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Apartment living: Protect your possessions

According to last year's census, 13.6% of occupied dwellings were flats, units or apartments - that's more than 1 million Australian households sharing buildings with other residentsi. The proportion of people living in apartments has risen over past decades, and with land in our major cities becoming scarce, it seems that this trend may continueii.

Like any private dwelling, apartments are at risk of break-in and theft. It's important to know what you can do to protect the possessions in your flat, unit or apartment in the event of a break-in.

Apartments are targeted by burglars, so it's important to take out contents insurance if you live in a flat or unit.

Types of apartments

A studio apartment is a living space without a division wall: there is no separation of the bedroom from other living areas. A studio typically contains a kitchenette and a bathroom of its own. Apartments with one, two, three or more bedrooms are self contained units that vary in layout and size. They generally contain a kitchen and a central bathroom, and some have a master bedroom with an en-suite. The garden apartment is a variation of the other two apartments with the additional offer of landscaped grounds around them.

Living in a unit, you will share common spaces with neighbouring units. Common spaces include the front yard, stairwell, lift lobbies, car park and more. Because the areas are shared, as an apartment owner you will pay a strata levy to the owner's corporation towards their upkeep. The strata levy also contributes to the owner's corporation purchase of strata insurance, which provides cover for the building and common areas. However, it's important to note that strata insurance does not protect the contents of your apartment: your possessions.

Apartment security measures do not guarantee complete protection from break-in or theft.

Security

In the twelve months prior to 2010-11, there were an estimated 343,400 break-in incidents in residential dwellings of all types nation-wide, as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)iii. And no matter if you're a renter or owner, living in an apartment or house, the reality is that there is no guarantee that your home will be completely impenetrable from household break-in.

Apartments may have security measures, but some are inevitably more secure than others. Some blocks have only basic security measures in place, and strangers can walk in and out of the complex freely. Others have gated stairwells or lobbies that require a chip, key or access card to open the gate or door. The building may also have these installed in the lifts, so that people can only access the floor which their apartment is on. Some residential buildings have intercom systems with audio and video linked between outside and the apartment, so that you can see people before you allow them access to the building. And when it comes to parking, your building may have security controlled or even individually secured parking lots.

It's important to note that it's possible for strangers to get around security if your fellow tenants are not vigilant. Unfortunately, this puts your apartment at risk of break-in and theft. The decision to tighten existing security measures is largely dependent on the consensus of other apartment owners, which may be difficult to obtain and harder to enforce. Contents insurance is a fast, simple decision you can make for yourself. And when you're living in an apartment with easily accessible common areas, you want to be able to protect your possessions at all times. The value of home contents adds up and it could be expensive to replace stolen or damaged possessions. If you live in an apartment, consider taking out contents insurance with Allianz.


i ABS, 2011 Census QuickStats: Dwellings, 2012, http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2011/quickstat/0

ii ABS, 2003, 4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/7d12b0f6763c78caca257061001cc588/04ac65400b2d01b5ca2570ec0000eae1!OpenDocument

iii ABS, 2010-11, 4530.0 Crime Victimisation: Household crime,