Security Matters

August 26th, 2010 by Andrea Bennett

Ways to make sure your rental is as secure as possible.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

As a renter, you have a right to expect that your landlord provides reasonably safe housing. And naturally, you should expect that local law enforcement will do its part. But there are things you can do, too, to secure your rental apartment or house.

Secure doors

According to Chris E. McGoey, a security consultant who hosts the Crime Doctor website, the first step to preventing burglary is to “harden your target, “ or make your home more difficult to enter. Because garage and back doors provide the most cover for a burglar, he says, you should look for—or ask your building manager—to install the following: a solid core wood or metal door at all entrances; tightly fitting doors; quality, heavy-duty deadbolt locks (with a beveled casing to prevent the use of channel-lock pliers); and a wide-angle, 160-degree peephole mounted no higher than 58 inches.

Check glass doors and windows

Sliding glass doors and sliding windows are an easy target for burglars, and McGoey recommends a “secondary blocking device” to protect them from being opened from the outside, such as a wooden dowel inserted into the track, or metal fold-down “charley bars” or track-blockers that can be screwed down (available at most hardware stores). Sliding windows, particularly on lower floors, may be the single most attractive lure for burglars, and McGoey suggests you make sure windows have a latch and a secondary blocking device. Again, just an inexpensive wooden stick can work for horizontal sliding windows, and through-the-frame pins (see how to do install them here) work for vertical ones.

Light up

Make sure the exterior of your apartment or home is well-lit, and consider getting motion detection lights, particularly for back doors. For interior lights, inexpensive timers that will turn on a lamp or the TV can help establish the appearance of occupancy (even if you’re gone), and you can always take them with you to your next place.

Be a good neighbor

Making friends with your neighbors, asking them to keep an eye out for anything suspicious, and returning the favor is a good practice. You can take it further by starting a neighborhood watch program. Find out how at USAonWatch.org, the neighborhood watch program of the National Sheriffs’ Association, where you can register a new program or find one in your area that already exists.

Alarms are for renters, too

Finally, even though subscribing to a multi-year security contract, or running wires and mounting cameras, really aren’t feasible options for most renters, you can still alarm your apartment or house. A number of portable home security systems are now available; most are either plug-in or cellular, so you can even take them with you if you’re worried about your security on the road. But not all portable security systems are right for all people. Before deciding on a portable unit, this article offers advice on what kind is best for you.

Common sense tips

Lastly, it’s important to remember those common do’s and don’ts that can make all the difference. Personal security expert Robert Siciliano offered these additional common sense tips on NBC for deterring burglars (see the video here).

• Keep all doors locked at night and every time you leave your home.
• Lock the overhead garage door; do not just rely on an automatic door opener.
• Make sure sliding glass doors have strong, working key locks.
• Keep grills, lawnmowers, and other valuables in a locked garage or shed.
• Inscribe valuable items, such as televisions, stereos, and computers with an identifying number approved by your local police.
• Have an up-to-date home inventory that includes pictures. Keep a complete copy somewhere outside of the house.
• Never leave a message on your answering machine or voicemail that indicates you may be away from home. Same goes for posts on social networking sites like Facebook.
• Trim all shrubbery that could conceal criminal activity near doors and windows.
• Consider using timed interior lights and outdoor timed or motion lights to make your home appear occupied when you are away.
• If you park your car outside, never leave a garage door opener inside your vehicle.

For more tips on staying safe at home, go here