This resource is intended to assist MU students participating in university-related international or domestic travel who are making their own housing arrangements to assess the safety and security of various types of housing.
Whether you are staying in a hotel or motel or an apartment found through a rental service (e.g., Airbnb or VRBO), a safety assessment of the property should be completed before you book your accommodations.
Read the reviews
Obtain a third-party evaluation of the accommodation by carefully reading the reviews from other guests. Make sure the comments are recent. Read at least a dozen to see if the listing has any red flags or concerning trends. Airbnb, for example, uses advanced analytics to eliminate suspicious hosts or guests, and every booking is given a risk score before it is confirmed. You should book with a housing provider that has a complaints department or resolution service.
- Try to stay in a unit that has five-star out of 10 user-rating or is hosted by a "superhost," which means the owner has been identified as someone who takes extra care to ensure the needs of the guest are met.
- Do not share an apartment with strangers. Only rent vacant apartments, not roomshares. Avoid shared bathroom arrangements and other shared spaces.
- When communicating with the host, use the website or app for all questions and dialogue. If you communicate by phone or text, the conversation will not be available to the platform in the event that something goes wrong.
- Remember that arrangements made through Airbnb/VRBO are often personal residences that are not subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Before booking a hotel room, read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor to learn more about the venue. For security information, TripAdvisor has a keyword search function that can be used to search for reviews that contain terms like "safety" or "security."
Accommodation assessment questions
These questions can be used to help you evaluate an accommodation before booking and upon arrival. One of the first things you should do after checking in is a thorough safety walk-through to identify anything that could be a risk (e.g., no fire extinguisher).
- What is the general condition of the accommodation site?
- Are there emergency evacuation plans? How many exits are there? Locate the nearest exit.
- What floor is the room on? Do rooms on the first floor have security gates or window bars?
- Does the room have Wi-Fi internet access? Is it a secure network or is it accessible to the public?
- Can other guests access the building?
- Is there 24/7 security in the building? Is there a curfew or time when the main entrance or gate is locked?
- What fire safety measures are in place?
- Are there any visible fire hazards?
- Are there smoke alarms?
- Are there automatic fire sprinklers? Is there a fire extinguisher?
- How far is the nearest fire department from the accommodations?
- How far is the location of the university-related activity in which you are participating?
- How will you travel to and from your accommodations?
- What is the general safety and security environment of the neighborhood? How would you describe the neighborhood? Would you describe it as safe? Are there any "no-go" areas in the neighborhood?
- Is the neighborhood urban, suburban or rural? What is the area like during the day? At night?
On-site apartment/room issues
- What protocols are in place if a problem arises at the accommodation site?
- Is there a 24/7 phone number to report an issue?
- What security measures are in place at the accommodations? Do doors have locks/deadbolts? Are personal safes or lockers available in rooms for storing important documents (e.g., passport)?
- What type of lighting is in place outside of the building and in the lobby, stairwells and hallways?
- Are there security cameras in or around the building? If so, are they actively monitored?
Adapted from Northwestern University