So you recently moved into an apartment with what looks like an alarm system keypad installed? You might assume that this means you’ve rented a property that includes an active alarm system that you can use, but in reality there are many factors to consider before making this assumption.
Alarm systems for apartment renters are just as important as for homeowners. While the roof over your head may belong to you, everything under it does and runs the risk of being lost in the event of a break-in. An alarm system can save you money on your renter’s insurance and can prevent significant damage both emotionally and physically to your property. If an alarm system has already been installed in your apartment, it is much easier to simply activate it with an alarm system monitoring service as opposed to purchasing a new system outright and paying for its installation. Therefore, it’s worth it to find out the circumstances surrounding the alarm system equipment in your apartment.
First, take a look at your lease.
Does it mention anything about an alarm system? If your landlord did include a clause about alarm systems for rental properties, it may outline what rights you have as a renter: Is it fully installed and in working condition? If not, can you activate it through an alarm system monitoring service? Do you need to give your landlord the code? Who pays the monitoring fees? Does your landlord need to oversee the alarm system installation?
If it does not include a section about alarm systems for rental properties, you probably need to speak to your landlord for permission to activate the alarm. While a landlord cannot prevent you from activating Internet, cable or satellite service to your apartment, as these are regulated by the FCC, alarm systems have no such regulation. If you want to activate the system, you need permission from your landlord or risk tampering with a system that is not your own.
If it’s not clearly spelled out in the lease, then speak with your landlord.
While most landlords should allow you to activate the alarm system, some landlords see alarm systems as a threat; it gives too much power to their renters to change the code and keep the landlord out of the apartment in the event that they need to access it in an emergency, for scheduled maintenance or to show the apartment to a future tenant.
Landlords may also want to avoid the liability that comes with providing an alarm system for rental properties; a false alarm could go off due to faulty wiring, or they had promised you a working alarm system but it did not trigger when it was supposed to, leaving him or her to blame. They may even tell you the alarm system is not working to prevent this from happening, and, if nothing is spelled out in your lease and there was no written guarantee of a working alarm system on the premises, they have the right to do so.
On the other hand, an alarm system can also benefit the landlord by protecting the property as well as your belongings. If their property is broken into, it’s likely that the intruders will do damage to the doors, windows and other parts of the property. While the main target will typically be your valuables, your landlord will be responsible for the harm done to the permanent structure. Alarm systems for rental properties can also increase the value of the property, and the cost of the alarm system installation and equipment can be recovered through the term of your lease.
If your landlord sees the value in having an active alarm system at the property, he or she most likely will have avoided the potential conflicts over liability and access by including the terms of the alarm system in your lease.
Finally, determine who pays for the alarm system, especially in the event of a false alarm.
In most cases, you will be responsible for paying for your alarm system monitoring service. While your landlord may have had the system installed, an alarm system is an amenity and will need to be maintained by you as the renter if you wish to benefit from it. It’s also likely that your landlord will recover the amount spent on installing the system with your lease price, so you will have effectively paid for the system entirely by the time your lease has ended.
Your landlord will also likely want the code to the system in order to maintain access to their property, and may want to oversee the alarm system installation to prevent any potential damage to the structure or electrical wiring. The terms of your lease should also address who is responsible in the event of a false alarm, and who holds liability in case the alarm is not working properly.
Given the many factors involved, it’s important to talk to your landlord and go over your lease when it comes to alarm systems for rental properties. You should protect your belongings, but also ensure that you are operating within the bounds of your lease and that these key factors are spelled out in case anything were to happen.