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Living safely in Condos

Some of us may take our safety for granted, living in Southwestern Ontario.  We have police, low unemployment and you live in a condo, which can act like built-in Neighbourhood Watch, right?!  Recently, there has been an increase in vehicle break-ins throughout London and area, which has caused a large number of our owners and residents to ask us what we can do and what they can do, to help protect themselves and increase safety in condos.

Do the Easiest (Free) Things First

There are a few things you can incorporate into your regular schedule that are easy, cheap (or free) and will help protect you and your property.

1. Lock your car doors and don’t leave anything visible (or at all) in your vehicle.

Thieves aren’t always looking to spend a lot of time rummaging through vehicles.  They will try door handles in a whole parking lot without necessarily breaking a window or lock.  However, if they see something enticing on your passenger seat or visible through a window, they will reconsider moving on.  This season, we’ve had reports of passports, iPods, gift cards and luggage stolen from vehicles.  NEVER leave anything in your vehicle that will tempt them or that you cannot live without.  Even if you live in an underground parking garage.  You park your vehicle at your own risk.

2. Empty your Mailbox.

Many condos now have multi-boxes for their mail delivery.  Townhouses often have mailboxes on their units still.  This is handy for flyers or notices from your Management company.  However, if you let flyers build up in your mailbox, it signals to others that you may not be living there or that you are away on vacation.  If you are planning on leaving for vacation, make sure you have a trusted friend or family member come to your unit multiple times per week to check the unit and clean out your mailbox.  We don’t need the Wet Bandits casing your unit.

3. Call your Insurance Broker.

A 10-minute call can save you thousands of dollars.  Ask your broker what your policy requires of you when you are going away on vacation.  You’ll see a later blog post on insurance, but for now, make sure you know what you need coverage for.  Your broker will be able to guide you through some tips and tricks to increase your home’s safety, as well.

4. Introduce Yourself to your Neighbours and Superintendent.

It’s so easy to just walk into your unit without interacting with anyone outside of your sphere.  Take a minute to introduce yourself to the building superintendent and a few neighbours in your complex.  If people are aware that you live in the unit and feel a connection with you, they are more likely to assist in the future.  They will notice if someone is prowling around your vehicle or unit and could be a deterrent to future crime.  Close=knit neighbourhoods are much more likely to be safe.  Don’t let anyone into your unit or building your do not recognize.

5. Turn your Outside Lights ON.

Many townhouse units are equipped with dusk-to-dawn lights at the front of their units (if not, you can install one pretty cheap).  LED bulbs costs dollars per month to run, so this is almost a free safety option.  Turn your exterior lights on.  This not only helps you get into your unit safely (no tripping over anything on the walkway), but lights up anyone else walking around your front/rear of your unit.  It acts as a deterrent.  Shed some light on your common elements and it will increase everyone’s safety.

Some Cheap Suggestions as Deterrents

6. Buy a Light Timer.

You’ve probably heard this over and over.  Light timers have been around for decades and may seem like an obvious trick.  If you have a light in a family room or bedroom that shines light bright enough to be seen out the front or rear of the unit, purchase a timer switch.  They can be as cheap as $10 from your local hardware store (or on Amazon).  Thieves are much more likely to be interested in a unit that is completely dark than one that risks being inhabited.

7. Put a Stick in your Sliding Door.

Sliding doors are a large window into your home.  Put a stick (something that fits loosely, not too tightly) in the sliding door track.  Newer doors have an extra lock in the track, that prevents the door from moving, but the stick is another physical barrier, in case they break the lock on your door.  Broomsticks work well, but you can also buy items specifically for this task at your local hardware store.  Make sure you check your Corporation’s rules before drilling into any door or window frames, though.  If the windows and doors don’t officially belong to you, you could be causing yourself a headache, when the Corporation realizes you’ve damaged their property.

8. Change your Locks.

When you bought your unit, you likely received a set of keys.  It contained your mailbox key, your front door key and if you live in a highrise, the fob or entry key to the building/garage.  This doesn’t always run smoothly (we get a number of calls about mailbox keys not being passed on), but we encourage you to change your locks anyways.  Change your unit lock right away.  if you live in a highrise, you may need to key your unit to a master.  This means that each unit will have its own key, but one key held by the Superintendent for emergencies only will open all doors.  Check with the superintendent before contacting a locksmith or buying a new deadbolt.  You have no idea how many keys to your unit exist, so this should be your first step.  Also, make sure you do not give out keys to your unit or building without getting them back.  If you lose a door key, consider who could be picking it up.  Also, do not put your address on your keychain.  Consider not allowing lockboxes if your unit is for sale.  These can be sawed off and stolen.

The following suggestions may require you to request permission from your Corporation.  Check in with DCM either through our Connect page or our Buildium app where you can submit a request and see if there are any restrictions on safety items.

Putting a Price on Safety

9. Video Monitoring.

As mentioned above, you will need to check your Corporation’s rules and regulations, but video doorbells are a new addition to home safety.  Cameras are getting smaller and cheaper, as well.  You can subscribe to a service that will notify you when someone approaches and have the option to record, if necessary.  Be careful about where you attach your cameras, as drilling into common elements or pointing them in a certain way are restricted.  Vehicles now have the ability to have cameras mounted that will activate when a certain amount of ‘force’ is applied to the vehicle (like being bumped in a parking lot).  This may be a double-edged sword, with having something that thieves could steal, so weigh your options.

10. Third Party Home Monitoring.

These systems have been around for years, too.  Many different companies offer different options (prices reflect how much monitoring is done) for monitoring your property.  From entry alarms to overall motion alarms, you have many options.  If you’re living in a highrise, make sure you notify us if you have this type of system.  That way, if an emergency arises and we need to access your unit to prevent damages, we’ll know what to expect!

As with anything, there are always other options available.  We’ve just given you the top 10 we’ve found useful.

Let us know your thoughts on how else to legally improve security around your unit!

Jennifer Dickenson
Jennifer Dickenson -Author of this piece