Upgrading to a smart home used to be exclusively the realm of homeowners. If you couldn’t run cables, replace junction boxes, or install expensive wall units, you’d have to live with dull lights. However, with the help of new smart home gadgets, you can upgrade parts of your apartment, even in some cases without your landlord’s approval.
The world of SmartHome gadgets is challenging for renters because laws vary from state to state. To make things more confusing, individual landlords and developments may set their own rules, which you—and cannot—change. We will give you general guidelines in this post, but always check with your landlord before making any major or permanent changes.
Start small with smart lights, sensors and voice assistants
Most rentals have rules about changing fixtures, fiddling with wiring, or changing locks. We’ll come back to them later, but thankfully, you don’t need your landlord’s permission to change a light bulb or hook up the Amazon Echo to the wall. If you want to dip your fingers into smart gadgets, this is a good place to start. Here are some examples of devices that anyone can easily set up, even without your landlord’s permission:
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Smart bulbs: There are two ways to get smart lights in your home: smart light bulbs or smart switches. Smart switches usually require complex wiring, but you can plug a smart light bulb into any regular outlet. This makes smart bulbs extremely useful for renters. Even if you don’t have permission to change switches, you can connect a Philips Hue or LIFX lamp to a lamp or skylight and control it with your phone or voice command. When you move, just unscrew the bulb and you’re done. You can even get some wireless switches to control your lighting from the wall without having to change complex wiring.
Sensors. Various smart sensors, such as those in Samsung’s SmartThings product line, have a wide range of applications. You can use door sensors to activate your lights when you enter a room, or to send an alert when your mailbox has been opened. Most sensors stick to walls or doors, so you don’t have to worry about losing a deposit or breaking a lease to use them.
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Unless you have a strangely strict landlord, you can use any of these in most condos, condos, or rental houses. You also don’t need too much technical knowledge to set them up.
Move to thermostats and wall switches with your landlord’s permission
Any time you need to fiddle with wiring, you need to know your landlord’s policy in advance. Landlords are legally responsible for ensuring that every appliance in the home is safe and complies with building codes. For some homeowners, it’s easier to just stop tenants from making any changes. Others may allow you to make updates if you get permission first. If you’re not sure what’s allowed, check your rent and talk to your landlord.
If you get permission to make minor rental changes, you can expand your smart gadget options to include a few more categories:
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Wall switches. Replacing the light switches in your home with internet-connected smart switches, such as Belkin WeMo switches, is somewhat more difficult than using a smart light bulb. However, this gives you a bit more flexibility and allows you to buy cheaper lamps. You need to have a basic knowledge of electrical wiring and how to mount switches in a wall. If you’re not sure you can do it yourself, ask your landlord if they can install the switch for you.
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Intelligent thermostats. You can install some smart thermostats like the Nest with just a couple of screws and a few threads. However, even if you get permission from your landlord, you still won’t be able to install a smart thermostat. Older buildings that use high voltage systems are not compatible with devices like the Nest. You can check out our guide on how to install Nest to see what the installation entails. Once again, if you are not comfortable doing the installation yourself, ask your landlord if they can do it for you.
Getting permission from your landlord to make changes is the first step, but you should still be careful about any of your own installations. When you leave the house, you will need to return everything to the state in which you found it. If you don’t install your gadget properly, you could create a dangerous situation for future residents. Some landlords may be fine with smart switches or thermostats, but be sure to talk to your landlord carefully about exactly how you’ll install them in the first place.
Also remember that you will need access to the circuit breakers in your home to turn them off during installation. Typically, tenants are legally entitled to 24/7 access to switch panels, but this varies by state. Some schemes may be easier to access than others. If you’re going to be fiddling with the wiring on a light switch or thermostat, make sure you can turn off power to the entire circuit before continuing.
Smart locks and security cameras probably won’t work, but you can ask
For tenants, getting a smart lock or security system near the end «never happens,» but depending on your circumstances, you might be able to crack it. Once again, you will have to talk to your landlord. You must also ensure that you retain your host’s right of entry.
Generally, landlords can enter your rental unit at any time. While state laws vary on when landlords are allowed to exercise this right (for example, in most states landlords must give advance notice or request permission before entering), you cannot change the locks and prevent them from entering completely without using it in violation of the law. . In other words, if you want to install a smart lock that changes keys — or one that doesn’t use keys at all — you may be breaking the law.
However, there are some smart locks you can use (with permission). For example, the August smart lock only replaces the inside handle on the deadbolt. It still uses normal keys and the lock looks exactly the same from the outside. The landlord might be more inclined towards something like this since they will still be able to use their key to get in and it won’t replace the existing lock.
In addition to blocking, security systems can also be more complex. Smart cameras like the Nest Cam Outdoor require cables to be connected from the outside. Even fully wireless cameras like the Arlo Pro need circuit boards. You may have permission to make holes in the walls in your apartment, but you are not allowed to mount things outside.
On top of that, if you live in a gated community or in a location that already has security in place, setting up your own system may be overkill and may even backfire. One of the most important ways to protect your home from thieves is to take away their incentive to rob you. If you are the only person in the complex with a security camera and a smart lock on the door, he screams: “I have things worth stealing! Come and rob me! »These devices also won’t stop someone from breaking your window
Finally, remember that the most common type of burglary is not smart thieves, but male teenagers who live a couple of miles from your home. They are punks, not pros. Depending on where you rent, it may be easier to coordinate with the rental company’s security than trying to build your own security system in an apartment complex.
Overall, renters these days have a pretty good selection when it comes to smart home gadgets. You may not be able to run wires through every room of the house or replace every light switch with a fancy internet-connected gadget, but you can still make your home a little magical.