Brought to you by our friend, Elli:
Searching for a new apartment can be a daunting task, but there are things you should think about and steps you can take so that perhaps it doesn’t have to be a dangerous one. While most of the people you’ll meet during your search will be honest and friendly, you need to take responsibility for your safety.
Read over our top seven ways to stay safe when scouting for your new abode before you head out on your next tour.
1. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Use a hefty dose of common sense when you’re searching for an apartment online. If the ad offers a lovely apartment in a highly desirable area for a surprisingly low rental rate, it’s most likely a scam to get your money or lure you to the property. Research the average price of similar apartments in the area so you’re better prepared to spot a shady deal.
2. Employ a secret distress code.
Before you head out for a day of apartment shopping, call a friend and plan a secret distress code. If you’re not feeling comfortable with the landlord or you’re becoming concerned for your safety and can’t easily leave, call your pal and use the code. Plan a code that won’t raise suspicion, like “I’m excited about this apartment, can you come see it right away?” Provide the apartment name and address if possible. Never hesitate to call 911 if you’re afraid and find yourself in a bad situation.
3. Use the buddy system.
Apartment hunting with a friend is not only safer than searching alone, it also gives you the benefit of a second opinion. And women aren’t the only ones who should buddy-up. Men can find themselves in unexpected dangerous situations as well, so everyone should take along a buddy.
4. Be a snoop, investigate.
Landlords and leasing agents won’t tell you if the community or apartment complex is “safe” — that’s up to you find out. By investigating your potential neighborhood (and neighbors) before going on a tour, you’ll not only save time, but also avoid making the mistake of signing a lease for an apartment in a dangerous area.
Fortunately, the Internet offers a wealth of information on crime. Use a free crime mapping site like CrimeReports.com to discover what crime has been reported in the neighborhood. You can also take advantage of the data found on the National Sex Offender Public Website which offers registries for all U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and even Indian Country. Before you sign on the dotted line, it’s a good idea to head to the local police station and ask what crimes typically occur in the community.
5. Go with your gut.
Many crime victims admit that they had a hunch “something wasn’t right.” If you’re not getting a good vibe about the person showing you the apartment or the area it’s located in, leave without delay.
6. Let people know what you’re up to.
Tell two people where you’re going and what time you expect to be back. Provide your pals with the apartment address, your contact’s name, any email correspondence or links to the apartment advertisement. You should call or text your buddies throughout the day so they’re aware of your location, and be sure to notify them if your plans change. Ask them to call you if you’re not back on schedule, and provide them with an emergency contact name and number. And don’t hesitate to casually mention to your contact that your friends/family know where you are.
7. Be aware of your surroundings.
It’s easy to get turned around in an unfamiliar space and it’s also dangerous. As you enter an apartment and start exploring it, make sure you know how to get out in an emergency. You should also carry your cell phone in hand, and if legal, consider carrying pepper spray in your bag or pocket.
Once you’ve (safely) discovered the apartment of your dreams, review this helpful guide for suggestions on how to keep it safe.
This article was written by SafeWise’s safety and security expert, Elli Bishop. When she’s not writing for The SafeWise Report, you can find her skiing and enjoying the outdoors in Salt Lake City, Utah.