By Colleen Tang
Security is one of the most important features people take into account when looking to rent or buy in a residential building. If you want to reassure potential tenants, consider the property and the surrounding neighbourhood to determine how much additional security your building needs. The good news is there are many simple steps property managers and landlords can take to make residents feel safe and secure.
One of the best things a property manager can do to increase security in an apartment building is to install a good electronic key fob system, says Thomas Reynolds, a Toronto property manager with Park Property Management Inc. Electronic fobs should be required at all entrances, including the front door and the garage door.
"Our locks are all on a fob system," he says. "There are fob readers on the door so not only do we know exactly who has the fobs, but they can’t be duplicated. We can go onto the computer and see which fobs are being used."
Reynolds says another important safeguard is to control the number of keys and fobs in circulation. And remember to cancel the fobs of tenants who move out.
Before you start spending money on technological add-ons, be aware that simply having an onsite presence is a deterrent to crime. A residential caretaker, landlord or third-party security guard can perform this role.
"We have resident managers in every building," says Michael Capone, a Toronto property manager with Hollyburn Properties. "They are trained to walk in their buildings, and in the evening, they go to the underground garage to make sure it’s secure."
An additional preventive measure is to vary the times when security officers patrol the property. "In our buildings, we have mobile security, and they do drive- and walk-throughs," Reynolds says. "They stagger their hours and change their route." Every morning, Park Property Management receives a written report from the security staff.
If you’re considering security cameras for your building, some of the best locations are high-traffic areas, such as the front door, lobby, exits and parking garage, Reynolds says. It’s also a good idea to put cameras in places where foot traffic is minimal, such as stairwells or the storage locker room.
It’s important to make sure your property is well lit both inside and out. All buildings have a lighting requirement for the hallway, stairwells and interior that inspectors are trained to check, Capone says. But don’t neglect the exterior spaces. "A tenant should get nervous or feel vulnerable if the outside of the building isn’t well lit, if the underground garage isn’t well lit or if the exits from the outside garage aren’t well lit," Capone says.
Effective lighting—whether your lights are on motion sensors or timers—increases the likelihood that a criminal will avoid your building and go somewhere where they are less likely to be seen, Capone explains.
Posting signage inside the building is another effective—and low-cost—way to increase security. Simply reminding residents not to hold doors open for people they don’t recognize is a sure-fire way to reduce the number of unauthorized people entering a building.
"One can never be secure just because you have all the gadgets," Reynolds says. "You have to make residents conscious of who is entering the buildings with them." If your signage is not effective, try getting the message out through newsletters or by talking to residents during group meetings.
Aside from making residents more diligent, managers and superintendents also play an important role in increasing building security simply by being on the premises.
"In my experience, if there’s more visibility of the staff person or staff team, chances are someone will not cause problems in that building," Capone says. "If you create enough deterrents, then [criminals] are going to move somewhere else."