As a renter, you get to enjoy all the downsides of home ownership without many of the perks.
For example, your dishwasher can break just as easily as the next one, but you don’t get to control how quickly it gets fixed. And while your property is just as vulnerable to break-ins as a regular homeowners’ (if not more so), you don’t have the right to deck it out in whatever security installations you see fit.
While there’s nothing to be done about the dishwasher but twiddle your thumbs until your landlord finally hires a technician, renters do have some options when it comes to beefing up their home security.
The only catch? You’ll have to take some initiative instead of counting on your landlord to look out for your best interests. If you’re willing to invest a little energy (and maybe a little cash), the following tactics will help you secure your belongings without breaking your lease.
Change the locks.
In a perfect world, landlords would change the locks to their apartments every time new tenants move in. But we all know that’s not how it usually works. And that means any number of people might be walking around with keys to your door.
You can ask your landlord to shoulder the cost of changing the locks (or keycode), but be prepared for a refusal. Even if you have to cough up the cash, it’ll be worth it for the peace of mind. Once you’ve changed the locks or keycode, limit the number of people who have access to these entry tools.
Secure windows and doors.
As a renter, you can’t make too many physical adjustments to a property. But you can still improve the security of your windows and doors with a few non-invasive changes.
For instance, if your door has hinges on the outside, consider investing in a setscrew to prevent thieves from removing your door at the hinges. You might also purchase new screws to reinforce the door lock’s strike plate.
As for windows? Use a rod to limit how far sliding windows can be opened. Invest in blinds or curtains to cover the windows so it’s easier for would-be thieves to determine when you are and aren’t home. Finally, consider installing window locks (if they don’t exist already) and using them every time you leave home.
Invest in a security system.
It used to be that security systems required messy and invasive installations to connect a slew of wires—so they were pretty much unavailable to renters. These days, many security systems are wireless, so you can purchase and use a security camera, motion detector, or more comprehensive system without permanent installation. Just make sure there aren’t any relevant stipulations in your lease prior to making this investment.
Stay informed of your rights.
The laws applying to landlord-tenant relationships vary by state, so it’s important to research the specifics in your region. For example, many states require landlords to give tenants 24 hours’ notice before entering the property or allowing pest control, maintenance, and utility workers to traipse through your home—but this isn’t always the case. Stay abreast of your security rights (and the security landscape in general) with resources like Landlordology.
Get renter’s insurance.
Renter’s insurance is generally one of the cheapest forms of insurance you can buy, and it’s well worth the nominal investment. In many localities, less than $150 a year will earn you more than $20,000 in coverage. It won’t defend you from burglary, but it will help you recover financially in the event that the worst happens.
Use a safe for irreplaceable valuables.
Even the best-laid home security plans may not prevent break-ins. To protect your valuables no matter what, consider purchasing a safe or renting a safe deposit box at a local bank. Use the safe or safe deposit box to store hard-to-replace valuables such as family heirlooms, expensive jewelry, social security cards, and so on.
There is no way to guarantee that your rental will remain secure from burglary. But taking these steps will provide you with the best line of defense against would-be thieves. What’s more, these tactics are well within your rights regardless of whether you own the property in question.