Apartment Unit Make Ready requires attention to security and tenant safety.
- Empty unit door locks and window latches should be physically tested.
- Worn locks, latches, and strike plates should be repaired or replaced.
What is an Apartment Unit Make Ready
Any time an apartment unit becomes vacant it must be made ready to receive a new tenant. Hense the industry term “make ready”. While the unit is vacant, it provides a property manager the opportunity to deep clean, shampoo carpets, paint, repair, or replace worn or damaged fixtures, appliances, or building materials.
Historically, one under-emphasized duty of an apartment unit make ready were documented procedures for inspection, repair or replacement of door and window locking systems and lighting of each rental unit.
I’ve been working, speaking to groups, and writing in apartment industry trade journals for decades and assumed that experienced property managers would maintain a high level of unit-security as a core business practice. I was wrong.
Apartment Unit Make Ready: My Employee’s Story
I was helping a female employee locate a reasonably safe apartment in Phoenix. She decided on an upscale property with an available unit that she liked. Before signing the lease, she called me and asked if the Crime Doctor would give her new apartment selection his safety seal of approval.
Apartment Unit Make Ready: Unit Selection
My employee selected a highly visible second-floor unit in view of the manager’s office and pool area. The property was about 20-years old and considered upscale. From years of working with me, she knew that a second story unit would be inherently safer for a single woman living alone.
This property is operated by one of the largest property REITs in the country (REIT- Real Estate Investment Trust). I was surprised by what I found.
Because of the premium rent, I expected to find the property in compliance with all the minimum recommended security features. I expected the property to have been fully-certified by the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program. I was wrong.
Apartment Make Ready: My Inspection of the Unit
I inspected the unit door locks and found only one in place. It was a tired-looking deadbolt lock that had obviously been switched from another unit. I thought a new resident surely deserves a newly keyed lock, especially if it’s the only one on the door?
To make matters worse, the old lock had paint splashed on it making it easily distinguishable to the former users. No one could say for certain how many times this lock had been rotated between units and how many keys were out there.
Upon examining the lock strike-plate, I found two half-inch wood screws holding the strike plate onto a frail-looking piece of the dried-out doorjamb. It would only take one firm kick to gain access to the unit and to my friend.
I examined the accessible sliding glass windows and doors and found them with the usual aluminum latching hardware. All these glass sliders were missing secondary track-blocking devices and anti-lift measures.
I feel these devices are necessary on all accessible sliding windows because of the potential for the latches to fail and not withstand minimal prying or lifting force.
Apartment Unit Make Ready: Failed My Inspection
I was concerned how these obvious security measures were somehow overlooked when inspected at turnover by maintenance workers and by the leasing consultants who showed it. This apartment unit was not made ready for security as if tenant safety matter.
I spoke to the resident manager about my findings as politely and professionally as I could. It was clear that this manager was clueless, lacked training in this area, and had no interest in managing with high standards.
I learned later that instead of a detailed unit walk-through with the leasing consultant, my employee was simply handed a unit inspection form to fill out and return only if she noticed anything that was damaged in the apartment.
How many renters would know to check or test the door locks, strike-plates, and window latch security? Does this practice sound familiar to you?
This apartment unit was not reasonably safe, under the circumstances. I’m glad I was able to spot the defective conditions and flawed management. My employee found a much better apartment with responsible management.
- Imagine how you would feel if someone who you cared about was brutally attacked inside their apartment unit.
- Imagine how you would feel if you learned that the assailant gained entry by either using an old key or by easily kicking the door open.
- Wouldn’t you be upset?
- Wouldn’t you want the apartment property manager punished for not acting responsibly?
- This is precisely why premises liability lawsuits are filed!
Apartment Unit Make Ready: Basic Security Rules
- Always re-key or replace deadbolt locks at resident turnover.
- Always use 3″ screws for strike plates on wooden doorjambs.
- Always use secondary blocking devices for accessible sliding doors and windows.
- Always use anti-lift devices on accessible sliding doors and windows.
- Always replace window screens if missing or damaged.
- Always use wide-angle 160-degree peepholes on entry doors.
- Always participate in and document a new resident walk-through.
- Always respond quickly to resident lock and latch repair requests.
Apartment Unit Make Ready: Story Epilogue
A week later, I followed up with the district manager for this apartment property REIT as a professional courtesy. As a former client, I knew their executives wanted to maintain high standards for investors. I was pleased to receive a receptive response and assurance that the substandard conditions would be improved.
As an aside, I generated more security plan work from that large REIT.
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