Apartment Security Safe Housing seems like an obvious safety amenity.
- However, many property owners question the extra security expense.
- Landlords say they provide living space, not personal protection.
- I will introduce my 10-Step Apartment Security Plan.
Apartment property owners have asked me many times:
Why should I invest money for security on my property? It’s very expensive and besides, I’m a taxpayer, the police are supposed to provide this protection for me.”
Apartment Security Safe Housing: Good for Business
The truth is that providing adequate security makes good business sense. A relatively crime-free property is good for business. In some markets, there is fierce competition among property owners to keep occupancy rates high while still attracting that elusive “good resident”.
Good residents tend to abide by the law, pay the rent on time, sign longer leases, make fewer demands on management, and maintain their apartments in better condition. All of these attributes generate greater net-operating income for the property owner.
Apartment Security Safe Housing: Attracts New Residents
Good residents have options about where to live. I have discovered that potential applicants make subjective judgments about their personal safety on your property before signing a lease. Most research if they can. More than ever, landlords must make a greater effort to provide a reasonably safe living environment to attract and retain residents.
Apartment industry research shows that new residents are looking for housing that is conveniently located, clean, affordable, and safe.
A property owner that checks most of these boxes will sign up more rental prospects, receive more renewals and referrals from current residents, have less turnover, fewer maintenance problems, and fewer management headaches.
Apartment Security Safe Housing: Retains Current Residents
Experienced property managers agree that a property with a truly integrated security plan will retain a higher percentage of good residents. It’s a known fact that your best residents will move out of a property where crime and disturbances are tolerated by management.
On high-crime properties, I always find a higher percentage of marginal and undesirable residents living in constant fear of crime. To make matters worse, undesirable residents contribute to the downward cycle of property deterioration. These marginal residents stay only because they have few options to relocate. No one wants to live in such a hostile environment!
Apartment Security Safe Housing: Might Be the Law
One compelling reason why landlords should provide apartment security safe housing on rental housing property is that it might be the law. Many cities and states have enacted statutes, codes, or ordinances that set forth minimum standards for rental housing safety.
In many jurisdictions, housing code requires landlords to fortify apartment access points by installing solid-core doors, deadbolt locks, or secondary security devices on sliding windows. A few cities even set minimum criteria for exterior lighting and security patrols on troubled properties. A single violation of a municipal mandate could cause a fine to be levied or loss of occupancy permits, if not brought into compliance. Severe violations can bring criminal sanctions.
Avoid Liability & Negligence Claims
A major motivating factor for landlords is the fear of being sued in civil court for injuries caused by failing to provide apartment security safe housing.
Since the mid-1980s there have been many high-profile premises liability lawsuits that focused on the issue of inadequate security for failing to provide adequate door and window locks, key control, lighting, security patrols, maintenance, and background screening for both employees and new residents.
These high-profile cases allowed for a microscopic examination of the security practices, or lack thereof, within the multi-family housing industry. Nationally syndicated radio and television talk shows and print media have published unflattering stories exposing dangerous apartment communities overrun by gangs and drug activity. This coverage gave all landlords a symbolic black eye.
Today, news of multi-million dollar jury verdicts is no longer exceptional where property owners and managers are found negligent for failing to provide apartment security safe housing. These adverse jury verdicts have caused insurance rates to soar and the resale value of some investment properties to plummet.
A surprising number of landlords that didn’t have adequate insurance coverage were forced into bankruptcy and lost their entire investment.
Apartment Security Safe Housing: The Wrong Approach
It always surprises me to learn how many property owners and managers operate large multi-family housing investment properties without any crime prevention training. It’s like flying an airplane without taking flying lessons and hoping to learn as they go without crashing.
After all, making a property reasonably safe is the responsibility of the landlord so why wouldn’t a landlord want to protect that investment? It’s my experience that managers attempt to learn on the job by making mistakes, wasting money, and sometimes causing harm to residents and other employees.
One consequence of a landlord’s feeble attempt to fight crime is that they believe fear and distrust will increase among the residents if they implement crime prevention procedures. Without a doubt, unhappy or fearful residents will eventually move and will certainly not be the source of any new referrals.
Fearful residents eventually become angry and blame the landlord for their substandard living conditions. As you might expect, angry residents make up a large class of plaintiffs that sue their property owners or property manager when they become victims of crime.
A common mistake that inexperienced property owners make is not implementing a comprehensive security plan from the start. Instead, they’ll repeat a series of quick-fixes and temporary security solutions for years.
It’s common for property managers to hire a uniformed security patrol service every time there is a spike in crime just to make residents feel better. Security patrols work to some degree in the short term, but without any other changes to the nature of the premises, the crime problem will likely return within sixty days after the security service is terminated.
In the end, the quick-fix method is not cost-effective because it has to be repeated so often to the dismay of frustrated residents.
Apartment Security Safe Housing: The Right Approach
Many landlords won’t commit to implementing a comprehensive security plan for their property. The most common excuse I hear is that security services are unreliable and too expensive to implement full-time. Besides, it’s a police problem.
When I hear remarks like this I realize that the property manager has the wrong idea about how to incorporate security planning into the daily routine of property management.
Providing adequate security for rental housing is a learned process that attacks the very core of criminal activity and will not allow it to take root and grow on a property.
A good law enforcement-based security plan, like the Crime Free Multi-housing Program, is designed to permanently integrate into the daily routine of property management. Once integrated, it is difficult for the untrained eye to identify the component parts of this security plan.
By design, bad residents and criminal types will begin to feel rule enforcement pressure from this plan. They will feel uncomfortable living there or attempt to practice their anti-social trade in this highly attentive environment. So, how do I begin to create a security plan?
Ten-Step Apartment Security Plan
I have simplified the process and called it my Ten-Step Apartment Security Plan. Each component step is important and an integral part of the success of the overall plan. Successful completion of the first step lays the foundation and knowledge base necessary for addressing the second.
If you fail to implement a step, the benefit will not be realized. Because it is designed for long-term success there are no shortcuts or quick fixes to this security plan.
Once fully implemented, my Ten-Step Apartment Security Plan is seamless to the overall operation.
- Crisis management due to frequent crime problems will become rare events.
- High resident turnover due to fear of crime will return to normal.
- Maintenance costs due to vandalism and unit abuse will be substantially reduced.
- Exposure to premises liability will be minimized. Occupancy levels will increase and stabilize at a desirable level.
- Best of all, income and expense budgeting will become more predictable as net operating income increases.
My Ten-Step Apartment Security Plan is outlined below:
- Step – 1: Make a Commitment
- Step – 2: Partnership with Law Enforcement
- Step – 3: Security Management Training
- Step – 4: Crime Risk Assessment
- Step – 5: Physical Security Solutions
- Step – 6: People Solutions
- Step – 7: Policy and Procedure Solutions
- Step – 8: Develop a Security Plan of Action
- Step – 9: Community Involvement
- Step -10: Maintain the Standards
I will discuss my Ten-Step Apartment Security Plan in Las Vegas at the National Compliance Professional Conference. I hope to see you there
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Premises Security Expert; Premises Liability Security Expert; Service area: Eastern and southern USA, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida. After 39 years of serving California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington.