Apartment Unit Make Ready requires attention to security and tenant safety.
- Apartment 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. Hence 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.
It is an under-emphasized rental housing industry standard for apartment owners and managers to have clearly defined and articulated procedures for inspection, repair, or replacement of door and window locking systems and lighting in and around each rental unit before handing it over to a new tenant.
I’ve been working, speaking to groups, and writing for apartment industry trade journals for decades and assumed that experienced property managers would maintain a high level of apartment unit security as a core business practice. My assumption was wrong.
Apartment Unit Make Ready: My Employee Story
I was helping one of my female employees locate a reasonably safe apartment in Phoenix. She selected an upscale apartment 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.
My assistant selected a highly-visible second-floor unit in view of the manager’s office and pool area. The property was advertised as upscale even though it was about 20 years old. From her years working with me, my assistant 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 residential 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 apartment security features. I expected the property to be fully certified by the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program. Again, my assumptions were 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 door 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 in circulation.
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 by a home invasion robber to destroy the strike-plate and gain access to the apartment unit and assault my assistant.
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: It Failed My Inspection
I was concerned about 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 matters.
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 assistant was simply handed a blank 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?
- How many renters would know to ask if the door lock was re-keyed to prevent former tenants from entering?
- 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 wisely opted to find a much better apartment community with responsible management.
- Imagine how you would feel if someone you cared about was brutally attacked inside their apartment unit.
- Imagine how you would feel if you learned that the assailant gained entry by using an old key or by easily kicking the door open.
- Wouldn’t you feel upset and probably angry?
- Wouldn’t you want the apartment property management punished for not acting responsibly?
This anger 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 point out and demonstrate each lock, latch, and door viewer.
- Always remind residents to use the locks, latches, and door viewers.
- 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. I believed 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 a result, I was hired to develop security plans for many properties within that same large REIT.
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