Bars or No Bars on Windows?

12 Replies

I always think a house or block seems safer when I don't see caged windows and burly fencing everywhere.  Personally, I have never wanted to live like I was "in the embassy" even when I lived in a high crime area like West Oakland, but I can see the liability in not doing so also.

If you've got a rental in a rougher area, but not the worst (e.g. where 25%-50% of the places have bars on the windows) do you leave/put them up or take them down?  What do tenants and prospective tenants prefer?

What's happening in the neighborhood overall? Is it coming up or going downhill? If it's coming up, most of the places with bars are probably holdovers from rougher times. If it's going downhill, well, maybe you don't want to be buying there anyway...

I remember an article in local the paper several years ago about a neighborhood coffeeshop that was 'taking a chance' by removing the bars from their big picture window. It was seen by some as a symbol of the pending transformation of the neighborhood... and they were right, it's now the most fashionable part of town.

Took the words right out of my mouth Jean. Personally I would remove the bars if I was a tenant. Perception means a lot to a tenant.

I'd remove them. 

I'm not sure about liability for NOT including them, but you could certainly have liability if they are installed and they impede escape from the house in an emergency situation.

I can't recall where I heard it, so take it with a grain of salt, but I was once advised that so long as you're providing "reasonable" security - such as locks on the doors, lockable windows, adequate lighting, that you aren't expected to provide more than that.  This was in light of a discussion I had regarding a "high tech" keypad lock and cameras a tenant wanted installed in a rougher neighborhood.  They thought those things would make them safer, rather than exercise their own safety smarts and not leave things unsecured.

@Jean Bolger brings up a good point about bars being holdovers from when there was more crime in the neighborhood.

Go around by the neighborhood by bicycle. Do the bars look older? Do newer houses in the area have bars? On which side of the house are the bars located. Some houses have a larger, inaccessible front window that is unbarred, but all other windows have bars. 

Just little things to look for that point to resident's expectations. 

If you're worried about safety of tenants I would look into having a security system installed. There are some very affordable options out now. You could also use that as a reason to charge more for rent. I know on personal residences that also gets you a discount on home owners insurance. Worth looking into if it lowers rental insurance?  

Originally posted by @Deborah Smith:

I'd remove them. 

I'm not sure about liability for NOT including them, but you could certainly have liability if they are installed and they impede escape from the house in an emergency situation.

This. I had to remove some for a sale. Property may not be insurable with them in place.

@Mel Selvidge  ,

I think it depends on the tenants you are trying to attract, the neighborhood, and the street.

I manage and have at least partial ownership in 12 units in Richmond, East Oakland, and now West Oakland - and have lived in Richmond just a few blocks south of the BART station, which has a bad reputation, but it's on a nice block.

If you're going to get families that have been living in these neighborhoods for a long time, I recommend keeping bars on downstairs windows if you don't have a high gate/fence. (Depending on exactly where it's at.) Most people that have lived in these neighborhoods have had a break-in or an attempted break-in, at least once. How is the street? Are there shady people next door or on the block?

If you're trying to attract younger couples, or hipsters that want to live on the "fringe" like West Oakland (well on it's way to gentrification), they would probably prefer to not see them on there. And they will probably cycle out again to a new neighborhood before it becomes a real issue.

I sometimes just tell my prospective tenants, "The motion sensor lights, bars, etc. are probably not necessary. But I'd prefer to be the safest place on the block, so if someone tries to take advantage of an opportunity, they will go elsewhere."

I also have metal screen/security doors on all units. Tenants like this because they can keep the door open to get more fresh air on a warm day, keep bugs out, and still not have to worry about the kids going outside..

Security alarm is a better option.  The renter can install something like simplesafe themselves as well.  http://www.amazon.com/Simplisafe2-Wireless-Security-8-piece-Package/dp/B001PBYQHG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411165032&sr=8-1&keywords=simplisafe

Originally posted by @Ryan Dossey:

If you're worried about safety of tenants I would look into having a security system installed. There are some very affordable options out now. You could also use that as a reason to charge more for rent. I know on personal residences that also gets you a discount on home owners insurance. Worth looking into if it lowers rental insurance?  

 This is a good option too, or maybe combine them. Security system is more of a notification than prevention, but work even better together.. A sticker only provides so much prevention.

I always have a security budget for my properties in lower-income areas. My tenants like the security cameras you can view on your phone. Lorex is a good, relatively inexpensive brand. I'm considering putting these on all my properties..

One of my properties had them.  

My mortgage company required that they have a quick release on the interior.  

I took them down and stored them. 

I offered them to renters as they moved in no-one wanted them re-installed.

That's my story.  If the property is vacant, I would keep them up.  If you have renters in them offer to remove/add them at move in.

Actually, I faced the same dilemma in my first rental property, which I am currently an owner occupier. 

Before I bought the unit had bars on the windows, I thought it was going to detract from the appearance and make it seem like the neighborhood is a bit rougher (not the best neighborhood, but definitely not the worst). However, after actually living in the unit, I'm glad I kept them on, it offers a different kind of security knowing that someone really can't break in through the windows, where as a security system just tells you when someone is breaking in... then what? 

Just my 2 cents, mine also have the quick release as well for fire code.

I just had a similar issue with my insurance company. They wouldn't cover the property even with a release latch on the inside. I had to change my insurance carrier and keep the bars to keep the tenants happy. 

I would increase the rent though just to cover the cost of premium hike. 

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