5 security tips for first-time renters

Private Property South Africa

Moving into a first home can be exciting and liberating, but young people who do so, need to be aware of the risks of living alone and take appropriate steps to keep safe.

Students and young adults often find themselves living on their own far from home while they study or settle in to their first real job. And while that has benefits including sole control of the Wi-Fi password and what to eat for dinner, there can also be some difficulties, including inadequate security.

“If you are living on your own, especially for the first time, you could be seen as a more vulnerable target for burglary and other crimes,” says Greg Harris, CEO of Chas Everitt Property Rentals, “and most people young people can’t afford the time or money to set up elaborate deterrents.

1. Good lighting

“However, there are some simple precautions everyone can take that will really help to improve their safety and security, including good lighting, which is the most cost-effective deterrent for criminals. This is especially important if you’re expecting to get home after dark most days, so if you are renting an apartment or townhouse, choose a complex that has good exterior, passage and lift lighting.

If you live in a house with others or on your own, he says, you should know that leaving lights on all day is actually a signal to criminals that you are probably not at home and is also a waste of electricity. You should rather fit simple timers to your outside lights and a couple of lamps indoors that turn them on at dusk – or better still, install a few “smart” lights that you can control from your phone.

2. Lock it up

Secondly, you must make sure that you have good locks, security gates on all your exterior doors and burglar proofing on all your windows. “This should be non-negotiable no matter what kind of home you are renting, even in a security complex. To be really safe, you should in fact get all the locks changed before you move in, because there’s no knowing how many previous tenants have keys,” Harris notes.

“And you should always lock your doors or security gates, not only when you leave for the day but even when you’re at home or just popping out to hang up your washing or fetch the post. In addition, you shouldn’t ever open your door to anyone until you’ve looked through the peephole to see who’s really there.”

3. Have people over

Third, he says, you’re allowed to resort to subterfuge. “For example, if you need to call someone to do repair or maintenance work at your home, you should ask a friend to come over at the same time, to make it look like you have a roommate. Better still, get into the habit of entertaining at home, and ask some of your new neighbours, friends or work colleagues over as often as possible for drinks, a shared meal or a movie. Criminals are much less likely to target a busy home where people are coming and going at different times. For this reason, you should also try not to leave or come home at exactly the same time every day.”

4. Stay informed

Fourth, you should use the internet or your cell phone to stay informed about the happenings in your complex and surrounding area. However, don’t brag about your upcoming holiday on social media or let too many people know that you’ll be out of town for a while. And don’t leave a spare key anywhere except with a person you really trust.

5. Be prepared to ask for help

“Finally,” Harris says, “it is important to have the right mental attitude. Your safety is your priority in any situation and no one is completely immune from predators. If you feel something just isn’t right, don’t ever be embarrassed to call for help, refuse to let someone in, or leave for a safe place like a friend’s house or your favourite shop where you can call the police.”

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