Securing your flat

(Photo by NHSM)

Whether you are a student or young professional looking for your first home, or someone who has had many flats before, there are several ways in which you can secure your sanctuary, even if you don’t own it.

Before you move in

  • Research crime in the area. Speak to people who know the area, research online – the Institute for Security Studies has a tool you can use to check crime at police precinct level
  • Check lighting in the stairwells, the laundry room if there is one, the entrances and the passages. The fewer dark spots for criminals to hide in the better
  • Use the general maintenance as a guide. If the building isn’t neat and clean it’s unlikely the owner gives much thought to security

After you’ve signed the papers

Whether you are renting or a new owner, living in close proximity to others means there will be a lot of people coming and going. It’s hard to get to know them all, so there is a higher risk of being unable to identify who is a neighbour and who really should not be there. It’s no surprise, then, that the first tip is:

  • Get to know your neighbours. You don’t have to live in each other’s pockets, but knowing the people who live in the flats close to yours means you can look out for each other. It also means someone who doesn’t belong in one of those flats – including yours – has less chance of hiding in plain sight
  • Get a door viewer if you don’t have one. Unless you have some more sophisticated way of seeing who is at the door, ask to have one installed. It’s worth it, even if you have to pay for it. The new video screen viewers even allow you to take photos of the person who is at the door
  • Change the locks. Even if the landlord says the locks have been changed, it’s a good idea to either change them, or get new deadbolt locks to add to the exterior doors. Flats change hands many times. You never know who might still have a key
  • Install window locks and make sure sliding doors – often the weak point in any home – are secure. There are locks available that are specially designed to secure sliding doors, which are often fitted to balcony doors and could potentially be reached from outside with a ladder, or even from neighbouring flats. Sliding doors should also have sliding security gates over them, and these can be further secured with a wooden dowel stick inserted snugly into the track so that the door can’t be pushed off its track
  • Close the blinds or curtains, especially at night and even if your flat is high up. Many people don’t think they can be seen, but you can
  • Get a safe. Bolt it in. Keep your valuables in it
  • Encourage other flat residents to keep main access doors closed and locked. Often if people are moving in, doors are left open and this allows access to all the apartments