As a tenant, you may believe that the responsibility of your safety and security lies entirely on you. However, that is not right. A tiny bit of that responsibility lies on the landlord.
You as the tenant are required to leave your door locked at all times. You are required to create the illusion of being home even when you are not to keep thieves away. You are required to keep all the emergency numbers as well as check out the crime statistics and security situation in the hood. You are required to buy a good quality padlock for your door. You are required to keep the contents of your house a closely guarded secret so you do not attract unsavory intruders. You are required to keep strangers out of your house no matter the time of day. You should also know your neighbors so you have an idea of who should be in the building and when. If you are required to be this proactive about your security then what has the landlord left to do?
It does not have to something fancy. It just needs to be a barrier between the tenants and the outside world. You should look at how effective the gate would be at keeping out intruders. Is it sturdy enough? Or is it a mere monument of timber nailed together? Is it lockable? How keen is everyone on locking the gate both at night and during the day? In some buildings, the gate is left open throughout the day. This might attract intruders who will walk around the halls surveying or in simpler terms, window shopping. The gate should be the first indication of how seriously your security will be taken by the management of that building.
The landlord should provide keys to the gate for every tenant. This reiterates that admission into the building is for residents and their guests only. This will also inform people of an intruder of the person seeking entry does not have a key.
A building with multiple unmanaged entry points can induce anxiety in anyone who deems themselves security conscious. How many entry points are there? What measures have been taken to ensure that they are secure and will not admit anyone with malicious intentions?
Do the units have good strong doors? They should be preferably metal especially in a building where the gate is left open to admit whoever desires to be inside. The doors should have good locks or at least be built in a way that makes it hard for anyone to pick the padlock.
This is not quite a necessity but it does help with the security. This would be especially useful for people living on the first and ground floors. It helps keep intruders from accessing the building through the lower windows. It also accords these tenants on the lower floors some privacy. A chance to keep their windows open and perhaps have some more living space in the back.
Another way to provide privacy while also securing the lower ground is metal bars on the ground and first-floor balconies. These ensure the safety of the people without going through the expense of a perimeter wall. You should, therefore, look out for either a perimeter wall or the security bars.
The landlord is responsible for making sure that other tenants do not live among criminals and other characters of disrepute. The landlord should be keen to find out how the tenant makes their money and the activities that go on within the building. As soon as a landlord finds out about a shady tenant, they should take measures to ensure that other tenants are protected. Criminal activity in a rental building is sufficient grounds for eviction. As the tenant, you should also be mindful of those around you. Not to permit to be nosy but just keep eyes and ears open.
The first thing to look for is lighting. A well-lit exterior will make you feel safe while also ensuring to keep away people who tend to lurk in the shadows. Most neighborhoods are lit by the county but if not the landlord should take initiative and light the exterior of the building. Imagine walking up to your building, fishing out your key only to be jumped by a couple of guys in hoodies who had been hiding in the shadows all along? The same should be done for the walkways and courtyard of the building. This should prevent accidental falls when it’s dark outside.
Some neighborhoods are quite populated such that buildings line up leaving no space for bushes to grow. Other neighborhoods have spaced buildings between which people often carve out paths. If paths are not carved out then bushes grow and the space becomes quite dark and prone to hiding animals. Those bushes are a huge hazard to the security of the people living in the building.
This is not to say that the landlord should come in every day and have every tenant’s unit washed and dusted. This is to say that the hallways, stairs, and courtyard should be clean. This is not a tenant’s responsibility but that of the caretaker or whoever the landlord appoints. The landlord should designate a spot for garbage to be stored and collected by someone who will dispose of it. There should not be a corner somewhere that is all trash.
Speaking of trash, the landlord should be mindful of garbage disposal sites by the side of the building. Garbage generally invites mice into the building. Then comes all sorts of diseases not just for the children but also for the adults in the building. This kind of trash could even contaminate the water. Recently there have been reports of illegal disposal of sewerage. If there is raw sewerage running by the side of the building then turn around and leave.
A landlord might think that the whole stairs with no guardrails thing is a beautiful and architecturally forward concept. However, it would not take long for someone to fall off. The stairs need to have proper guard rails. These guardrails must be strong enough to hold someone if they grabbed on as they were falling. They should not be designed in a way that lets the small body of a child slide right through. They should not be so lowly placed that anyone could topple right over them onto the floor below. The same should apply to balcony guardrails. The guardrails on the first and ground floor balconies should be specially designed to prevent people from climbing into the house.
Some landlords like to leave the room flat and accessible for the tenants to hang their clothes and maybe just hang out. If you have children, it is going to be very important for you to check out the said roof. How easy would it be to climb over the edge? How sturdy does it seem such that it will not cave in if a few kids jump and run on it? Are there loose electrical cables and wires hanging low or lying around on the roof? Have other tenants left their TV aerials up there haphazardly without proper tightening? As an adult, you might have the mind to avid live power wires. A child will definitely not.
Many tend to overlook this but badly built stairs are a real hazard to the safety of the residents of a building. Imagine this, the stairs are completely worn out. You are walking up the stairs in your wet slippers one day to go hang your laundry only to miss a step and fall. In the best-case scenario, you break your neck. The stairs might also seem a little wobbly. This is a sign of a badly built building, you should probably not move into a building you suspect might be on shaky ground. Some stairs are unevenly built. This is going to be dangerous especially for children who might not have a handle on measuring their steps.
Nairobi landlords are notorious for cutting corners when developing buildings. They use substandard materials. They go for the cheapest contractors who might not have experience or knowhow. They choose to save a shilling over the safety of their future tenants. This is one of the sole responsibilities of a landlord in terms of his or her tenants’ safety.
You should also try to stay away from buildings whose construction is still ongoing despite there being tenants in the building. This is dangerous. A construction site is no place to live. Not only is there a possibility of injury from falling objects, but the floor being constructed could also fall right onto you.
As you take a proactive towards making sure you are safe and secure in your rental, you should also ensure that the landlord is holding up his part of the deal. That means not moving into a house where it is clear that you will be on your own in terms of security and safety. Be safe!