Eight Safety Conscious Gifts for City Renters

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Last Friday Jon posted a great list of fun and fancy gifts for the renters on your list. However, as a safety-conscious company, we’d be out of line if we didn’t also offer some ideas that were focused on keeping renters and small-space dwellers safe and sound over the coming year.

If Black Friday and Small Business Saturday didn’t complete your shopping list (and you’ve already picked up a few RentConfident Gift Certificates), here are some additional, practical ideas that may be of use.

Adjustable Security Bar ($15)

Image via wdrake.com
Image via wdrake.com

It may seem unglamorous to give someone a pole for the holidays, but when that pole could prevent a break in it becomes more interesting. Many Chicago apartments have back doors that open directly to an unguarded outside area. These metal bars fit under the doorknob and brace against the floor behind to offer additional security against forced entry. Almost any major hardware store should have them in stock, or you can find them on Amazon.

Photoelectric Smoke Detector ($15 and up)

This isn’t the first time I’ve suggested photoelectric smoke detectors in a blog gift list for renters, but I like the idea so much that I’m talking about them again.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a deactivated smoke detector while showing an apartment. The main reason for this dangerous and illegal situation is the type of detector installed by the landlord. Landlords in Chicago are required to provide smoke detectors in every apartment, but most of them opt for the cheaper models with ionization sensors. These are great at detecting fires that have already started to produce smoke, but as such they’re very susceptible to false alarms – like fumes from a burned pizza. Renters who bake a lot (and don’t clean a lot) will get annoyed by these false alarms and disable them.

Photoelectric detectors use a different type of technology that allows them to respond faster to fires – before they start smoking – but they are less prone to the false alerts that would cause a renter to disable them. Many national standards institutes recommend dual sensor detectors – these combine ionization and photoelectric sensors in one device. However, if you’re looking to lower the chances of renters disabling the alarms, photoelectric-only is the way to go.

Dog Bite Insurance (Cost varies)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Bak, 28th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, bites down on Staff Sgt. Kevin Nelson, 28 SFS K-9 unit trainer, during a training session, June 24. Sergeant Nelson wears a Òbite suitÓ to protect his legs from serious injury during the training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Anthony Sanchelli)
By U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Anthony Sanchelli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Renters with dogs usually have a far more difficult time finding good rental housing. Landlords are often hesitant to allow dogs both due to the extra wear they cause on apartments and common areas and due to the risk of bites. While not much can be done about the issue of extra wear, renters who carry their own dog bite insurance can answer the big money issue and lower the stakes for a landlord. It could make all the difference in whether or not your friend gets a good apartment or a great one.

There are several dog bite insurance carriers out there. We can’t endorse any of them specifically, but a quick Google search will turn up some options for you to choose from.

Flat Cats Window Protection (From $60)

It wouldn’t be right for us to cater to dog owners without also providing an option for cat-owning renters as well. Many city apartments come with damaged window screens or no screens at all. Cats fall out of high windows so often that vets have dubbed the resulting costly injuries “high rise syndrome.” Dominic Parker over in the UK has come up with clever, temporary, non-destructive window screens called “Flat Cats” that can help keep your cat safe. (Check out the demo video and you may be able to DIY a version on your own!)

FLOR Carpet Tiles (from $9 each)

Image via flor.com
Image via flor.com

If your renter friend is the type who likes to play it loud, they may be unwittingly causing friction with their neighbors. Unlike college dorms where RAs can step in to broker neighbor vs neighbor noise issues, the average apartment landlord will tell unhappy renters with noise problems to take it to the cops. Help your friends avoid getting raided – modular floor tiles are 20″ x 20″ and can be piled under woofers or scattered across high traffic areas to keep noise down.

Non-Skid, Absorbent Door Mat (Cost varies)

Chicago renters tend to move during the summer. Those who think to buy door mats when they move often choose them based on their visual appeal rather than their ability to function during mucky, wet Chicago winters. Apartment foyer floors can also be covered in glossy tiles, which are easy for landlords to keep clean but a nightmare for tenants trying to stay upright in wet boots. I can think of at least 6 different lobbies of Chicago apartment buildings where I have taken unglamorous tumbles. A rubber-backed, high-absorbency door mat will help keep slip & fall injuries down and water-damaged floors to a minimum.

Salt & Shovel ($50)

Landlords in Chicago are required to shovel their front walks or they risk fines. They only have to do the front walks though, and many of them struggle to achieve even that much in a prompt and efficient way. Parking lots, backyard sidewalks and porches are often ignored all winter, resulting in dangerous ice-covered paths and obstructed fire exits. Renters may expect that their landlord will take care of all snow removal and get caught by surprise when they can’t get out of their parking space or down to the laundry room. A trusty shovel and supply of rock salt for in the apartment or the trunk of the car is something that a Chicago renter may not purchase for themselves, but will always find a way to use.

SimpliSafe Portable Home Security ($230 and up)

Image via simplisafe.com
Image via simplisafe.com

These systems are frequently used by Realtors when listing empty houses. They’re also great for renters as they’re non-destructive, portable, look professional, and offer a lot of the same high end monitoring options that you’d find from a more conventional security company. Check them out at Simplisafe.


Renters, have you ever received a safety-conscious gift that you really loved? Help a mother (or father) out! Let us know what you loved, hated, and used!

RentConfident does not accept payment, services or sponsorship from outside vendors. The above items are just suggestions, not paid advertisements.

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.