Security in an apartment building or complex rests largely in the hands of your landlord or condominium association, but common-sense precaution on your part also can make a big difference.

  • Since you can't do much in the way of improvements, your best option is to evaluate an apartment for security before you sign the lease.
  • Start at the front door-check the lock on the door to the building. And, make sure the door to your apartment has at least two locks-one should be a dead bolt-and a good chain.
  • When you move in, insist that the locks be changed. (Swapping the cylinder with the one from another vacant unit costs nothing and takes just a few minutes.) If you don't like what's provided, consider adding a surface deadbolt lock. Be sure to get management approval before you install it, or ask that they do it for you.
  • A solid-core door is just as essential on an apartment as it is on a house. Ask to have one installed if the existing door is hallow-core. Many newer apartments have solid-core doors for fire safety.
  • Never open the door of your unit to a stranger. Most communities have building codes that require peephole viewers in apartment doors, get in the habit of using yours.
  • Check the windows, especially sliding glass doors that open to the balcony. Even on an upper floor in a high rise, a daring burglar can gain access, especially if balconies are close to each other.
  • For additional security, invest in portable door and window alarms or a wireless system that you can take with you when you move out.
  • Never leave the door to your apartment unlocked, whether you're home or not.
  • Check the security of the building's public areas. Look for adequate lighting in the parking lot, in hallways, and in the laundry room, and storage areas. Make sure the emergency phone in the elevator works.
  • If your building has an intercom system, make sure it works. Never buzz in someone you don't know. Instead, refer them to the manager.
  • Don't put your first name or initials on you mailbox or apartment door; strangers don't need to know your gender or to assume that only one adult is living there.
  • Think about safety, too. Be sure your apartment has working smoke detectors, and that public areas have smoke detectors, too.
  • Know the best way to get out of your building in case of a fire.