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How to Assess the Security Risks of an Apartment Building

Some people feel property ownership is an integral part of the American Dream, while others are staunch advocates for the flexibility and convenience that comes along with renting.

But one thing that apartment dwellers and home buyers have in common, though, is an interest in determining the security risks of a property before moving in. Here’s what to consider before you sign on the dotted line:

Apartment Security Checklist

How secure is the parking area? Dedicated parking for the apartment complex is an advantage, but if an intruder can simply waltz in on foot, it’s not very secure parking. Underground parking may be better, but the same rule applies. And, if you have to walk through an underground garage before getting to an elevator or stairwell, you might ask whether there is a security guard to help ensure your safety.

How long of a walk is it from the parking area to the front door? And what are the potential threats along the way? It’s a good idea to check during the day and at night, as you might discover things that escaped your notice the first time. Look for darkened walkways or blind spots, dense shrubbery or courtyards that are accessible to the public. (Trespassers are curiously undeterred by “no trespassing” signs.)

How far into the building can you get without a key? If the lobby has a security door that can only be entered with a key or pass code, that’s a good thing. On the other hand, if it’s easy to catch the door as someone else leaves, a pass code is worthless. Also, find out if there is a guard on duty and if security cameras are installed (real ones, not empty boxes with blinking lights!). With security cameras becoming more affordable, there is no excuse for an apartment building not to have them—at the very minimum—in the lobby.

Is the apartment entry a steel door with a deadbolt? Wood doors with a quaint, old-fashioned chain and a button-lock on the knob are no match for a determined crook. Ask the landlord whether the locks have been changed and request to see a receipt for it, if possible.

Can window latches – particularly on first-floor apartments – be defeated using the ‘ole credit card trick? If there is a balcony, can it be accessed from the ground by shimmying up the railing or from another neighbor’s balcony? This is why sliding glass doors should have high quality locking mechanisms.

Look for fire alarms and sprinklers. New apartment buildings are required to have them, but if you’re considering an old building, make sure these items have been updated. A security alarm system is advantageous, but if there isn’t one, ask the landlord what the rules are for installing one for your own apartment.

Is the  storage facility or garage secure? Or, is it accessible by the next tenant over? Also, carefully peruse amenities such as laundry areas, workout rooms and the swimming pool to ensure they don’t allow access to outsiders.

Who can see into your apartment? Look out the windows of the same unit you’re considering and determine who can see into your apartment (including other units within the complex) and who can monitor the property from outside. Remember that apartment security concerns include other residents, as well as outsiders. And it goes without saying that you should always secure your personal belongings.

It may sound strange, but when assessing your apartment, you should try putting yourself in the mindset of a criminal. Ask yourself, “If I was a (burglar, mugger, predator, peeping tom, etc.), how would I take action?”

It may feel silly initially, but you’ll quickly understand: The point of considering the security risks of an apartment is not to indulge in paranoia, but to sleep well at night, knowing you’ve already put your safety first.

 Frank Rivera is the director of digital marketing for ADT Security Systems.

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