Giving someone else the keys to your property, be it a house, apartment, or commercial unit, is a huge act of trust. You’re literally asking a person you barely know to not only take care of your real estate investment, but also to act as your eyes and stay alert for a thousand different things that can go wrong.
The reality, though, is that some tenants are renting simply because they don’t want the hassle of being their own maintenance person, others are renting because they’re just getting out into the world and may lack the experience to identify a serious problem in the making. For tenants like these, it can really help to have an extra set of eyes, or better yet, an army of maintenance experts to help.
Since your tenants probably won’t appreciate a bunch of people hanging around in their living room all day, just waiting for something to break so they can report it in, you may be served by doing something almost as good: delivering up the smart-home upgrades.
Smart-home upgrades for landlords
Sometimes, smart-home upgrades are done to attract tenants. You might equip your units with smart thermostats to help give your tenants more control over their indoor temperature or add a smart security system to help keep them safe as they slumber. But not every smart upgrade has to be about them. Sometimes, they’re about you.
Plenty of smart items can be used to help your tenants keep an eye on your property. After all, preventing serious problems through early detection is the key to keeping repair bills low and maintenance minimal.
Smart CO2 and smoke detectors can alert you if your tenant’s furnace is in need of repair by detecting deadly carbon monoxide coming from the unit while it’s running. You and the tenant can both be alerted in case of CO2 emissions, as well as when smoke is detected from other sources. These are useful anywhere there’s a pilot light burning combustible fuel.
Smart leak and freeze detectors (generally a combo unit) can save you tons of money in damage to your rental unit in case of a leak or a frozen pipe. Rather than letting a leak go for days or months, potentially causing serious damage inside walls or under floors, a leak detector will tell you right away that something is very wrong. If you opt for the simpler units, you’ll need to install several, one in each of your prime leak-prone areas, or you can go all out and choose a smart water-shutoff unit that will literally stop the water at the main if it detects a pressure drop that could indicate a broken pipe anywhere in the plumbing system.
Smart sprinkler systems are another way to take care of simple maintenance without being in your tenant’s yard all the time. Of course, these will be better received if you’re paying the water bill, but a smart sprinkler system can be used to protect landscape plants in hot weather or to water foundations that can be damaged by the shifting of too-dry soils in places like the Sun Belt.
The Millionacres bottom line
It's hard work being a landlord, especially if you’re running most of your operations by yourself. By providing your units with smart-home upgrades that are designed to be early warning systems, you’ll know exactly when that furnace is on the fritz or the pipes are at risk of freezing and busting. The tools for landlords that exist in the smart-home world are practically endless, and a version exists for almost any budget, from the most basic alert system to tools that literally do half the job for you.
There is one caveat when it comes to smart-home tools: You absolutely have to be careful that you choose tools that only alert you to the status of the rental unit and not your tenant’s activities. For example, cameras are out, no matter how helpful they seem like they would be, but smart locks are generally OK.
There’s a very fine line between keeping an eye on the home and invading your tenant’s privacy and one that you must walk deliberately. Do yourself a favor and use smart-home tools to help monitor the status of things like pipes, but also disclose that they’re in use in your lease documents. Be very specific so your tenant is aware of what’s going on in their home and what they’ve agreed to allow to be monitored for maintenance purposes.