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10 Tips to Keep Your Tenants and Rental Property Safe
There are a lot of things a landlord can do to take care of their tenants, but the most important thing you can do is to keep them as safe as possible. Security in your rental units should be a top priority to protect your tenants and your investment property. We’ve got 10 handy tips that will help you stay on top of the security in and around your rentals.
Use Secure Doors and Locks
Your first step is to check what your city legally requires as far as door locks. Some cities require locks on common entrance areas while others don’t. One of the best ways to beef up your security is to install locks on common area doors even if they’re not required. Then, install deadbolts inside individual units.
Once the locks are in place, it’s time to look at other ways you can improve security with your rental property doors. All entry and exit doors should be made of steel or solid core wood. A peephole gives tenants the ability to see who is outside before opening the door, adding a level of security. If there are sliding glass doors, rent the units with window treatments so tenants can keep unwanted eyes out. Go that extra step to incorporate a lock that is designed to reinforce patio doors. At the very least, patio doors should have a wooden dowel that fits in the track at night to prevent the door from being opened.
Control the Keys as Much as Possible
Going hand-in-hand with door security is key security. Try to control who has keys as much as possible. If a tenant leaves, always change the locks to make sure no one but the new tenants (and you) have access to the unit. Master keys to all units should be hidden or safely tucked away so you can access them if there is ever an emergency. But those keys shouldn’t be easily accessible to any outsiders. While it’s a good idea to get keys that clearly state they cannot be copied, don’t count on them not being copied. Do-it-yourself key kiosks make this warning label unreliable.
Install Lighting Inside and Outside of Your Rental Property
If you have any common areas in your rental, you’ll want to make sure they’re properly lit at all times.
Outside areas can be a little trickier because there are front and back areas to consider, parking areas and possibly more. You also want to make sure the lights aren’t too bright or angled into windows, disturbing your tenants’ sleep. Check to see if there are local ordinances on lighting for rental properties that may dictate how you choose to illuminate your property.
Don’t Forget to Secure the Windows
Every window in a rental that can be opened needs to have a lock on it. Even if that rental unit isn’t on the first floor, it’s possible for thieves to use a fire escape or a ladder to get up to it. If you feel the area warrants it, consider installing security bars on the windows.
Screen All of Your Tenants
Part of your responsibilities as a landlord is to screen potential tenants. This obviously helps you select the best tenants to protect your business and investment. But, if you have a multi-family dwelling, you’re also doing your due diligence and protecting the other tenants.
One great way to screen your tenants is to use the TransUnion SmartMove tool. This helps you check criminal backgrounds and credit history quickly and easily. It even gives you custom leasing recommendations. And if you have American Family Insurance, you get a discount! Connect with your agent to learn more.
Tend to Your Landscaping and Outside Features
Remove any bushes you have around doorways and windows so there are no places out of plain sight. If any tree branches reach over toward windows, balconies, or the roof, have them trimmed back so they don’t provide an inadvertent ladder to the property. Adding lighting to the landscaping can not only create great curb appeal but it can also make your rental less appealing to thieves.
While you’re looking at the exterior of your property, look for ladders, garbage bins and other items that could be used as a ladder or a hiding space. Find a new storage place where these things are safely out of view.
Post Emergency Numbers in the Open
If something does happen at one of your rental units, you want your tenants to be able to respond as quickly as possible. During a stressful situation it’s easy for someone to freeze. Having emergency numbers clearly visible can prompt faster action. This is probably the easiest and quickest step you can take to help protect your tenants and in the long run, it can really make a big difference.
Use Security Cameras on the Property
Keeping an eye on your property with the use of security cameras may seem like a smart solution to your security concerns. And it can be! But there are some legal concerns when installing security cameras. You obviously can’t install them in your tenant’s unit and, most of the time, common areas are off limits too. But it is generally okay to install security cameras outside and keep an eye on doors and parking lots. If you decide to use cameras, check with local ordinances to make sure you’re within your legal rights.
Install an Alarm System
Security systems used to be very expensive and they required some serious wiring throughout your unit. With modern technology, you can have a security system without the expense and the hassle. If you really want to help your tenants feel secure and give them peace of mind, then this is a real must.
Remember that there are laws governing what you can record. If your alarm system will be recording video and/or audio, you’ll need to stay within the rules established by your city.
Hire a Security Guard to Patrol the Property
For some landlords, the decision to hire professional security is easy as they have lots of rental units and a large area to protect. For others, it may be a bit of a stretch financially. If you don’t have the budget or the need for a dedicated security guard, why not see if the neighborhood would be interested in a co-op guard? Having a neighborhood guard that is paid for by several businesses keeps everyone a little safer and the expense is much less than having your own guard.
Whether you use one of these tips or all of them, you’re taking steps to protect your tenants and your property and that’s commendable. If you’d like to protect your investment even more, connect with your American Family Insurance agent to see if they have any insurance recommendations that will help boost your coverage.