Should Landlords (or Tenants) Install an Alarm System?

Written on January 20, 2017 by

Alarm SystemAn alarm system gives tenants peace of mind, makes your property stand out in a competitive market, and adds value so you can charge more for rent.

Consider adding alarm systems to your rental properties.

If you don’t want to install an alarm system yourself, allow your tenant to install one. In this case, it’s better if your tenant installs a wireless system, but you can also work with a hard-wired system.

This article will provide some best practices for installing an alarm system and describe the types of basic alarm systems.

Related: Can a Tenant Break the Lease After a Robbery?

Tips for Alarm Systems at Rentals

1. Know the Access Code

You keep a key to your rental property for the following reasons:

You should have the access code to an alarm system for the same reasons.

If you’re installing the alarm system, you’ll have the code. Let your tenant know that if they change the code, they’ll need to tell you what it is. If they install a system, let them know you need to have the code, too, and explain why.


2. Teach Your Tenants How to Use the System

If you install the alarm system, teach your tenants how to use it to minimize false alarms. When the alarm goes off, a message is sent to emergency responders. False alarms waste everyone’s time, and the alarm company could start fining you if there are too many false alarms. If tenants understand how to use the alarm system, there should be fewer false alarms.

3. Have a Clause in Your Lease

Whether you decide to install a security system yourself or if you let your tenants install one, you should have language in your lease that addresses the security system. Here is a sample lease clause from Contract Standards for allowing a tenant to install an alarm system:

Types of Systems

1. Wired

If there’s already a pre-wired security system on the premises, you probably want to take advantage of it. Your tenant can use the provider that installed the equipment and then activate the system. Your tenant could also go with another provider since the wiring has already been done. A new control panel might need to be installed to get it activated.

2. Wireless

If there is no security system in place, a wireless system works better for renters. There is no installation (complete with drilling of holes) to worry about. And if your renter sets up the wireless system, they can simply disconnect the system and reconnect it in their new place after they move.

Types of Monitoring

1. Landline

The original way to contact the monitoring center once the alarm was triggered was through a landline. It’s a reliable system, but there are a couple of problems with it: People don’t have or use landlines much anymore, and thieves can cut phone lines to disable the system.

2. Internet

You can now communicate with a monitoring center through the internet. This is typically the cheapest monitoring method, but if your internet goes down, you’re out of luck.

3. Cell Phone

You can also communicate with a monitoring center through a cell phone. This is the most advanced and widely preferred method. But if you can’t get a reliable cell signal at your property, this option is out.

Which Security System to Buy

SafeWise, an independent review and comparison website, compares security systems and makes recommendations about the best security systems. They chose five top alarm systems based on price, customer service, installation, cameras, automation features, monitoring fees, and mobile access. Here are the top five picks for 2016:

  1. Frontpoint (rated 9.1 out of 10)
  2. ADT Monitoring (rated 8.4 out of 10)
  3. Link Interactive (rated 8.2 out of 10)
  4. Protect America (rated 8.1 out of 10)
  5. Vivint (rated 7.5 out of 10)

An alarm system can give tenants peace of mind. Do you include this in your rental units, and if so, which one did you choose? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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14 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Domenick

    Thanks Laura. I just went through this with a recent tenant. The rental unit already had an alarm system installed. The tenant wanted to use the alarm as a warning sound only. Not as an alert system but simply to scare off would be intruders. I didn’t think it was an issue until I read your article. If they ever sign up for the service, I will never be able to access the unit without them if necessary! I am going to add these lease clause going forward!


  • MSVCP140

    :-) ok !

  • Richard Haven

    Simplisafe seems to fit your criteria for wireless alarm systems; was it considered?

  • alarm systems auckland

    Thanks for sharing it not just for me but for everyone related to Install an Alarm System service for all customers.Every system has to be tested and inspected regardless of the type.Thanks for sharing

  • Suzie

    We had a former tenant install a Vivint alarm system without our knowledge. They used the hardwire system and also connected a key pad entry on the front door, connected to the thermostat, and the garage door. We are now having issues with the heater (service has come out twice and doesn’t know what’s going on and thinks it’s with the Vivint) and the garage door quit working. Vivint won’t speak with me, the home owner, because I don’t know the passcode. So frustrating. How can we have this removed from our house? Can the former tenants (who were evicted and owe us money) still have access to any controls or cameras?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Suzie,
      What a mess! Call the alarm company back, and tell them the situation. Tell them you want the system removed from your house. Ask them any questions you have about former tenants and access. You’ll need to sue the tenant for any costs related to this issue. Good luck!

  • Kay

    My tenant just moved in and set the alarm off 3 times in one day. This was after I emailed instructions to her about how to use the alarm.
    I pay for the alarm every month as part of the rental agreement but now I have a bill for $821!!
    I am not at fault but is it fair for the tenant to pay this if it isn’t specifically stated in the contract?

  • Elyn

    Hi Laura, thanks for your article. We installed security alarm on our apartment my mistake we haven’t inform our landlord. It’s wireless so we don’t dig any hole or drill something for wiring. Are we allowed to have the system in our unit?

    We decided to install it since on the floor above us the renter is not actually living there but uses it for short stay lease like AirBnB. We are scared since people just come and go every single week.

    Thanks again.

  • Heather Brown

    My landlord has security cameras pointed towards the back door entries of our fourplex.
    Recently, a residents bike was stolen and the bike lock broken. It turns out the cameras were
    not monitoring and/or are dummy cameras. My lease doesn’t mention cameras. It’s a nice unit but not the best neighborhood. I’d assumed these were working cameras. Are fake cameras
    Legal without notifying tenants they don’t actually work? I feel they give off a false sense of security and am considering a personal system now.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Heather,
      While it might have been nice if your landlord told you the cameras were dummy cameras, your landlord doesn’t have to do that or install any cameras, dummy or not. If you saw them, you could have asked whether they were working, turned on, etc. Renters insurance covers the cost of stolen belongings, which is a good reason to get it. If you want to install a security system, you should first discuss it with your landlord. This might help:

  • Lashawn

    I was informed by my rental office with a letter to disable my wireless security camera when they enter my unit. Is this lawful especially when they don’t come on days that they say they are coming nor notify me of the change which is not professional? This system is in my apartment only and their is no alarm that goes off.

  • Andrew Radice

    WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. ;) ?

  • Vita Thomas

    Are landlords required to install security cameras on each living floor or is it legal to do so?


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