What could possibly go wrong renting a SmartHome?

what matters most

People who’ve driven cars before the millennium change are familiar with what is now known as “Level 0” automation. The driver controls the machine without assistance: steering, braking, throttling, power, driving in reverse, parking and all of this without airbags–using a physical key to manually open doors.

Current automobiles are equipped with “Level 1” autonomous functions: anti-lock brakes, power steering, airbags, and cruise control. Often many of the these Level 1 features are required by law.

Some cars come standard with “Level 2” features: automatic parking, automatic steering & braking. Many sedans self-park between two cars on a street, while a majority of 2019 vehicles warn and direct drivers as they back up through rear-facing cameras.

Level 1 and Level 2 autonomy in vehicles allows drivers a choice to either employ the SmartFeatures, or not (in most cases).

This post is not about providing an equivalent rating system for homes (although this might not be such a bad idea for a future blog). However, instead, this contribution focuses on the idea of tenant choice, disclosure and training prospective tenants to use Smart Home Features.

Choice: Yes, No & perhaps this, but not that.

A previous post highlighted a landlord who required all tenants use an eKey. He disallowed physical keys entirely.

A court ruled against this action. Among issues cited: the landlord had the ability to constantly monitor tenant’s entry and exists. The decision required tenants to also carry a charged smartphone with a 3rd party app at all times. The court was persuaded mostly by this later requirement and not the privacy issue, per se. (Although, privacy and quiet enjoyment of living are in my opinion equally as important.)

It is good to let tenants know the features are available in your prospective rental properties. However, property owners should allow them the option to activate features and exercise the liberty to disengage others. When renting your properties, allow preferences for newbies and experts alike in using and customizing your pre-installed devices. *Also, should your tenants desire to expand or reduce your pre-installed Smart Devices, allow them this flexibility well.

After all, at lease signing your property becomes their rental. Like the Level 1 and Level 2 cars, allow them to opt in or opt out of each SmartHome feature, for any reason they may have.

Towards that end, also mentioned in a previous post, Baron recommended: vacant Smart Home rentals remain connected to wi-fi, and; incorporating the monthly internet charges into the lease payment. There are many advantages to these actions-especially for the remote landlord. Wi-Fi extends property management options to unoccupied rentals. Connected homes are safer, cost-effective and provide peace of mind. That said, a future article will detail more on this subject. For now, prospective tenants should be aware the wi-fi utility is always on, but may also be: disconnected entirely, customized for their exclusivity, or changed out with another provider — should they elect — after lease signing. (However, the original connection must be restored prior to lease termination.)

Greater choice given to your tenants managing your Smart Home confers more control and satisfaction. And finding (and keeping) satisfied tenant makes your life easier.

How to train (and amaze) your tenant

The walkthrough makes an ideal time to introduce tenants to smart connected features. During my showings, most tenants are delighted to see all of the upgrades to the property. It also makes a great time to take them on a test drive with your smart light bulbs, smart blinds, and automatic door locks. If your property has a smoke alarm, CO2 monitor, motion-activated sensors, Bluetooth or other speaker systems, there will be no better time to demonstrate them than when both you and they are in the house.

If a smartphone app is required for them to download, show them where to find it and how to install it.

If your tenants need to ‘set up and individual account’, walk them through this set process so they can activate your devices within their ecosystem. ( I’ve noticed most of my tenants have a Nest/Google account and most already have Alexa or Google Assistant are familiar with setting up). Tenants may be familiar with installations and even have an accounts on their own.

Let tenants know that during their lease term, no other person will have access to these devices.

Disclosure: Bare all

Finally, these connected devices, hubs and appliances should all be spelled out individually and clearly in the rental contract. Listing these might advantageous for a future ‘hand over’ walkthrough. Leases should spell out responsibility in safeguarding or storing any unused cable modems or other disconnected/unwanted devices. (For example, if a working smart bulb burns out, do you require an exact replacement, or will a normal bulb suffice?) As a property manager, if you have parameters about adding new Smart Home features or devices, this should be disclosed in writing. Finally, explain your policy of returning the rental and Smart Home devices in the same condition as they found.

Final thought

Video Doorbells, Cameras, and listening devices should be boxed up removed after lease signing, for liability reasons. Unplugging them may not be enough. Tenants and AirBnB guests are rightly paranoid about this growing ‘Illuminati’ problem.

by Baron