Should Landlords Install a Security System for Renters?

A security system can be an attractive amenity, so it’s worth considering whether or not you want to look into security systems for renters.
If you decide to do it, like most aspects of your rental property and dealing with tenants, it’s important to have clear communication about installation, access and other issues surrounding the use of a security system.

Security System for Renters – Pros

Security systems are affordable, convenient and can be a significant factor in keeping your property and your tenant safe from harm. Here are just a few benefits of a security system in your rental property:

  • Prospective tenants may see this amenity as one more wonderful thing about your rental property.
  • Even in the best of neighborhoods, a security system can help tenants feel safer.
  • Extremely fast alerts to first responders in the event of a break-in or fire, reducing the risk of damage to your property.
  • Many security systems provide stickers for windows or discreet signs that you can put near the door or ground-floor window to deter burglars and vandals.

Alarm Systems for Rental Properties Installation Tips

Installation by a reputable company is fast, efficient and usually just requires installing sensors at doors and windows, plus the control panel. Most of the time, you can even choose the area where the control panel will be located.
If your tenant is the one who has approached you about installing a security system, and you agree, make sure you do some research on the company and outline the conditions for installation. You may even want to be present during the install to answer questions and veto any excessive actions, just as you might do with another type of installation, like a satellite dish.

Alarm Access Codes

It’s tough to find a balance between the landlord’s right to access the property legally and the tenant’s right to have privacy and peaceful enjoyment. However, most landlords will insist upon having the alarm system access code so they can enter the property as needed without triggering the alarms. Some tenants will be fine with this, since you also have keys to the property, so an access code isn’t much different. Other tenants may resist or feel like you don’t need the code because you shouldn’t ever be entering without their permission.
Most states have clearly defined the conditions that the landlord can enter the property. For example in California, the landlord can only enter during an emergency, when the tenant gives permission, or after giving reasonable written notice. As long as you are compliant with your state’s laws about entry, the tenant can’t deny that entry. Refusing to allow an alarm access code can significantly interfere with your rights of legal entry.
If you are installing the security system, you will be able to program the access code. If you are allowing your tenant to do so with your permission, make sure the tenant clearly understands that you need to be provided with the code for access.

False Alarm Triggers

A properly installed security system will send a message to emergency responders when it is activated. Whether it’s a home invasion, fire and or other security issue, emergency responders will attempt communication with the occupant to determine whether the emergency is real or else they may also arrive on the scene quickly.
While everyone accidentally triggers a security system once or twice, a long, shrieking alarm can cause headaches for everyone involved. A loud alarm can disrupt the neighbors and too many instances may violate the noise nuisance ordinances for the municipality.
False alarms also waste the valuable time and resources of emergency responders and may affect their ability to respond to a real emergency. Too many false alarms could equal fines or other penalties and many cities have outlined consequences for excessive emergency calls. For example, in Atlanta, Georgia, approximately 65,000 security and alarm systems were activated in 2012, and 95 percent of those were false alarms. The city enacted an ordinance that requires homeowners to register their alarms with emergency services or face a fine. The city now also charges homeowners a $50 penalty for the second false alarm, and fines increase after that for every new false alarm.
As a landlord, make sure you go over the security system with the tenant upon moving in to reduce the risk of false alarms. It might be helpful to create a document that outlines how to set up and disarm the system for the first few weeks until the tenant gets used to it.

Lease Agreement and Addendums

If you are having a security system installed, always include language in the lease agreement or include a lease addendum that states the conditions of use for the system. The wording should cover the rules about the access code, who is responsible for excessive false alarms and any penalties thereof, and any information about damage or dismantling the system. A well-worded addendum can eliminate a lot of misinformation and miscommunication on the part of the tenant when it comes to operating the security system effectively.
Do you have security systems at your rental properties? Why or why not? Please share this article and let us know your opinions in the comments section below.