7 Practical Ways to Enhance Apartment Door Security When Renting
Securing the door against unwanted intruders is only the beginning. Renters can bolster their apartment door security by following several simple steps.
Q: I recently rented a new apartment. After I moved in, I learned there has been an uptick in break-ins in the neighborhood, and now I’m nervous because I don’t want to be a victim! What can I do to increase my apartment door security?
A: Being a renter can be tricky because you’re not able to make changes and improvements to the structure of your home, such as the front door. If your door is flimsy or is missing a peephole, there’s not a lot you can do besides asking your landlord to install a better door. But there are some other things you can do to improve apartment door security, and some of the most useful steps will come at no or low cost to you aside from some time and effort. Learn more about how to make your apartment a safer place.
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Ask the property owner if the lock has been rekeyed.
When a renter first moves into an apartment, they’ll receive the key to the front door. They may then decide to make a few copies of the key to hand out to friends or family members in case of emergency. But there’s a good chance that the previous occupant of the apartment did the same—so just how many keys are floating around to that door?
Since the lock is the first line of defense, the renter will want to be sure they’re the only person (other than the property owner) who has access. Asking the property owner if the lock was rekeyed after the previous tenant vacated is a completely reasonable and responsible question for renters to ask, and it’s important for them to ask that it be rekeyed or the lock be replaced if it has not.
An individual may be able to tell if someone has recently changed the locks on a door, especially if it looks newer than the rest of the locks, but it’s best to ask. The property owner shouldn’t mind being asked or showing the tenant documentation; it suggests that the renter takes protecting their property seriously.
Block any view into your apartment.
Renters—especially those whose apartment is located on the ground floor or lower—will want to cover their windows in a way that prevents would-be home invaders from seeing what is inside, whether that’s a new television, a laptop, a purse, or the residents. This doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective; inexpensive bedsheets or attractive pieces of fabric can easily be tacked or hung up with removable hooks to block the view without obscuring the light. Pull-down shades aren’t expensive and can be installed with a few very basic tools, and home improvement stores even carry stick-on fabric blinds that adhere to the window and can be removed with some warm water when the tenant is ready to move.
Privacy film is easy to apply and remove, and it’s a great option if the view from the window isn’t appealing. If the renter isn’t interested in attaching something directly to the wall or window, they may want to consider their furniture placement: A freestanding bookcase positioned at the correct angle can function as a room divider and block the view into an apartment. Finally, the renter will want to consider what’s in view when they open the door, and consider moving easy-to-grab valuables from sight. What potential criminals can’t see won’t tempt them.
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Install a deadbolt lock if you don’t already have one.
How is the apartment door secured? Ideally, the door will have a lock of some kind on the knob or handle and a sturdy, secure deadbolt. Some apartments also have chain locks or top deadbolts for extra security. If a renter finds that their apartment door only has a knob lock, or if the deadbolt is old, loose, or doesn’t smoothly open and close, they’ll want to replace or add one. The tenant will need permission from the property owner to do this, and the property owner may choose to take care of it rather than having their tenant do it. However, this isn’t something on which a renter should compromise; deadbolts are a necessary part of a secure home.
The best deadbolts need something more than a tired wooden door jamb to sink into, so when the renter discusses the deadbolt with their property owner, they’ll want to request that the new lock be made entirely of steel and that the installation include a strike box (a reinforced metal box that increases the strength of the doorframe and makes the lock more difficult to kick in). If the property owner opts not to install one themselves but gives their tenant permission to install one themselves, they can look into one of the best door lock installation kits, which usually come with templates and clear instructions to make the job pretty straightforward if for a handy renter, and an easy job for a local handyman.
If you have an inward-swinging door, consider installing a door jammer and a door brace.
While the tenant is waiting for the locks to be improved—or even after—for extra peace of mind, these simple-to-use tools can add a layer of security. Door jammers, or door security bars, are adjustable metal tubes with a nonslip rubber foot on the bottom and a rubberized cup- or V-shaped block at the top. To use one, a renter will adjust the length of the pole, wedge the cup-shaped block under the doorknob, and then firmly press or kick the foot toward the door until it is firmly wedged in place. If someone tries to open the door while the bar is in place, pressure on the door will tighten the position of the bar, making it impossible to open the door. These bars can be used on the main entry door, but they are also one of the best bedroom door lock options if the tenant would like another layer of security between them and the entry door at night, or if they have roommates against whom they’d like to secure the door overnight.
For lever-handled doors, there are also jammers that fold in half, wedging underneath the door itself and pressing into the floor behind itself to create the same effect (these are also the best portable door locks for travel).
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Other braces can be more permanently installed. Floor barricade bases can be screwed into the floor just inside the threshold to be out of the way when not in use, and then a plate can be slipped into the base to prevent the door from being opened. Strike plate locks can be screwed into the wall near the door, and both stand in the way of the door opening (similar to a chain) but also feature a loop that slips over the doorknob, preventing the door from opening without tearing off the knob. These options do require installation, so the renter will either need permission from their landlord or good patching skills for when they move out.
Invest in a rental-friendly security system.
Home security systems used to be limited to single-family property owners, but the recent explosion of DIY security systems has fostered competition between the DIY options and traditional home security companies. The best apartment security systems (such as one from SimpliSafe) are designed to help prevent home invasion for all customers, whether they rent their home or own it. Since apartment dwellers are limited in what they can do to make their home safer, a DIY home security system is an excellent option to guard their apartment from thieves while also providing them with peace of mind.
Apartment dwellers have numerous DIY security options to choose from. DIY systems can be as simple as a doorbell or peephole camera that shows the user who is outside the door or as complex as a system of cameras and door and window sensors connected to an app on the user’s phone. Some DIY systems are self-monitored and simply alert the customer to a break-in so they can take action. Even Amazon’s Alexa offers security features: Alexa Guard can turn an Alexa-connected Echo device into a listening device that sense sounds like breaking glass or footsteps, and Alexa Intruder Alert allows the user to program Alexa devices to flash the lights, shout at the intruder, or play loud music or an alarm sound. These DIY options give renters the opportunity to call the authorities to come to their apartment and may give them time to secure another door or get out of the apartment as they summon help. They provide an additional benefit as well: Security signs may deter crime altogether, since a would-be intruder will likely skip an apartment that is protected by a security system and choose another target instead.
The best home security companies (such as Vivint or ADT) also have a number of options, some of which offer a DIY installation for renters. Most offer a professionally monitored option, where someone at the security company is keeping an eye on the sensors and will alert the customer and the authorities if something goes wrong. In some cases, the equipment can be removed and taken with the renter when they move to a new apartment, and the service can be transferred at minimal or no cost. In other cases, the contract terms are shorter so the customer doesn’t get stuck paying for a security system they can’t use if they have to move. Monitored systems have another benefit: They may save a customer money on their renters insurance. Regardless of whether a renter is interested in DIY or traditional security, self-monitored or professionally monitored, it’s worth investigating their options; home security costs may be more affordable than they think and can bring them great peace of mind.
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Talk to the property owner.
One of the best ways for a renter to get permission to secure their rental is to have a good relationship with the property owner. Presumably, the property owner also has an interest in avoiding a break-in, because the resulting damage from a break-in can be costly. If the renter is friendly and businesslike in their approach, they’re more likely to get a positive response—even if they’re angry that security problems haven’t been handled in the way they’d prefer. First, it’s generally a good plan for a renter to communicate with the property owner about security (and other) issues in writing. If they have a good relationship, it might seem easier to have a chat on the landing or in the parking lot, but it’s better for the renter to have a record of their requests and the landlord’s responses in case they need to press an issue later. If the renter does have a verbal conversation, they’ll want to follow up via email that same day to go over what was discussed.
It’s also ideal for a renter to help the property owner solve the problem. Rather than demanding that they find an answer, the renter can helpfully offer the suggestion of a solution and even offer to take care of it for them if possible. Larger property management companies likely have workers on staff who can quickly and easily handle small projects for them, but for a property owner who manages several smaller properties on their own, a tenant who emails with a problem and a potential solution may be more likely to get a positive response.
Finally, renters will want to remember that they’re paying rent for the space in which they live and that they deserve to feel safe in it. It’s reasonable for a renter to ask the property owner who has access to the apartment other than themselves, along with what hours they may have access and what the policy is for notifying the renter that someone will require access. Door security is a fair request, as are repairs to windows that don’t lock securely (or at all) or other safety and security concerns around the apartment.
Get renters insurance.
Similar to how many people don’t realize that home security systems are available for renters, renters insurance is an affordable coverage that many people are not aware of.
Some property owners require that their renters carry a renters insurance policy so that they won’t be liable for their renters’ personal property in the event of a fire or other catastrophe, but often that requirement is the first time many renters are aware that renters insurance is even available.
Much like homeowners insurance, renters insurance is based on the amount of property the policyholder wants to insure. The renter will pay an annual premium, select a deductible (how much of a claim they’ll have to pay out of pocket), and select a coverage limit. Renters insurance policies do not cover the building itself or the property on which it sits—that’s a job for the insurance carried by the property owner—so in the event of a break-in, the physical damage to the door or window and any walls or permanent fixtures will be covered by the property owner. The items in the apartment, however, are the renter’s responsibility, and the damage caused during a break-in or burglary can mount up much faster than a renter might think.
Renters insurance policies are quite affordable and can provide coverage so that a break-in or fire doesn’t claim the renter’s financial security as well as their personal items. It’s bad enough to lose things that are precious to them without realizing that they can’t afford to replace them. Developing good apartment door security and making an apartment less appealing to burglars is important for renters; choosing a security system and protecting themselves financially against loss will complete their apartment security plan.