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Safety Issues Before You Sign a Lease...

Here are some issues that you should consider before signing a lease:

Location: What is the neighborhood like? Is there a high crime rate in the neighborhood? Check internet sites to find crime rate information. Check out the apartment in the morning, during the day and at night. A location that looks great at midday may look quite different a night. If your budget is limited, and all your choices are in relatively high crime areas, you might want to consider finding an apartment very close to subway stations, bus routes, and being on commercials streets with lots of stores, particularly if they are open after dark. Crime is always lower on well lit, busy streets.

Neighbors: What kinds of people live in the area? Are there gangs, drug dealers in the area? Are there a lot of bars or other business that might attract questionable people? Checking with the local police department is always a good idea. Talk to other tenants to get their opinions.

Security policies & equipment: What are the rules and regulation of the apartment building you are looking at? Is there security personnel? If not is there a security system? Does everyone in the building respect the need to keep the front doors closed and locked? Are strangers loitering in the hallways of the building? if so, don't even consider renting in that building!

Before committing yourself to a particular apartment, try to ensure that:

TIP: Change your locks upon moving in.ou never know who still has a key. In New York, you are allowed to change or add one lock of your own. Get the best lock and solid guard plate you can. Expect to pay at least $150 for the right equipment. This is not the time to be cheap. Most leases require a tenant to give a key to their own lock to management, usually the building superintendent. In most cases, supers are reliable and honest, and it’s a good safety policy.

But you might consider doing this: Instead of having a locksmith install your new guard plate and lock, ask your super and offer him $100 do do the job. Many supers are perfectly capable of doing an expert installation. Besides, the chance to earn $100 from a new tenant will guarantee that the super will be attentive to your needs and look out for you.

You’ll have a new, high security lock and a new best friend in the super. A win - win for both.

Before committing yourself to a particular apartment, try to ensure that:

  • All locks on the apartment doors offer good security, and the core locks will be changed when you move in.
  • The doors of the apartment have peephole viewers.
  • The hall ways are well lit, and no bulbs are missing or burned out.
  • There are mirrors at bends in the corridors to prevent someone from waiting unseen.
  • The intercom buzzer system for the front door works properly if any.
  • Mail boxes show no evidence of tampering.
  • All exterior doors and locks are in good working order.
  • All windows accessible from ground level are protected by bars (Make sure that the bars or grating can be opened from the inside in the event of a fire and that you will be given a key if one is required)
  • All fire escapes are alarmed or enclosed to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Trees and bushes near the building are not overgrown, and bushes are kept below window height.

Once you've chosen an apartment, and have moved in:

  • Never leave your apartment door unlocked, even while taking out the trash.
  • If required to give the superintendent a key to your apartment for emergency use, seal it in an envelope and sign your name across the flap with your signature overlapping onto the body of the envelope. This will deter against tampering. Periodically ask to see the envelope.
  • Make an effort to meet your neighbors. Learn to look out for each other's interest. Know who "belongs."
  • Use only your first initial on your doorbell and mailbox, and in the phone book.
  • Immediately report any building security problems to the superintendent. Follow up to make sure the problem is corrected.
  • When your apartment is unoccupied for a long period of time, leave a radio or television playing to give the impression that somebody is home.
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