As anyone who rents an apartment or house knows, it is very difficult or even impossible to get your landlord to approve anything to be installed that might make you safer on their property. I know. I used to live in an apartment and then a rented house. And sometimes it wasn’t in a very good area. But I knew how and what to add or use to make myself feel safer and be safer while I was renting. And I wanted to pass on some DIY apartment security tips that I have used.
There’s an old joke about if a bear is chasing us I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you. The obvious result is, if the bear gets you he won’t keep coming after me. Well, the same kind of thinking works with home intruders.
I’m trying to accomplish three things with my DIY apartment security tips:
- Make my house or apartment more of a pain in the ass to break into than my neighbor. I want my neighbor’s apartment to look easy in comparison.
- Want any would-be intruders to think someone is home and they will have to deal with me, any guests or weapons we might have.
- That, even if they get in, they will get caught, either by the police I call or that my security system calls.
Do your “home”work
There are a couple of preliminary things you can do when you are narrowing down your choices:
1. Visit the location or area during the day, at night and on a Friday or Saturday night
I once rented a place that we visited 3 times before we rented. It was nice and the street was quiet. So we decided to rent it. Big mistake! Just about every weekend the guy across the street had a party that rivaled a small concert.
What was our mistake? We visited in the middle of a workday. No one is around at 1pm on a Wednesday! Everyone is either at work, at school or sleeping during a weekday. I felt so stupid. The worst part was we were stuck in that contract.
But the point is make sure you visit your potential new home when there is likely to be the most activity, in the evenings and especially on weekend nights.
2. Take advantage of the freely available crime activity websites that anyone can use and you don’t need to sign in.
Websites like Community Crime Map or ADT Crime Map can show you crime in a specific zip code or area. Chances are there is going to be some crime no matter where you choose to look. But what you can do with these kinds of maps is find a location that has the least amount of crime.
When I was looking for a place to live not too long ago I used these maps to pick an area of the city with less incidences of crime. In fact, the city was almost shaded like a pie because the way the areas were shaded was sort of like someone cut a pie and didn’t a piece out yet.
And in case you were wondering, in my search, the northwest corner had the least amount of crime.
But those are the two things that you should do before you even begin to find a place to live. And they are good to do whether you’re going to rent an apartment or buy a house.
DIY Apartment Security
Get a Self-Installed Security System
The best diy apartment security decision to make is to get a security system. And as a renter you want one that is easily removable and that you can take with you when you move.
There are now numerous self-installed security systems available. SimpliSafe, Ring, Brinks, Frontpoint and Protect America to name a few. The thing I like about these systems is most of them allow add-ons at anytime, like a camera or panic button and you don’t have to sign a contract to use the system.
These systems are really good if you’re on a budget or just wanting to save a buck or two. The professional ones that actually get wired to the house cost up to $4,000 or even more. And they are useless to you unless you buy their professional monitoring.
The self-install security system I would recommend is SimpliSafe. I recently got one of these systems and am loving it. SimpliSafe’s system doesn’t cost a whole lot. Definitely not anymore than any other security system, I’ve shopped around. They offer professional monitoring for about $15-$25 a month but you don’t have to get it and can still monitor the security system yourself with your smartphone.
As it relates to apartments and renters, the components of the system can be taken with you when you leave. To install the sensors they have extra strong adhesive on the back that will stick to walls, doors and windows. These can be peeled off when you move out and used in your new place.
Residential Door Security Bar
One of the ways that intruders try to get into your apartment or home is brute force, like kicking the door in. If you owned your home there is a very good product made by Armor Concepts that reinforces the door frame, the area around the door lock and the hinges. It makes the whole opening stronger and almost impossible for someone to kick in.
Unfortunately, this has to be screwed into the door and frame so it probably is not something a renter can do. Even if you are allowed to install it you probably won’t be able to take it with you when you move out.
But there is something similar that is very easy for a renter to use. It is a door security bar. Beware though, some are cheaply made with low grade steel.
The one door security bar that I do recommend is the BuddyBar Door Jammer. It is made of high grade steel with a ratcheting action to provide the proper distance from floor to the door handle. Most door security bars have the push button in the hole method of locking into place. That is not as secure a method as the BuddyBar’s locking mechanism. You have to be careful when installing though because the ratcheting action is strong and you could damage your door knob.
Renters usually can’t install a doorbell camera because most of them need to be hard-wired. If your front door has a traditional peephole you should consider getting a peephole camera. The Ring Peephole Camera is one that you can monitor from anywhere using your home’s WiFi and your smartphone. It works like a doorbell camera only it’s for the peephole.
These and other peephole cameras like them are designed to go in the same hole and cutout your existing peephole is in so there is little to no modifications you have to make to your door. The more expensive ones like this Ring model let you view live camera feed from your smartphone.
Others that are less expensive have a larger view screen on the interior of your door. These types don’t have WiFi so you can’t view them while you’re away but they do allow you to see who is knocking without having to be so close to your door.
Motion Activated Security Lights
I like lights. Lights keep away monsters, bugs and burglars. And just like the first 2 things, burglars don’t want to be seen. These particular kind of lights work extremely well for renters because they are solar powered so they don’t need to be hard-wired for power. They attach to walls with nails in wood or screws in masonry. These are motion activated, so when anyone walks within 26 feet they turn on.
Door and Window Sensors
If you can’t afford a security system you can get the next best thing, door and window sensors. These sensors are pretty inexpensive and can go just about anywhere.
Some are the vibration sensing type. On windows, these type sense the glass shattering or being window being opened and the alarm will go off. On doors, they sense the vibration from the door being opened. Most of these have a high/low sensitity switch so for stormy and windy days the wind won’t set it off.
The other type have magnets and come in 2 pieces. One piece goes on the frame and the other goes on the window or door. There are arrows on each piece to line them up upon installation and they need to be within 1/2″ apart. The magnets attract to each other and when the magnetic connection is broken, by the door or window being opened, the alarm will go off.
Ask Your Landlord to Rekey the Lock
In many states renters are allowed by law to ask that their locks be rekeyed. This is to protect you so that the previous tenant does not have a key to where you are now living.
The landlord has to rekey the lock, at their expense, the first time and preferably right before you move in. The law, in some locations, allows landlords 7-10 days to get it rekeyed after move-in.
You can request it to be rekeyed again and for as many times as you wish. The landlord is required to rekey your lock when you request it, but every time after the first will be at your expense.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
Knowing your neighbors is always a good idea. If they know who you are, what you look like and what kind of car you drive they will take notice if they see someone different or a different car parked out front. Or if you are out of town and they are trustworthy they can keep an eye on your place and take in your mail or newspapers.
Be prepared for them to ask the same of you though. They will need a trustworthy neighbor just like you will. This is the only 100% DIY apartment security tip. All the others you can have someone help you or pay a professional.
Use A Programmable Light Timer
A majority of burglars or intruders like to break-in when no one is home. They want to get in, take your stuff and get out without any interference from a resident.
And the usual way that burglars and trick-or-treaters know that someone is home is the lights are on. Automatic timers for lights have been around for at least 40 years, maybe longer. They would plug into the wall and a lamp would plug into the timer.
Now they have smart programmable timers that act as a wall switch and a timer. Some of them even allow smartphone controls.
Get a Noise Maker (Dog)
Dogs are not just for Instagram posts but they also make a good companion and an even better noise maker. My dogs will bark when someone is at the door and when someone comes in the door. They will bark even if they know them. I have medium size dogs but small dogs will bark too. To me, this is the easiest DIY apartment security tip because it is always on.
Not only are dogs good for alerting you to a possible threat but they can be a good deterrent as well. Intruders can hear that bark from outside and they make a business decision – “is whatever that I find in there worth messing with a dog?”. Not to mention, if they think you’re home, and now you’ve been alerted by your dog, they will have to deal with you too.
Or you can get this barking dog alarm that sounds like a dog alerting to someone’s presence. It comes with a remote control for turning on instantly – good for when salesman are at your door and you want them to leave. Or it has a sensor range of 10 feet through walls so you can put it near your front door and when someone approaches your door it starts to bark.
It will continue to emit the barking sound for 15 seconds or until no movement is detected. It can be set to have the dog barking sound, chime, or alarm and whichever sound you choose the volume can be turned up to 120dB. Not only you and the potential burglar can hear it but your neighbors will hear it as well.
Use a FakeTV
Much like the programmable light, the FakeTV simulates someone being home and watching TV. This particular model has a timer and doesn’t use any more electricity than a standard night light. The timer on this is used with a dimmer sensor so at dusk you can set your FakeTV to turn on at dusk and run for 4 hours or 7 hours.
The FakeTV works better in a completely dark room. And to the outside will appear more like a real TV if the light from it shines through curtains or blinds and the device itself cannot be seen.
Keep Prying Eyes Away
The problem with apartments, and especially those on the first floor, is people and your neighbors are always walking by. If you have nice things and you leave your blinds or curtains open everyone who walks by can see all the nice, expensive things you have.
This is even more true if it is dark outside and you have the lights on inside with the blinds open. People walking by can clearly see in and see what you have. Keep your blinds closed if you want to keep your nice things.
Protect Yourself with DIY Apartment Security
The tips presented here will work in an apartment, condo, house, mobile home, or RV. These are not the only things that can be done to increase apartment security, there are plenty of other options. But these are the things I have found that worked best for me and gave me peace of mind when I was sleeping and when I was away.