for to help make your apartment more secure.
What to consider when buying a security system for your apartment
If you’re thinking about investing in a security system for your apartment, there are a few key things to consider tin order o find the best solution for your situation.
Will you DIY the project?
Paying for the installation of an alarm system could be prohibitively expensive, especially if you don’t intend to stay long. Your lease agreement may also restrict you from bring in outside companies to perform work.
This could mean that self-installing a system is your best and only option. Self-installed systems are also more common when you buy security equipment yourself, rather than using a security company’s equipment.
If you’re installing the system, you’ll want to find one that’s easy to get up-and-running. Fortunately, many systems come with step-by-step instructions, video guides and customer support over the phone. Read over this information — and check past customer reviews — to make sure you’re confident you can handle the necessary installation steps before you buy.
Who will own the equipment?
You have two options when installing a security system: you can buy the equipment or you can “borrow” it from a security company. When you buy the equipment, you can opt to purchase a self-monitoring system that sends alerts to you if something goes wrong or can buy a system to DIY but that comes with third-party monitoring. When you “borrow” the equipment, typically it’s borrowed from a security company that provides third-party monitoring for an additional monthly fee.
The downside of borrowing is that you can’t just take it with you when you move since it doesn’t belong to you. You might need to pay a fee to move it — or you may not be allowed to move it at all. If you move outside of the area the security company operates within, this could become a big problem — especially if you had to sign a multi-year monitoring agreement in exchange for the use of the equipment.
To avoid these problems, it makes a lot of sense to simply buy a system you can take with you wherever you go.
Do you need a wired or a wireless system?
Some security systems are hard-wired, which usually means holes have to be cut into your walls. You may not be allowed to do this in your apartment, which means this is a no-go for you. Hard-wired systems also work only where they’re installed — they aren’t very portable. This means you can’t take them with you when you move, if you’re even allowed to install them in the first place.
On top of these problems, hard-wired systems are often considered less reliable because burglars could disable the system by cutting wires. When it comes to apartment security, we definitely recommend looking into a wireless system for all of the above reasons. Check out our picks for the best wireless security systems.
How big of a system do you actually need?
Apartments often have fewer entry doors and windows than houses and they may have less square footage to protect. When you have a smaller space and fewer access points, your alarm system can be smaller and simpler while still providing comprehensive protection.
Different companies include different equipment with basic and upgraded systems, so find out what comes with any packages you’re considering. If you’ll need one door alarm, several window alarms that detect glass breaking, and a few different security cameras, look for a package that includes most or all of these devices. You don’t want to end up paying for things you don’t need, while missing out on the essentials for your space.
Other ways you can make your apartment more secure
Installing a security system is one way to deter or catch thieves, but it isn’t the only way to make your apartment safer. Consider one or more of the following ways that you can help make your rental a more secure space.
Install an upgraded lock
The standard lock on your apartment door may not be very secure, so you might want to upgrade it or add an additional lock. Changing out your lock could also be a good idea if you aren’t 100% confident that the landlord changed it before you moved in. Otherwise, old tenants could still have access and no one wants that.
If you’re interested in upgrading, a smart lock may be worth the investment. Smart locks allow you to use your mobile device to unlock your door and to see who’s entering and exiting your space.
If you’re interested in adding an additional lock, a swing lock is a great option. Swing locks have metal arms that attach to the door frame and swing over a peg on the door face. They’re similar to the chain locks at hotels, but much stronger. Using a swing lock allows you to crack your door to see who is on the other side while making it difficult for intruders to force open the door.
Just be sure you know your lease rules regarding changing the locks or adding new ones. Your landlord may require access to the apartment, so be prepared to provide an extra key.
Invest in apartment security cameras
Security cameras are one of the best ways to deter would-be-intruders, so you might want to consider one or more for your apartment. You can also be alerted to someone who doesn’t belong and capture criminals on video to make it easy for police to find them. You don’t need to pony up for a full home security system in this case — just a few stand alone cameras will go a long way in making your apartment more secure.
There are different kinds of security cameras, including motion-activated ones and cameras with night-vision. Shop around to find one that meets your needs that you can easily monitoring using downloadable apps.
Secure your sliding doors
Sliding doors provide an easy access point as locks on these doors can be easily forced open. Simple security bars can prevent intruders from gaining access to your space through your sliding doors if you live on a ground floor.
Suspend deliveries while you’re away
Suspending deliveries when you aren’t home ensures packages don’t sit outside your door. These packages can be tempting to thieves (often referred to as ‘porch pirates‘) and, when they pile up, they’re a surefire signal that you aren’t home.
Some criminals also use the rouse of “delivering packages” to gain entry. If you suspend deliveries, let your neighbors know no one should be approaching so they can take action if someone suspicious is hanging around.
Purchase renters insurance coverage
Renters insurance won’t keep criminals out of your apartment, but it can provide the funds you need to replace lost or damaged possessions. Unless you can afford to replace everything you own, buying a comprehensive renters policy with replacement coverage is a good idea.
How to choose a safe apartment
Unfortunately, no matter what steps you take, you’re still at risk if you’ve chosen an apartment in a high crime area. Choosing an apartment in a safe neighborhood is the single best way to keep yourself and your possessions safe. Before you sign a lease or purchase a unit, try the following steps to make sure that you land in a low-crime neighborhood.
Research the neighborhood
Find out the crime rate of any neighborhood where you’re considering renting. You can write to the police station and ask, reach out to neighborhood watch groups or use apps that provide safety ratings. We’ve rounded up the best neighborhood safety apps to make the process easier.
You can also get an idea of how safe the neighborhood is by taking a walk and looking around. Are there bars on the windows of every building? Are properties well-maintained? Do you see a lot of garbage? Poorly maintained spaces, barred windows and graffiti are major indicators that the neighborhood isn’t the safest place for you to live.
Look for a gated building or an apartment with security
Gated buildings or buildings with a doorman restrict access and as a result they can greatly reduce the chances of crime. Building security is also a deterrent to would-be criminals and security guards can hopefully stop thieves before they’re able to access your home.
Visit at night to assess the lighting and evaluate its safety
A well-lit apartment building is much less inviting to criminals than a place with dark spaces. Visit at night to see lighting in the surrounding neighborhood, the parking garage and the halls of the apartment building. If the spaces are shadowy, your risk of becoming a victim of nighttime crime increases.
Speak to current residents
Have conversations with your neighbors both before and after you move in. Current residents can tell you if there have been any break-ins or if the building is generally a safe place.
Once you’ve moved in, talk to your neighbors about when you’ll be away or out of town so they can keep an eye out for any suspicious activity.
Being proactive can help keep you safe from harm
By researching your apartment carefully before you move in, upgrading your safety equipment and installing some basic apartment security, you can make your home as safe as possible even when you’re renting. To keep researching, check out the rest of our guides on apartment security.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.