April 11, 2018

When you hear that nine in 10 millennial renters would pay more for an apartment featuring smart home technology, you may be ready to go all in on the Internet of Things.

But the not-so-good news is that for all the articles out there listing the myriad benefits of smart rental properties, there are also a number of potential obstacles that come with installing smart devices and systems in a rental you own as opposed to a property you intend to live in.

The stated benefits go beyond helping you increase the value of your rental property. Smart home technology can improve the lives of your residents or guests and make your job as a landlord easier by allowing for keyless entry, remote video monitoring, voice-controlled lights, and other useful integrations.

However, smart devices that seem straightforward often pose a challenge even for users in their own single-family homes; those challenges grow in number and size when you try to apply the technology to a rental property. Make sure you consider the following obstacles, and suggested solutions before you invest in smart home tech for your rental:

Non-tech savvy residents could face a learning curve.

People want to feel comfortable in their home from the moment they first move in. But with smart devices, residents would have to learn what might be an entirely new technology to them—and it would be frustrating not to know how to unlock your front door or turn on your own bedroom lights.

As smart technology rises in popularity we should see the associated learning curve fade. Operating smart light bulbs will someday be as obvious to people as flicking a switch has become. But in the meantime, you can avoid any frustration by limiting the number of smart devices you install, as well as choosing only the most intuitive devices. Try to connect those devices with smart speakers (like the Amazon Alexa or Google Home) that can hear simple commands and execute routines—so your residents don’t have to constantly fumble with a mobile app to do anything in their home.

You and your residents will need control over different aspects of the smart home property.

You as a landlord will need the ability to act as an administrator over the smart devices in your rental property, such as adding door codes for new tenants or setting a schedule for your automated sprinklers; on the other hand, your residents will need control over things like adjusting the thermostat or turning the lights on and off. This complication increases exponentially with the number of smart tech-enabled units you own.

Assign control to various users by choosing a centralized system, or smart home hub, that will allow you to create profiles with different levels of permission. As an admin, you could maintain control over creating routines, adding users, and other important functions—but your residents could still have a profile within the app that allows them to log in and access everything remotely.

Smart home devices leave your rental property more vulnerable to security breaches.

Back in the analog days, a landlord only had to ask residents to return their keys when they moved out. Now, when a tenant vacates a property, there will be the added concern of revoking their mobile access to any smart devices. But even before your tenant moves out you will have to be wary of hackers who might try to gain access through unsecure networks.

You can preemptively avoid some of the headache in protecting the security of your smart home by taking the extra steps necessary to secure the network for your rental property. This process might include disabling or severely limiting guest access and even establishing a single network meant solely for your smart devices—with a second network meant for computers, mobile phones, and other connected items. And when it becomes necessary to revoke a tenant’s permissions, change all the passwords and network information that they had access to, no matter how involved the process is.

Don’t let the obstacles of installing smart home tech in a rental put you off of the idea. We still have a long way to go in terms of making smart devices designed to conveniently accommodate rental properties, but every challenge can be addressed. Once you make the leap, you will find it worth the extra time and investments.

Author Bio: Kelsey Down is a freelance writer in Salt Lake City who specializes in technology, home, and parenting—and the areas where all those subjects intersect. Her work has been featured on publications including Realtor Magazine, TechSpective, and Working Mother. Follow her on Twitter @kladown23.

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