Over 44 million American households are renters. With the housing market increasing, buying houses seems to be more difficult each time. When you’re renting a home or apartment or are living in dorms, it’s easy to slip into a sense of comfort and familiarity. After all, you live there, pay rent, and make it your sanctuary. However, it’s essential not to overlook one aspect: your safety and security should not be underestimated. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into renters’ security.
Most of us are taught to lock the doors and windows, to not let strangers in, and to be aware of our surroundings. However, your safety as a renter also includes protecting your belongings, safeguarding your-wellbeing and good communication strategies with roommates.
Whether you’re a seasoned tenant or a first-time renter, understanding the ins and outs of renters’ security is essential to ensure your peace of mind. In this article, we collected experts’ tips so renters can understand and take action when it comes to their safety.
What steps should a tenant take to document and report safety and security issues to the landlord or property management company?
- “Take photos or videos of any suspicious activity or damage. This evidence can help law enforcement identify and apprehend suspects.
- Send the photos or videos, along with any additional information you have, to your site office or property manager. This will help us assess the situation and take appropriate action.
- Report all instances of safety and security issues to the police. This will ensure that an official report is created and that law enforcement is aware of the situation.
- Once you have reported the incident to the police, please let your site office or property manager know. This will help us coordinate our response and ensure that the issue is resolved as quickly as possible.
The more information and evidence we have, the better we can handle the situation. By working together, we can create a safer and more secure community for all our residents.
We had a rash of unfortunate activity at a property. The property management team decided to ask the residents for their assistance in keeping the community safe. We posted “See Something, Say Something” flyers on entryways. We also asked residents if they could take pictures or videos of any activity, which would help law enforcement to pursue suspects. We immediately had an opportunity with the gentleman breaking out of the siding of a garage with three different residents providing us with videos of the incident. We then had some residents report other activities and did their best to extinguish a fire.
We now have residents emailing when they see anything suspicious. We hope it will eliminate any unsavory activity. Any resident who has provided us with assistance on these matters has also received a rent credit.”
“In New York City, you can only break a lease without penalty and without the landlord’s agreement if you have one of the following reasons:
You are a victim of domestic violence.
You or your spouse is 62 years of age or older and will be moving into supportive housing.
You are enlisting for active duty.
The landlord or the rental unit is unsafe and violates health codes.
In any other case, the best solution to avoid any financial liabilities would be to “assign” the apartment to another tenant for the remainder of the lease. Assignment of a lease is transferring the entire interest of the apartment lease to another person. However, a tenant cannot assign a lease without the landlord’s co-consent. If the landlord unreasonably refuses to consent to the new assignment, the tenant is entitled to be released from the lease within thirty days of the date the request was given to the landlord. To assign a lease, a tenant must write a certified letter to the landlord explaining why they are looking to break the lease and who will be taking over the lease.”
Met Council on Housing
Is my landlord responsible for my safety as a tenant?
In the United States, landlords are generally responsible for providing their residents with safe and habitable living conditions. This responsibility is often referred to as the “implied warranty of habitability.” It means that landlords must maintain the rental property in a reasonably safe condition and comply with applicable housing and building codes.
Specific responsibilities can vary depending on state and local laws, but some common obligations include ensuring the structural integrity of the property, maintaining common areas, providing working locks on windows and doors (some states and leases may be more specific than others), addressing issues related to plumbing, heating, and electrical systems, and addressing any health and safety hazards.
Beyond those traditional, standard lease terms and laws, your safety is generally your responsibility and yours alone.
Chris from TenantCloud
Renting with roommates
Renting with roommates can be a fun, exciting experience. You are able to share living costs while making new friends. However, living with roommates also requires good communication, being cautious, and taking specific safety and security measures.
Here are some key considerations when you’re renting with roommates to ensure renters’ security:
- Communication and boundaries
- Locks and keys
- Guest policy
- Shared expenses
- Fire safety
- Emergency contacts
- Conflict resolution
By discussing these key areas with your roommates, you’re taking a step towards your safety. It will help to avoid potential issues, or you’ll at least be better prepared for when a situation arises.
What safety precautions should I take when meeting potential roommates for the first time to ensure my personal security?
“When meeting and screening potential roommates for personal security, consider these precautions:
- Trust Your Instinct: Make sure you are comfortable at any stage of communication. If you don’t feel comfortable communicating, then most likely, you won’t feel comfortable living with the person
- Online Chat or Video Call: Start with virtual communication to gauge compatibility and comfort level before meeting in person.
- Bring a Companion: Invite a current roommate or a trusted friend with roommate experience to join the meeting, providing an additional perspective.
- Inform a Contact: Share meeting details with someone you trust and request a check-in call during the meeting, especially if you have no local friends.
- Choose a Public, Daytime Location: Opt for a busy, well-lit public place like a coffee shop for the initial meeting. Public spaces with security cameras enhance safety.
- Know When to Exit: If the conversation feels uncomfortable or the person behaves strangely, use the pre-arranged call as an excuse to depart early.
By following these precautions, you can enhance your personal security when meeting potential roommates and make informed decisions about your living situation.”
Luffy Ding from GEC Living\
What’s your best advice for establishing safety rules in and around the house when moving in with roommates?
“There are many things to discuss when moving in with roommates, and we advise you to exercise patience throughout your time together.One of the main things to do would be sharing emergency contacts with your roommates. Introduce each other to one another’s emergency contacts to avoid scams, and don’t forget to have those contacts on your phone – it’s better to be ready if the unexpected happens. Discuss the personal boundaries with each other. When are you okay with being bothered, and when not? What will and won’t you tolerate? Guest policy is also part of the safety rules if you live with other people. When can the guests come? Can they come if your roommate isn’t at home? How long can the guests stay? The final advice would be to have all those rules and agreements written down and signed by each roommate. You can also hang a copy of the agreement on the fridge as a daily reminder.”
Ali Tulebayev from SEKA Moving
Communication: Start by having an open and honest conversation with your roommates about the importance of respecting each other’s belongings. Establish clear boundaries and expectations regarding privacy and shared spaces.
Lock Your Door: Always lock your bedroom door when you’re not inside, even if you trust your roommates. This simple step can deter opportunistic theft.
Use Safes: Invest in a small personal safe to store important documents, jewelry, or small valuable items. Make sure it’s securely anchored to prevent someone from walking away with it.
Inventory Your Belongings: Keep a list or take photos of your valuable possessions. In case something goes missing, you’ll have a record to share with your roommates and, if necessary, the authorities.
Secure Electronics: Password-protect your devices and consider installing tracking software in case they are stolen. Additionally, use cable locks to secure laptops and other electronics to furniture.
Avoid Displaying Valuables: Don’t leave expensive items in plain sight, even within your own room. Use curtains or blinds to shield your belongings from prying eyes.
Renters Insurance: Consider purchasing renters insurance. It can provide coverage for stolen or damaged belongings, giving you peace of mind.
Emergency Contacts: Exchange emergency contact information with your roommates and have a plan in place for addressing theft or security concerns.
Be Mindful of Guests: If your roommates have guests over, be extra cautious. Ensure your valuable items are secured, and communicate with your roommates about their guests’ access to common areas.
By implementing these precautions and maintaining open communication with your roommates, you can create a safer and more harmonious living environment while protecting your valuables and personal belongings.
By conducting background checks and Credit Check on potential roommates, you can make more informed decisions and select individuals who align with your values and security preferences. Remember that open communication and setting clear expectations remain essential to maintaining a harmonious living environment.
Kal Merhi from iROOMit
What should I do if my roommates are causing damage to the property, and I’m concerned about my security deposit or rental history?
“Unfortunately, the landlord could hold both tenants liable for the damage, taking repair costs out of the deposit and charging them both for anything beyond that. The innocent tenant could sue the roommate for losses suffered. The landlord should be requested to do a preliminary inspection under Civil Code 1950.5(f); where possible, deductions from the deposit must be listed, and if the landlord fails to do that, it forfeits the right to deduct repair costs from the deposit.”
California Tenant Law
What steps do you need to take if a roommate doesn’t comply with safety requirements established by the building/landlord?
“Having a roommate to share expenses and chores with can make your life easier — unless they are irresponsible and ignore safety regulations. This could be dangerous for you and others in the building. If your roommate refuses to comply despite repeated appeals, it may be time to have them evicted.
Here are the steps in evicting your roommate.
- Know The Status of Your Tenancy: Check your lease agreement to see your status. If you are both co-tenants, the landlord has the right to evict your roommate. If you are the master tenant, you can evict your roommate. But if your roommate is the master tenant, you can ask your landlord to mediate.
- Ensure You Have a Just Cause: Non-compliance with the lease agreement, including safety regulations established therein, is a just cause for eviction. Review the lease agreement and note the safety clauses your roommate violated.
- Support Your Case: Back your case by documenting the issues with photos, written descriptions, communication records, and inspection reports.
- Inform Your Roommate of Your Next Action: Politely discuss with your roommate their violations, that you want them to move out, and that a Notice to Quit is underway. Try to get your roommate to agree to end your arrangement amicably.
- Issue a Notice to Quit: If your roommate refuses to move out, you may issue them a Notice to Quit. This official document should contain details like your roommate’s name and address, violations, a statement saying that a Notice to Evict will follow if they don’t move out, your signature and date, and other details required by local laws.
A roommate is supposed to lighten the weight of your responsibilities through mutually beneficial living arrangements. Know your rights, keep your boundaries, and refuse to be a victim. Know when to put your foot down and say enough!”
Alice Garcia from LawDistrict
How can we establish trust and accountability within the household to reduce the likelihood of theft between roommates?
“Establishing trust and accountability among roommates reduces the likelihood of theft in shared living spaces. Fundamental to this is open communication, a set of agreed-upon rules that each tenant signs to establish a baseline for expectations of both personal belongings and personal space, along with a background check for each roommate to provide an initial layer of trust, ensuring that each roommate has entered into the agreement with a clean record. Open communication allows roommates to discuss their concerns and expectations. When possible, setting up a routine monthly roommate meeting can create a transparent environment conducive to trust. The meeting should have a specific agenda, including topics such as any outstanding individual balances owed or any violations of rules. All these measures, when combined, promote an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding, and trust, essential for a harmonious co-existence among roommates.”
Julia from Rentler
“When it comes to handling roommate conflicts, the approach greatly depends on the individual’s level of self-awareness and responsibility. If a roommate is self-aware, recognizing the repercussions of their actions on the shared living environment, it becomes crucial to employ a direct yet amicable approach. A straightforward conversation can often clear the air, allowing both parties to express their concerns and find a middle ground.
Can you provide advice on handling conflicts related to personal space, noise, or guests when living with roommates?
“First, choose roommates who share your values and character. Don’t live with someone who doesn’t respect your faith or convictions or someone who’s an all-night partyer when you place a high value on quiet and routine.
Next, add structure and expectations. Have a “business” meeting where roommates gather to address household culture and rules. Establish everything from quiet hours to cleaning schedules to the process of paying rent (and penalties for not doing so). Decide on the specifics of your “roommate manifesto” and put them in writing. When conflict happens (and it will), address it immediately, privately, and respectfully. Don’t resort to gossip, backbiting, or blowups. Ask your roommate if they have a few minutes to talk, letting them know it’s about a concern you have. When you sit down, outline your concerns specifically and graciously. Allow them to respond.
Finally, problem-solve proactively. Find fun solutions to everyone’s most aggravating habits. Is a roommate’s stuff cluttering up the counter? Put a basket out so that everything gets dumped into. When that basket fills up, that roommate takes the roommate(s) out for ice cream. Household cursing gotten out of control? Set up a “curse jar.” When an F-bomb flies, a dollar goes into the jar. When it’s full, everyone goes out for pizza. Set a curfew for guests and boundaries for personal belongings. A roommate situation can become a lifelong friendship when handled with care.”
Lisa Anderson from Boundless
In the event of a disagreement over shared expenses or bills, what are some constructive ways to reach a compromise with roommates?
“When disagreements arise over shared expenses, initiating an open and honest conversation is essential so all roommates can express their views on the situation and, most importantly, explore potential solutions together. Here are some ways you can address this issue:
Create a shared expense agreement: Draft a written agreement that clearly outlines how shared expenses will be divided and paid. Specify who is responsible for each bill or expense and the due dates.
Essentials vs. individual preferences: For some expenses, like groceries, set a baseline budget for essentials, but budget separately for personal preferences and big-ticket items.
Track expenses: Use expense tracking apps or spreadsheets to record and track shared expenses. This can help avoid disputes by clearly registering who paid for what.
Emergency fund: Set up a small emergency fund that all roommates contribute to. This way, you can avoid arguments about who will pay for unexpected expenses like repairs or replacements.
Rotate responsibilities: Rotate responsibility for different bills each month so that no one feels unfairly burdened by a particular expense over time.
Roommate meetings: Schedule regular roommate meetings to discuss finances, share concerns, and make necessary adjustments to your expense-sharing arrangement.”
How can roommates respect each other’s privacy and personal space, balancing safety concerns with individual needs?
“In my years leading SharedEasy, a frontrunner in the coliving market, I’ve seen that maintaining a balance between personal privacy and collective safety can make or break the coliving experience. To get this equilibrium right, a few guiding principles come into play.
First, roommates should agree on ‘Community Guidelines,’ a set of rules that delineate personal boundaries and public spaces. This code ensures that everyone’s comfort zones are clearly defined and mutually respected.
Second, communication is the linchpin of cohabitation. Being upfront about your needs for personal space while also being open to the needs of others fosters an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. Simple practices, such as creating a shared calendar to schedule time in communal areas and having community meetings, can be highly effective in this regard.
Third, while technology like smart locks might secure the entrance, it’s essential to have a collective understanding of when it is appropriate to access shared spaces. Safety isn’t solely about locked doors; it’s about creating a safe space through mutual respect.
Striking a balance between personal privacy and community safety is complex but achievable. The key lies in setting clear boundaries, maintaining open lines of communication, and fostering a culture of mutual respect.”
Valentyn Morgunskyi from SharedEasy
What’s your best advice for setting boundaries regarding the use of common areas, and how can we ensure everyone feels safe and comfortable?
“Initiate a “house meeting” where you talk about preferences and needs in terms of common areas like the kitchen, living room, and bathroom. Will each of you clean up after yourselves, or will there be a “nightly close” where everyone tidies these areas together? Are there any pet peeves you can all agree to accommodate, like not leaving dishes on the counter overnight or wiping down the bathroom counter? If you want to invite guests over, how much notice is needed, and how often can they stay? Will there be quiet hours; are there policies for drinking, drugs, or smoking; who pays for it if a shared element (like a coffee table) breaks?
It may feel too “corporate” to have these discussions with friends, but clarity here sets you up for a much more pleasant, comfortable, and easy shared experience. If expectations around cleanliness or household management are clearly different, it’s good to know that now! Use this time to arrive at a “reasonable standard of care” that you can all agree to. Setting clear boundaries now (and maybe even posting the “house rules” on the fridge) also gives you a touchpoint to refer back to if roommates aren’t respecting your shared agreements.”
Melissa Urban, New York Times bestselling author, The Book of Boundaries
What security measures are in place in a coliving space compared to a traditional shared rental, and how do they differ?
“Coliving spaces prioritize the safety and comfort of their members more than traditional shared living arrangements. One of the primary reasons for this is the meticulous vetting process for potential residents. Before joining, members are evaluated to ensure they align with the community’s values, where mutual respect, interaction, and sharing are paramount. This ensures not just a harmonious living situation but also a collective sense of responsibility. In such an environment, everyone is recognized and accepted for who they are, fostering an inherent trust among members and an unwritten pact to safeguard each other and their belongings.
Further enhancing security in coliving setups is the integration of advanced technology. Many of these spaces are equipped with surveillance cameras and sensors strategically placed in communal areas. This not only serves as a deterrent for any potential wrongdoings but also provides a safety net. Should any unfortunate event, be it an accident or theft, occur, there’s peace of mind in knowing that there’s a high likelihood of it being captured on camera. Such measures, combined with the sense of community, make coliving a more secure option compared to traditional shared homes.”
Daniel Beck from Coliving.com
Renting by yourself
For those who enjoy their privacy, renting by yourself is excellent. You don’t have to worry about unwanted guests, sharing your living space, someone taking your food, or worrying about shared bills. However, living alone has its own share of considerations for renters’ security.
When renting by yourself, make sure to have a plan for the following:
- Emergency contacts
- Security systems
- Neighborhood safety: Familiarize yourself with the neighborhood and the apartment complex
- Social safety
- Emergency kit
Always make sure that trusted family members or friends can enter your home in case of an emergency. Building a trusted social network helps you and others quickly detect any dangerous situation.
What security features and measures can property managers take to ensure tenants’ safety?
- Cameras at the exterior of the property
- Inspections of the property minimum once a year
- Having a staff member available 24/7 for emergency calls and texts
- Ensuring that all fire and CO alarms are working and updated, locks on all doors are functioning properly, and that items which require attention are dealt with in a timely manner
Living in dorms
When you’re just starting a new college experience, living in dorms can be so exciting. You’ll share a living space together with peers. A student dorm is a place where new friendships are made, parties are held, and where most young people learn to be independent.
Consider and discuss the following with roommates to ensure enhanced renters’ security:
- Access control
- Know your peers
- Roommate communication
- Campus policy
- Extra security measures
How can you enhance your personal security when living in dorm rooms?
“Personal safety in dorm rooms is often overlooked but important to students’ health. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 32% of students report having experienced burglaries in student housing. These numbers show students need a plan in place for safety measures.
First, you might want to use a Door Wedge Alarm. This device does two things: it keeps people from getting in without permission and sounds a loud alarm when someone tries to open the door. It is a good investment for any student who cares about their safety because it is inexpensive and easy to set up.
Second, a Portable Door Lock can add an extra level of security. These are often used in hotels and apartments, but they can also work well in a dorm. Once turned on from the inside, this lock makes keys or access cards from the outside useless for as long as it is in place.
Aside from these devices, it’s a good idea to keep a list of emergency contacts on your phone and know how to get to campus security offices quickly. To sum up, improving your personal security in a dorm room takes more than just gadgets. You need a whole plan to be ready for different situations.”
Garrick Gibson from HBCU Lifestyle