Seven Tips for Finding an Apartment with Good Security

Apartment hunters want security – that’s what multiple surveys show and, for most, it’s the top issue on their mind when looking for a rental. Although people often think pools or interior amenities are important, the reality is that the top amenity that apartment renters look for is enhanced security, and that starts with gated access.

Renters, especially women or those with families, want to live in a low-crime, secure place, but with crime rates on the rise throughout Houston and the U.S., finding an apartment complex that provides adequate security has become more difficult. Although many complexes did not see the crime trends and take steps to protect residents, complexes like Westview Forest Apartments in Houston have set the bar for what complexes should be doing to provide security.

We’ve put together this guide to help renters find the secure apartment they’re after. Here are seven things to look for to ensure you’re considering a secure property. Although the techniques discussed in this article are not a guarantee against crime, they do lower the possibility that a resident will be the victim of a crime.

A Staffed Guardhouse with 24/7/365 Guard Presence

Controlled-access gates aren’t enough to keep bad guys out. While their name suggests that they control access, in reality they don’t. It’s easy for a would-be criminal to follow another vehicle through the gate, even if the gate looks like it’s going to close on their vehicle as they pass. That’s because controlled-access gates are built with a safety circuit that stops the gate from closing or forces it open before it contacts a vehicle (most normal people don’t know this—but thieves sure do!).

So controlled-access gates are sold as a marketing tactic. What does prevent unauthorized entry into the complex? A manned guardhouse.

Staffed guardhouses are extremely rare among apartment complexes, but no alternative provides the same level of security. That’s because the guard will only allow residents or visitors into the complex. If a visitor isn’t preapproved, the guard should contact the resident to verify that they should be allowed in.

In short, don’t rely on a gate to do a guard’s job.

High-Resolution, Functioning Video Cameras in all Common Areas

Most apartment complexes in Houston measure several acres in size. and most have common spaces like laundry rooms and multiple pool areas. What most apartment complexes don’t have, though, are high resolution cameras in good repair. There’s a good chance that any camera you’ll see at a complex is nonfunctional. It just sits there once it fails.

Most of the cameras that do function aren’t much better, because they’re operating with such poor resolution that they cannot capture quality images.

High resolution cameras can deter criminals if they have a noticeable presence at the complex. And if they can’t prevent the crime, they can at least provide excellent video evidence to investigators for criminal prosecution.

When touring apartments, ask if the complex has high resolution cameras in place and how many they have. The best cameras are 4K, but they are expensive and rarely found in apartment complexes, but 1024 resolution is good also. Ask if they are well-maintained and if someone is available to review the footage if something does happen at the complex. It’s almost impossible to completely blanket a complex with camera coverage (we’re talking hundreds of cameras here), but security-focused complexes may have dozens in place, including cameras in common and high traffic areas.

A Tenant Prescreening Process

Studies show that when a crime does occur at an apartment complex, the most likely culprit is someone who either lives at the complex or is visiting the complex. That means if the apartment you select doesn’t prescreen their tenants, you could easily be living next door to a criminal.

That’s why prospective renters should consider the criminal prescreening step an essential one. Even better, complexes should screen every adult that will be in the household, including adults that are listed as occupants only, and not leaseholders. That will provide a complete picture of who will be moving in. Complexes that invest in this step won’t just inquire about current rental history, either, but previous rental history with other complexes. If the applicant is a problem at their current residence, that complex may withhold vital information to get rid of them. Previous landlords, though, won’t have the same issue in providing comprehensive tenant information.

Some complexes even go so far as to check any teenagers living in the household. To do this, the complex may request school records like a report card to ensure they are attending school during the day and not getting into trouble.

Online Reviews That Suggest a Secure, Safe Property

Individually, customer reviews are an experience. Twenty or 30 of them are a trend. When evaluating an apartment complex online, what kind of trend does their customer reviews reveal? Is there a list of renters pointing out unsafe, unsecure conditions? Or is there a list of renters expressing their relief at the complex’s security?

Because security is most renters’ number one issue, you’ll likely see it mentioned in many customer reviews. You don’t need many reviews, then, to get a clear picture of what the complex’s security is like.

Courtesy Patrol Officers That Keep an Eye on the Property

Courtesy officer patrols are no guarantee against crime, but they do make it more difficult on any would-be criminals. Courtesy officers are sometimes uniformed and employed by the complex to provide a visible security presence after office hours. But sometimes, they are independent contractors who provide the same service but choose not to wear a uniform, making it harder for would-be criminals to identify who the courtesy officers are.

The cost of hiring courtesy officer patrols is high, though, so there aren’t many complexes that offer them, unless they prioritize security.

A Peaceful Atmosphere at Night, Even on the Weekends

Many apartment complexes undergo a transformation at night or on the weekends. What appears to be a peaceful, safe place during the day may turn into a hotbed of problematic activity at night. Some of this activity may be criminal or aggressive in nature, or it may merely be excessively obnoxious.

If you want a complete idea of what a complex and its tenants are like when night falls, drive by and take notes. You may be surprised, and not in a good way, at what you find. The best time to do this is on a Friday or Saturday night, as these are typically high-activity times.

Local Crime Statistics That Aren’t a Cause for Alarm

Most cities, including Houston, make their crime statistics available to the public for consideration. The Houston Police Department (HPD) is responsible for this in Houston, and HPD’s website is a valuable resource for renters.

Its website records criminal incidents and tracks where they occur, down to the street or beat level. Other sites that attempt to aggregate this data are taking it from HPD itself, so why not go straight to the source?

While this information may only provide a general idea of crime around the complex, it’s a good first step for spotting the safer apartments in town.

Security is the Number One Concern for Most Renters, and for Good Reason

It’s difficult for people to live in a place where they don’t feel safe, and with the above tips, you won’t have to. You’ll be able to investigate a complex’s security measures and ensure you find a place that meets your security needs.

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