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Landlords Urged to Tighten Security


In the wake of recent FBI warnings about terrorist threats at apartment buildings, national organizations representing the rental industry have sent their member landlords tips on improving security.

Douglas Culkin, executive vice president of the National Apartment Assn., based in Alexandria, Va., said his group hopes to heighten awareness for employees and residents so that anyone and anything unusual will be reported to apartment-management offices and to federal authorities.

And Jay Harris, vice president of property management for the Washington, D.C.-based National Multi Housing Council, which represents owners of large groups of buildings, has provided recommendations for apartment managers. Here's how the actions might affect you:

* Rental applications: If you are a student, you may be asked to submit documentation from your college stating that you are attending class full time. Management companies are concerned that if an individual signs up for one course, even if he or she never goes to class, and then obtains a rental unit, the address can be used to prove that the individual has a U.S. residence.

If you've been out of high school or college for a few years, the list of previous landlords you provide is more likely than in the past to be checked completely.

If you are moving in with others but are not responsible for part of the rent, you may still be expected to submit an application.

* Outdoor parking lots: Additional surveillance may begin. Safety patrol officers could be looking for cars that aren't usually in the lot. Don't leave packages in your car that could be mistaken for bombs.

More lighting may be added. The downside is that it could be so bright that you may need to purchase blackout linings to put behind your apartment drapes.

* Underground garages: Expect additional surveillance. If the door is usually kept open during the day, you may find it is locked and that you need a special key or card for entry.

You may receive notice that ID stickers or tags must appear on your car. You may be told about new procedures for towing unidentifiable cars. That would apply to outdoor lots, too.

* Entries: If the lobby has been open during the day, you may find that it is now locked and that you are given a limited number of keys that may not be copied. Some entry points to your building may be closed.

* Carts: Those left in the garage to assist residents taking groceries to their units might be removed. Residents would need to buy their own carts and store them in their cars. Luggage carts kept in the lobby may be stored elsewhere; residents could be told that only the doormen or porters can use them.

* Package rooms: Residents could be asked to pick up deliveries promptly, and attendants could be notified to return or discard unclaimed items. If you will be traveling, ask a neighbor to pick up packages for you.

* Laundry rooms: These areas may become accessible only by key.

* Swimming pools: If there is an attendant or guard, you may be asked to show a picture ID, especially if your building is near a college. Students tend to leave town for the summer, and some will sneak in subtenants. Sublets are allowed in some places but not all.

The management office might not know those people are in the units until the subletting tenants try to use the pool. If there is a picture ID made by and registered in the office, it becomes a safeguard--not only for pool use but also for the property.

* Empty apartments: Staff members or safety patrol officers could check apartments regularly to make sure they are secure and vacant.

* Unattended areas: Storage rooms and areas where housecleaning and maintenance supplies are stored could be declared off-limits to all but identified residents, employees and other designated people.

* Deliveries: Front-desk personnel may begin to require delivery people to sign in, leave a picture ID and sign out. If you are expecting food delivery, a prescription from the pharmacy, dry-cleaners pickup, etc., you should mention the new rule when you place an order.

* Contractors and others entering the building through a loading dock: Whether they are doing work on behalf of management or your individual unit, they may be asked to sign in, leave a picture ID and sign out.

Firms that provide workers on the premises routinely, such as housekeepers, safety patrol officers, painters, carpet-cleaning services and gardeners, may be asked to provide proof that employees are checked for criminal records and are bonded.

Regular contract employees might be asked to wear identifying uniforms or name tag with picture while on the premises.

* Movers may also be asked for a picture ID.

* Informational meetings: Tenants might be invited to hear safety experts talk and answer questions.

* Keys: Procedures for obtaining keys might be tightened.


Barbara Burtoff welcomes comments and questions but cannot reply to each letter. Her e-mail address is Copyright 2002, Barbara Burtoff Syndicated Features.

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