Is there anything more grown-up than renting your very own apartment? You can decorate however you want, you can dance around in your underwear and you never have to worry about roommates stealing your food. It’s total paradise.
Or at least it is until the sun goes down. Come nightfall, those footsteps on the sidewalk outside sound like they’re headed for your door and that shadowy figure in the yard looks a lot like the first five minutes of every 90’s horror movie. Maybe living alone is actually terrifying.
But don’t put up the roommate ad quite yet. Instead, refer to this list of 15 ways to feel safe when living alone. Institute even just a few of these smart apartment renter practices and you’ll sleep soundly again.
1. Get Nextdoor, a free social network for your neighborhood that allows people in your zip code to share information about suspicious activity and local crime as well as general news about what’s going on in the community.
2. Practice the real life version of Nextdoor: getting to know your neighbors in person. If you and your neighbors know each other (even just by face) you can have each other’s backs.
3. Get an apartment security camera that connects to your smartphone. Simplisafe is a great option for renters because the installation doesn’t require any drilling, plus there’s no contract.
4. Get a dog. Few things send would-be criminals running like the deep bark of a dog. Besides acting as a security system, the company of a dog will put you at ease when you’re feeling paranoid for no reason.
5. Avoid posting overly personal information on social media. That includes pictures where your apartment building or address is clearly visible and posts containing details about when you’ll be out of town.
6. Don’t answer the door when strangers knock. The guy knocking on your door offering a carpet cleaning service might actually be trying to see if you have anything worth stealing. Instead of answering, respond firmly that you’re not interested. It’s important to let them know that you’re home without letting them in.
7. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone. If something seems off, trust your gut. Call your apartment complex’s security number or your police department’s non-emergency number. If you’re really freaked out, it’s okay to call 911.
8. Close your blinds at night. Leaving your blinds open at night when you have the lights on is basically advertising what’s inside your apartment to anyone who walks by. Close them and burglars won’t be interested.9. Don’t hide your extra key under the doormat. Instead, leave it with someone you trust or in a place (like your desk at work) where you can access it. Ditch the fake rock key hider thing too.
10. Get in touch with a neighborhood watch group. Ask about what kinds of crime typically affect the area and consider getting involved in the group’s efforts. You can also check out websites like CrimeReports and CrimeMapping. But don’t spend too much time on these websites. Sometimes they instill more fear than safety.
11. Secure your doors and windows. Ask your landlord if he’ll install a deadbolt or if he’s okay with you doing so. Get a window alarm like Doberman, which is a renter-friendly adhesive alarm that sounds when your windows are broken.
12. Keep valuables out of sight. Don’t leave your laptop sitting on your desk when you leave your apartment. Keep it tucked away instead. For the truly irreplaceable stuff, like family heirlooms, consider renting a storage unit.
13. If you live in a smaller apartment complex, be aware of your neighbor’s vehicles. Take note if you see a car that looks out of the ordinary.
14. Identify places in your apartment that aren’t secure. Look for things like torn window screens or loose doorknobs and notify your landlord ASAP.
15. Remember, if you ever feel totally unsafe in your apartment due to the apartment being unsecured, you can break your lease. If your apartment is technically considered unlivable due to security concerns (broken gates, broken locks or gang activity on property), it’s your right to move out.