I remember the first apartment I rented back in the early 1980s. I was 18 and invincible, or so I thought. Little did I know just how vulnerable that first apartment really was. I just assumed it was safe because the building was secured by powered security doors that could only be opened with a key or remote switch. I took my safety for granted. I was lucky not to have paid for it.
I suspect I am not alone. Even today, I’m guessing a lot of renters believe their living arrangements make them less susceptible to property crimes. But guess what? It is just the opposite. Renters are more likely than homeowners to be property crime victims. In fact, renters have experienced more burglaries than their homeowner counterparts for the last decade. For that reason alone, they should not take their safety for granted.
We don’t know why renters are more vulnerable. We also do notknow which types of rented units make the easiest targets. Are we talking about studio apartments? How about townhouses, single-family homes, or large urban homes divided into multiple units?
Perception May Be the Problem
Renters being more vulnerable to property crimes might actually be a matter of perception rather than buildings being easier to breach. I offer this supposition based on a string of burglaries that occurred at Cornell University near the end of the 2022 school year. Apparently, burglars roamed residence halls in search of unlocked dorm rooms. When they found doors unlocked, they walked in and helped themselves.
There may be this perception among Cornell students that their dorms are relatively safe. After all, they are all friends, right? Perhaps not. Either there are burglars living among them or outsiders are managing to get into the buildings and freely roam while kids are in class.
I admit that my own experience in that first apartment was based mainly on my misconceptions about crime. All the units in the complex had interior entrances. Visitors had to pass through dual security doors just to get inside. Meanwhile, individual apartment doors were equipped with heavy-duty deadbolts.
Here’s the thing: every building had a rear service door that led directly into the laundry and storage area. We tenants used those doors because they opened directly to the parking lot. All a criminal had to do was hang out by the door and claim he was a tenant who had accidentally locked himself out. The next legitimate tenant coming or going would let him in.
What Criminals Think Matters, Too
As long as we are talking perceptions, what criminals think matters, too. Criminals might perceive that renters are easier targets because they don’t own the units in which they live. Renters do not tend to take extra measures to protect themselves because they don’t own the properties.
When landlords aren’t concerned about crime, that makes things even easier on the criminals. They might assume they can hit any apartment building they want without running into alarms, security cameras, and so on.
Unfortunately, sometimes criminal perceptions are spot on. There are plenty of instances of landlords doing only the bare minimum required by law. Their units are equipped with smoke and CO detectors, but only because local laws require them. But beyond that, security features are lacking.
Renters Aren’t Left Out in the Cold
Renters may be at a disadvantage when it comes to stopping property crimes. However, they are not left entirely in the cold. There are things renters can do to protect themselves, starting with installing a wireless home security system.
Vivint.com says that certain types of home security systems cannot be installed without a landlord’s written permission. In essence, any security equipment that requires alterations to the property require landlord approval. Other devices could be permissible unless a tenant’s lease specifically prohibited them.
So what are we talking about here? For starters, interior video cameras and motion sensors come to mind. Both serve the purpose of alerting a renter to intrusion. The good news is that wireless cameras and motion sensors can be deployed without harming the property. No alterations are required.
Renters should also know that most DIY security systems that would be appropriate for renters can also be professionally monitored. That is a tremendous help. Professional monitoring adds an extra layer of security that only makes renters safer.
Renters Should Be Proactive
In addition to installing a wireless security system, renters should be proactive about safety. A renter should never assume their building is secure. That translates to keeping apartment doors and windows closed and always locked. It means locking the car whenever it’s not in use.
Renters should make a point of not advertising their possessions. They should be careful about telegraphing that they aren’t home. They should never, ever let anyone who cannot prove residency into a secured building. It is all just common sense stuff.
Renters Should Have Insurance
Topping it all off is the recommendation to get renter’s insurance. It goes without saying that an insurance policy covering losses from theft can at least make up for the financial burden of a burglary. Insurance payments will not change the fact that a person has been victimized, but at least it will pay to cover the cost of replacing what was stolen.
The nice thing about renter’s insurance is that it isn’t extremely expensive. Most renters can get a good policy at a fraction of the cost of their car insurance. You pay a little for a policy that covers a lot in the event a claim is ever necessary.
Renting Doesn’t Make You Safer
The bottom line here is that renting doesn’t make you safer. An apartment isn’t any less prone to property crime than a single family home. So if you rent, don’t be careless about your personal safety. Do whatever you can to prevent being victimized by criminals. The more proactive you are, the safer you will ultimately be. That is how this works.