Running an apartment or rental complex is tough work. You have to think about crime prevention, maintenance, and a multitude of other things. Here’s how to keep your tenants safe and keep their (and your) insurance premiums low.
Understand The Rules Where You Live
You, as the landlord, probably have a basic responsibility to keep your tenants safe. Most states impose a legal obligation on landlords to protect their tenants from harm. The best way to do this is to prevent crime before it happens.
You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money, either. Most strategies are low-cost and rely on tenant compliance.
Maintain Strict Key Control
Maintain strict key control. If you have access keys for a gated community, this can be done electronically, so that you don’t have to rely on tenant compliance as much. If a tenant loses his or her keycard, you can simply deactivate it and reissue another one.
Standard keys are a little harder to control, because tenants may make copies of them. However, you should enforce a 2-key maximum (or something similar) rule which requires tenants to limit key copying and sharing.
Another thing you can do is switch out your standard locks for custom locks which employ tamper-resistant tumbler systems. Most locks can be defeated with a simple bump key, which can be made by almost anyone for a few dollars.
Another thing to watch out for is roommates or significant others who move in after the lease has been signed. Sometimes, tenants invite their significant others to live with them. While you don’t want to control your tenants’ lives, you do want to maintain control over who lives in your apartments.
A protocol that includes a background check on everyone that moves in will go a long way toward minimizing security threats. You could, for example, set a limit on the amount of time that someone can visit. Just keep in mind that the more strict your rules are, the less happy your tenants may be – especially if they have a lot of friends who visit from out of town.
An acceptable compromise might be using bump-proof locks on individual doors and a front gate that uses a pin code that’s changed once a month. Alternatively, you could use a swipe card system where access codes are changed on a semi-regular basis.
Hold Voluntary Crime Prevention Meetings For Tenants
Crime-prevention isn’t always about having the latest and greatest gadgets. A lot of times, it’s just good education. If you can put together good seminars or meetings for tenants, bringing in local locksmiths and police, you might be able to head crime off at the pass.
This might initially sound like an unusual strategy, but many tenants are simply unaware of how their own actions may contribute to crime in the neighborhood. Making them aware reduces risk almost immediately.
Fix Security Problems Immediately
When you see a security problem, fix it immediately. Broken or malfunctioning fences, gates, or locks must be repaired or replaced immediately. You should also actively search for potential security threats and problems.
For example, if your apartment complex or neighborhood has high-risk areas that are not well lit, or there has been reported crime in the past, consider installing security cameras in that area, mirrors that let tenants look around blind corners, or consider adding security staff to the payroll as a deterrent.
Have a Security Protocol
Having a security protocol is important – the act of writing out a security plan will make everyone feel safer.
That plan should include everything from theft deterrence and tenant protection (security cameras, mirrors, etc) to good crime scene cleanup protocols if the unthinkable happens.
Take Tenant Concerns Seriously
Many landlords pay lip service to safety, and they don’t always take tenant complaints or concerns seriously. Of course, not all tenants are lodging valid complaints, but each one should be taken seriously so that a precedent is set.
If you notice a particular tenant raising excessive complaints that cannot be verified, it might be best to discuss the issue with that tenant privately. If it’s clear that the tenant is a “chronic complainer,” and that there is no cause for action on most or all of their complaints, then it might be best to have the tenant evicted or put that tenant through a special review process for all future complaints.
But, don’t do this lightly. Most tenants won’t be “trouble tenants.” You should aim to treat each complaint as a serious matter, establishing a protocol for dealing and resolving them.
This means having a formal process for reviewing security issues and then fixing them as quickly as possible.