Should I have a security system if I rent?

Safety Team
Updated Feb 1, 2021
6 min read

Renting a home doesn't eliminate your burglary risk. If you have something valuable and it's easy for someone to break in, they'll do just that. Security systems are made to deter thieves, so they're less likely to walk away with your possessions, whether you own or rent your home. A security system is a smart purchase for anyone to make. But renters need to take a few precautions before they get started. Skipping steps could cost you money. In some cases, your decisions could wreck your ability to rent another home in the future.

Why consider a security system if you're renting

Not so long ago, home ownership was the goal for most American adults. That's changing. Renting was once an option primarily for people getting started in adulthood. College students and young couples rented, and they didn't have much that a burglar would want to steal. Now, people may rent throughout the entire lifespan. They may have many enticing objects for burglars.

If you're a renter, a burglar could walk away with your:

  • Electronics
  • Jewelry
  • Passport
  • Antiques
  • Firearms

Your rental agreement doesn't protect you from theft. And many people who rent simply don't have the funds to cover the losses. Investing in a security system could help to prevent those losses. Some equipment could even help you to fight back and recover the items a thief takes from you. But that installation isn't without risk.

Can you get a security system if you rent?

Security systems are made to tell burglars that you're serious about security. But depending on the equipment you choose, you could damage your home during installation, and you might be forced to leave some systems behind when you move. Your landlord may also object to some of the components you use to protect your home.

In most rental agreements, your landlord retains at least some rights of entry. Access might be required for:

  • Repairs. Creaking windows, buzzing wires and more are the responsibility of your landlord. These aren't issues that can be handled remotely.
  • Emergencies. A burst pipe could flood the entire building, ruining many homes. Your landlord may not have the time to notify you that entry is required.
  • New renters. In a hot market, your place may get rented before you've moved out. But most people want to see the space before they sign the paperwork.
  • Building sale. Landlords may seek buyers for the buildings they own. When they do, plenty of visitors may arrive to see your space.

Your landlord may be required to give you notice before coming in, but that isn't always true.In some states, landlords retain the right to enter whenever they'd like to do so.

Your security system may include components that block landlord entry. Some systems lock doors automatically, and you must unlock them with your phone. That could put you in violation of your lease, as your landlord may suggest that you've changed the locks.

Some alarm systems come with very loud signals, and they could go off due to completely innocent triggers. A cat walking by your sensors could prompt the chimes, and those sounds could awaken or annoy the people living near you.

Other systems come with cameras, and in shared buildings, the footage you capture could violate the privacy of others. If you aim a camera out at the hallway, for example, you must ensure that you're not grabbing footage of a neighbor's apartment.

Steps to get a security system for renters

Despite these risks, investing in security is smart. The system you use can deter people from entering your home. If they're foolish enough to steal from you, the footage your cameras capture could help the police to solve the crime. You can use systems in rentals, but you must take a few steps first.

  • Your rental agreement should include information about construction. Read that section carefully.
  • When you signed, you may have agreed that anything hardwired in your rental becomes the property of your landlord. That means you might be required to leave all your equipment behind when you move.
  • Sophisticated systems require professional installation, and some companies won't do the work without written landlord approval. Before you hire experts, talk with your landlord about your plans and get proof that it is acceptable. You'll need to show that documentation on installation day.
  • As an alternative, choose a standalone system. Skip the wires, bolts and mess that come with hardwired equipment. Use tools that connect to your Wi-Fi, and control everything with your phone. You won't violate rental agreements regarding construction, and you'll get the protection you need.
  • Take the needs of your neighbors into account as you install your equipment. Don't point cameras at your neighbors’ doors. Don't put tacky signs up in common areas. Be respectful of others who share your space.
  • Tell your neighbors about your system, and test the sound with their permission. Make sure they can hear alerts and ensure they don't feel annoyed by the sounds.
  • If you trust your neighbors, give them your contact information. That way, they can call you (and not your landlord) if anything about your equipment causes them distress.

What else can you do?

A security system gives you robust protection against robbery. It's not the only solution you can use to keep your rental home safe and sound.

If you haven't done so yet, meet your neighbors. Talk to them frequently, and work to gain their trust. When people like you, they are more likely to be your security allies. They might call you or help you when a problem happens. They'll be less likely to step in if they have no idea who you are.
Talk to your landlord about your security concerns. Together, you can perform meaningful upgrades, such as:

  • Installing a peephole, so you can see out the door before you open it.
  • Adding deadbolts, which are harder for burglars to get around.
  • Purchasing window locks, to keep burglars from climbing in.
  • Using cameras in lobbies and shared spaces, to prevent burglars from entering the building in the first place.

You can also work to create the illusion of tenancy even when you're away from home. Put your lamps on timers, so they turn on and off as they would when you were home. Put curtains on your windows to keep people from peering in. Most importantly, lock your door. It's vital to keep things locked up when you're gone, but get in the habit of doing the same when you're home, so you're not surprised by an intruder. These simple steps, combined with a security system, are sure to keep your rental home safe from the unexpected.

FAQs about home security for renters

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