Tenants: Don't ignore your home security needs

Mitigating your risks as a tenant is always wise policy. Photo: wikimedia commons.

MANILA, April 22, 2013 – Home security is something that’s important to consider when buying or renting real estate. While the debate on buying vs. renting still goes on, people do agree that renting a property presents a greater risk in terms of home protection and safety.

There are a lot of reasons why renters are more susceptible to lower levels of security. The fact that other people have access to the place is certainly one factor. Besides landlords who nearly always have keys to their rental properties, others have rented apartments and rental homes before you. This, depending on the agreement and protocols set by your landlord in the terms of your lease agreement, can potentially be a key home security risk. Minor renovations a tenant might undertake to mitigate this particular risk, such as lock replacements or alarm installations, are also limited or prohibited based on your agreement with the owner. Space sharing or condo sharing can also be risky especially if such an arrangement has been obtained via a “single white female” variety of ad. 

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Not everyone prefers buying real estate in the current environment, given the still relatively high level of financial risk inherent in a new purchase, those who must be or choose to be tenants can still take action to increase the level of security in their rental dwellings. 

Talk to the landlord 

The first step in any enhanced security arrangement is to establish an agreement between you and your landlord wherein both of you can benefit and have less worries. Such an arrangement might best be spelled out when finalizing terms of the lease. Most homes in the U.S., as part of local building codes, have fire and/or carbon monoxide alarm systems already installed, even just the basic kind. But if the place doesn’t have any, or if the dwelling is in a higher-risk area, you should discuss this with your landlord in advance. 

Some landlords don’t want alarm systems installed because they’re concerned about the over all costs, not to mention the need to remediate the usually minor cosmetic damage that results from new installations. But there are now a variety of wireless alarm systems that don’t require such extensive installation work. 

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In the end, if the cost of alarm systems isn’t favorable for either you or the owner, entry alert alarms are more affordable and effective alternatives. 

Establish an Apartment Watch 

The Neighborhood Watch program and similar volunteer security efforts are often already in place in increasing numbers of U.S. neighborhoods. If your rental home or condo/apartment complex doesn’t currently have such a program, or if an existing program has gone dormant, you could suggest an establishment or renewal of the program to your landlord. You could also take up the initiative to promote it among your fellow tenants in the neighborhood, the residence or the complex. A smaller flavor of Neighborhood Watch, an apartment watch, promotes safety in the community and helps reduce crime in your area. 

A note to owners/landlords: a safer environment reduces the chances that your tenants will want to move out based on security concerns. It may also attract more and better quality renters to your property. 

Know the surroundings 

It pays to do a little research on your potential new rental neighborhood or complex before you sign any lease. In many cities or neighborhoods, you can now check statistics on the frequency of burglaries in your potential rental area. Additionally, the FBI presents yearly research to educate homeowners all around the U.S. 

One final and often overlooked point by tenants of nearly any age: Even if you’ve taken all available precautions, that still doesn’t mean your rental dwelling is completely impervious to robbery or vandalism perpetrated by an experienced, determined criminal. While you often can’t reclaim stolen or vandalized merchandise or valuables, purchasing rental or “renter’s” insurance can at least mitigate part of your loss. 

Such coverage, where available, is generally quite inexpensive, yet renters persistently ignore it, to their own peril, with some imagining that the landlord’s insurance policy will cover their loss. It won’t, as it only applies to the owner’s property (the physical dwelling itself) and not the property of the tenants. Your best and safest bet against total disaster is to take out your own rental insurance policy on your own possessions, reading the details of the coverage carefully, of course, before you sign on the dotted line. 

Is knowledge really power? 

The old cliché “knowledge is power” may seem dated, and perhaps may sound a bit cheesy in our current times. But the fact is, it’s still largely true, and perhaps even more so today. Knowing how often burglaries occur in your neighborhood, for example, can help you to make judgment calls regarding what or what not to do when considering ways to protect your home and valuables. It also helps you to become more vigilant and responsible. 

Safety and security are necessities in every home, regardless of whether it’s rented or bought. A home is a symbol not only of warmth and comfort but also a haven where people are safe and protected.


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Jona Jone

Jona Miranda Jone brings her expertise to the Communities page as a financial writer who is also an expert on mortgages and other transactions concerning property ownership.  Jona now lives in the Philippines, where she works as a freelance writer.

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