Safety and Security

The landlord has a duty to the tenant to maintain the tenant's safety and security. In locations where there is a probability of crimes being committed against his tenants, the landlord should install sufficient security devices. For example, if there have been several purse-snatching incidents as female tenants get out of their cars, the landlord could install high fencing and locked gates around the parking lot to help prevent the crimes and limit his liability.

Laws commonly require all rental units, including apartments, houses, condominiums and duplexes to have the following security devices installed at the landlord's expense:

  • A viewer or peephole on each exterior door
  • Window latches on exterior windows
  • Pin locks on sliding doors
  • Security bars or door handle latches on sliding doors
  • Keyless deadbolt locking devices on each exterior door
  • Either a keyed deadbolt or doorknob lock on each exterior door (locks must be rekeyed after prior tenant moves out)

If the required security devices are not installed, such as a keyless deadbolt lock on the front door, the tenant has the right to install it herself and deduct the cost from her next rent payment. Some laws also permit the tenant to terminate the lease if she requested that the keyless deadbolt lock, for example, be installed and the landlord failed to do so.

TIP: Always make your request to the landlord for installation of a security device in writing. Laws generally require the landlord to comply with your request within 7 days or less. If there have been any intruders in your apartment, many state laws require that the landlord comply with your request within 72 hours.

The lights in the stairwell and outside my door no longer automatically come on at night. Is the landlord required to repair the problem?

Yes. The lighting you describe affects your safety and security. The landlord must make the repairs promptly. Additionally, the landlord must replace bulbs in lighting in common areas in order to maintain the safety and security of his tenants.

Is my apartment required to have a smoke detector?

Yes. State laws and city housing codes require landlords to install smoke detectors in rental units. The location and number of smoke detectors required varies from state to state, but laws requiring a smoke detector outside each bedroom are typical.

The units in my apartment complex have fireplaces and I want my landlord to install a carbon monoxide detector. Is he required to pay for the installation?

Yes. Laws generally require carbon monoxide detectors in rental dwellings to ensure the tenants' safety. Your landlord must pay for the immediate installation of the carbon monoxide detector or he is likely violating building codes in your area.

TIP: The tenant is responsible for replacing the batteries in smoke and carbon dioxide detectors.

The electrical outlets in my bathroom are not grounded and I want them replaced with ground-fault circuit interrupters. Does my landlord have to make the replacement?

Probably. Most building codes require updated electrical outlets in all rental dwellings. An ungrounded outlet, especially in an area where water is present, is a serious safety hazard.

However, if you are renting an older home from the homeowner, the building codes may not require updated outlets. You should not attempt to replace the outlets yourself as electrical work must be permitted and performed by a licensed electrician.

Locks

Laws require landlords of residential property to install particular locks and security devices. At a minimum, locks are required on all exterior doors and windows. Additionally, the landlord may be required to install key and keyless deadbolt locks on the exterior doors. Sliding doors and French doors may require special security devices as well.

What locks are required to be installed in my apartment?

At a minimum, all the exterior windows must have a window latch; exterior doors must have keyed doorknobs and a keyless bolt, and sliding glass doors must have both a pin lock and a handle latch or security bar.

Is the landlord required to change the locks after the former tenant leaves and I move in?

Yes. Laws require landlords to "rekey" locks so that only the new resident has access to the rental unit.

I moved into my apartment today and the landlord cannot change the locks for 2 days. Can I change the locks myself?

Yes. You can either install the locks or rekey them without any notice to the landlord and deduct the cost from your rent.

I want to change the locks on my apartment so my boyfriend cannot get in. Do I have to pay for the new locks?

Yes. Generally, landlords are only required to change locks at their expense when a new tenant moves in or a break-in has been attempted (or occurred).

Your landlord cannot refuse the right to change the locks. Laws give tenants the right to have new locks installed or rekeyed at the tenant's expense at any time. However, the lease will require you to provide the landlord with a key to any new lock.

My landlord has not changed the locks in my apartment since the previous tenant moved out. Can I terminate the lease?

Yes. After written notice to the landlord requesting the lock change and allowing him a reasonable amount of time to make the change, laws in some states allow you to move out and terminate the lease.

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