Are people becoming more trusting of others these days? Or is convenience such a huge draw that we're willing to take (or choose not to consider) the risks that often accompany convenience:
- Your every movement being tracked by your smartphone so you can get directions.
- Staying overnight with a stranger (Airbnb) for the extra space.
- And now handing over the key to your home to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) to have your packages delivered in a safer spot than outdoors?
Even if you don't want Amazon employees to have access to your home, if you live in a building, your landlord might. Find out how Amazon's been pushing its mobile key service and what that means for landlords and tenants.
Amazon is trying as hard to get access to apartment buildings as the CDC is trying to get the population vaccinated. In other words, Amazon is highly motivated to get landlords to comply with its wishes. Why? So that Amazon can cut down on package theft. Sounds like a good idea, but is it?
Amazon has a "Key for Business" service, which, upon installation, gives its drivers the ability to get into apartment buildings using their smartphones. Instead of leaving packages outside or needing to be buzzed inside, with smartphone access, drivers can simply unlock the door using their phone and deliver the package to the lobby.
Thousands of building owners across the United States have allowed Amazon to install the device. Some landlords receive perks for doing so, such as a $100 Amazon gift card, and others save money by not needing to install a drop box for package security.
But that's just a drop in the bucket considering all the apartment buildings there are in America, which is the reason Amazon is stepping up efforts to get access to as many buildings as possible, hiring salespeople who do nothing but entice landlords to install this key service.
What could go wrong?
Giving a building's key code to Amazon delivery people can be an invasion of privacy, especially for those tenants who aren't aware the landlord allows this. (Amazon leaves it up to the landlord to let the tenants know -- or not.)
Ashkan Soltani, a tech advisor to Barack Obama when he was president, warns about possible hacking going on, allowing anyone into buildings with this Amazon device. He's on record as saying this: "You're essentially introducing a foreign internet-connected device into an otherwise internal network."
Can landlords be sued?
What happens if the Amazon device is hacked or if the delivery person is dishonest? Now you have possible criminals with access to the building. What if they steal from or assault tenants?
This technology is new, and it appears the law hasn't kept up with the tech on this one. Take smart locks, for instance, locks that operate using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to allow entrance. They're convenient, certainly, allowing people to lock and unlock the door using their phone, even letting in a guest or worker while the resident is away. It's one thing as a homeowner to choose this type of entrance to your own home and another situation when the landlord chooses for you.
There's currently no legislation on smart locks and tenant rights, so that means it's up to a judge to decide. In a case from May 2019, New York tenants won a settlement after suing their landlord for installing smart locks without their consent. Although this was a settlement and doesn't set a precedent, this is clearly a risk for landlords to consider before taking that $100 Amazon gift card. Any lawsuit will certainly be seeking more than that.
The Millionacres bottom line
Amazon is working hard to get access to apartment buildings, selling the service as a benefit to tenants. But it's Amazon that will benefit the most. This might even be a brilliant strategy by Amazon to crush competitors, as landlords probably won't be too keen on giving multiple delivery services access to the door. This helps keep customers loyal to Amazon.
Landlords should weigh all the options before readily agreeing to let Amazon install its app to get into their buildings. A consultation beforehand with an attorney might be a wise call.