Taking proper safety precautions
Locks and doors
All entry doors to an apartment should have deadbolt locks which cannot be opened with a credit card or penknife and which do not require a key to open from the inside. (You're going to want a door which you can unlock easily in case of a fire.) Keep your doors locked at all times, especially when you are home by yourself. It is important that the doors be solid core -- that is, not hollow -- so that someone cannot kick them in easily. In addition, the door should also have a peephole that provides an unobstructed view of the hallway or exterior of the apartment, so that you can easily identify any visitors.
When you move into your new apartment, you should ask the landlord if the locks will be re-keyed for you. If they are unwilling to provide that service, you may want to consider installing your own locks with their permission.
All entrance doors to the building should also have deadbolt locks. Doorbell and buzzer systems are important in buildings with three or more floors or apartments. It is important to work with other tenants in a building to make sure that doors are kept locked and visitors monitored. You shouldn't answer the door unless the visitor has identified themselves to you, nor should you hold the exterior door open for strangers to enter behind you.
Windows that are accessible from the ground or from a porch or other structure should have window locks or pins that allow a window to be locked but open a few inches for ventilation. During the evening hours, or when you are away, keep all windows covered so that your belongings are not visible to outsiders.
If it appears that your apartment has been illegally entered, do not enter the premises or touch anything. Instead, go to a safe place and contact the police immediately. For emergencies, call 911; in non-emergency situations, call (518) 270-4411.
All entrances, walkways, and hallways should be adequately lighted; and their maintenance is the responsibility of the landlord. However, it is helpful for you to replace light bulbs when needed rather than calling the landlord over to do it. Remember that good lighting deters crime!
When you plan to be away for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to set up an automatic timer on a few lamps to make your apartment appear occupied.
A second exit, fire escape or automatic sprinkler system is required for all apartments on the second floor or higher.
There should be at least one smoke detector in an apartment, and additional smoke detectors are important if the apartment is large. Check to see that the smoke detector(s) work, and test them periodically; local authorities often suggest testing your smoke detectors in the early spring and late fall, when you set your clocks ahead and back, respectively. Carbon monoxide detectors may not be required in your apartment, but if there is one, check to see that it also works properly.
Fire extinguishers are not required, but tenants are advised to purchase one (or more) and keep one in the kitchen away from the stove and within easy reach. Fires spread extremely rapidly, and smoke from even a small fire can disable and kill a person very quickly. Tenants should make sure that second exits are kept free of obstacles at all times and know how to use their second exit or fire escape in case of an emergency.
Know your apartment's correct address and nearby cross streets in case you ever need to report an emergency.
Most major insurance companies offer renter's insurance policies that provide liability, fire and theft coverage that cost less than $200 per year. Be sure to have photos and serial numbers of your high-priced items to expedite the claims process should you ever have a problem.
Rensselaer's Department of Public Safety offers a service for students to register their personal property whether they live on- or off-campus. In the event that something happens to your property, you can call upon Public Safety to provide your registered serial numbers and descriptions to local authorities and insurance companies to ensure a greater chance of recovering your property. For more information, feel free to stop by their office during their regular business hours of 8:00am - 4:00pm, Monday through Friday.
Trespass Affidavit Program (TAP)
Some landlords have signed up for this City of Troy program in order to keep their tenants safe and limit illegal activity on their properties. When a landlord signs up for TAP, she or he provides Troy's Community Police Unit with a list of tenants. Once a landlord has filled out the proper forms, the police are allowed to enter the common areas of the building -- such as exterior porches and hallways -- and arrest anyone who is not a tenant, or a guest of the tenant, for trespassing. A TAP sign will be posted on your building if your landlord is participating in this program.
For more helpful safety tips, please take a moment to read A Guide to Safe Living for Off-Campus Residents, provided by Rensselaer's Department of Public Safety.
Last modified: Apr 29, 2013