Tenant rights and responsibilities | selecting a safe new place to call home

When you are going about looking for a new place to live, it is imperative that you feel safe in the area you move to. It is also important that the rental space itself is safe and secure as a whole, and the level of safety will vary from place to place.

There are many different types of safety hazards and concerns, and they can be different depending on whether you are looking in an urban or rural area. It is imperative that you know about some of the different safety hazards to look for so that you can identify and address them if need be. In rural areas, one primary safety concern may be that there is limited cellular phone coverage or access to emergency services, which you may need at some point.

When looking at different rental properties, ask the following questions:

TIP: Getting a free inspection

Call or visit your local fire department to see if a recent inspection of the property you are interested in renting has been done. A vast majority of fire prevention departments will inspect the property for absolutely no charge. They will work with your landlord to ensure that the rental property is completely safe.

How safe is the area?

Determining the safety of the area of the rental property you are looking at is one of the first things you should do when visiting these kinds of places. It is also a good idea to check with the local police to see what the crime statistics are like, because the last thing you want to do is live in a high crime area.

Go for a walk in the area you are interested in living in when it gets dark, but make sure to take at least one other person with you. Sometimes a certain area might seem perfectly safe in the daytime, but is much more dangerous at night. If you see additional security to what you would normally expect, this is definitely a sign that the area might not be entirely safe. If you see homes with bars on the windows and stores with metal gates, that is another sign of an unsafe neighborhood.

You will also want to walk around in the neighborhood during the daytime to see how many people you spot walking around. Some areas are high crime in the daytime when people go to work and leave their houses empty. It is important to check out the neighborhoods of prospective rentals during the daytime and nighttime before deciding whether or not it is safe.

Safety of your new Building and Living area

Assessing the physical security of your building and general living space is very important, and it is important to do the following when visiting prospective rental properties:

  • Check all of the locks on windows and doors in the property, both in the unit and building if it is an apartment. Request that the landlord change all of the locks for your own safety and security. Your new landlord will be responsible for all costs associated with changing locks. The landlord may not be legally required to change the locks, however.
  • Make sure that all outdoor lights are connected to either timers or motion sensors so they go on when it is dark outside or movement around them is detected.
  • Find out how easy it is for people who do not live in the apartment complex to gain access to all common areas, including main buildings, laundry rooms and recreational areas.
  • The quality of the locks in your unit/building is important. Locks with deadbolts are by far the most secure and ideal.

Safety Concerns in Rural areas

Those who are looking rental properties in rural areas will find that there are still certain safety concerns to take into consideration, including:

  • Quality of the water
  • Roads that may be impassible due to severe weather
  • Distance from emergency medical services
  • Properties with barns or sheds in a state of disrepair
  • Large uncovered and/or deep wells on the property

No matter which type of area you want to live in, whether it is urban or rural, it is still important to make sure that the house or unit that you rent as well as the general area is safe overall. While safety features like double deadbolt locks may seem nice, they take twice as long to unlock, which could prove deadly in the event of a fire inside the property.

Importance of Renter’s Insurance

Anyone who rents a property of any kind should pay for renter’s insurance each month. You cannot expect your landlord to pay for everything that is damaged in the event of a fire or flood, such as a personal computer, furniture, and other personal belongings. It is important that you are covered for these kinds of situations.

Fire Safety

It is extremely important that you are prepared in the event of a fire breaking out inside the property you are renting. You should make sure that the property you move into has enough exits to where you will be able to get out safely if there is ever a fire. Make sure that you take the time look through the properties you visit to ensure that you will have a good chance of making it out if a fire starts somewhere inside the property.

You will also need to take into consideration how long it would take you to notice a fire alert signal and whether or not you will be able to get out safely once you have noticed the alert.

Look for smoke detectors and make sure that they are found throughout the property and that they work properly. It is your landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the smoke detectors installed inside the rental property are fully functional.

Many fires start because of electrical problems, so you will therefore want to make sure that the property’s electrical system does not pose a fire hazard. Also, check to make sure that there are enough outlets available to prevent power taps as well as the need for multiple extension cords.

Make certain that any and all space heaters or fireplaces in the property are vented properly and that they are nowhere near any combustible materials, as this could be very dangerous.

High-rises

If you are looking for a rental in a high-rise building, it is important to make sure that you have immediate access to at least one fire extinguisher and that there are clearly marked emergency exits in the building. You should also be able to exist the building without using the elevator.

Basement apartments

Those who are looking at a basement apartment to rent will need to make sure that they are able to climb out at least one of the windows if their primary path is blocked by a fire.

Rural areas

Are emergency medical services available in the area you are looking into moving to? If you 911 or cellular services are unavailable, which number are you supposed to call for an emergency? Where is the closest phone outside of your home if you need to use one in the event of an emergency?

Take the time to find out if there is a hospital nearby in case of a medical emergency. If so, are there emergency services available 24 hours a day?

You will need to keep in mind that building and fire safety codes vary from place to place, so you will need to take the time to look into what they are in the area you are looking to rent in. In order to get the most up to date information on local building/fire codes, you can contact the local fire department or community safety office.