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A Guide to Smart Home Technology in Rented Homes

The more tech-savvy readers already know what smart homes and the Internet of Things are. What was science fiction two decades ago is reality right now – and one that’s affordable to the majority citizens today.

Smart home technology

Smart home devices make life easier. They connect over Wi-Fi and can do anything from playing music, to heating up the living room, to telling you who is at the door.

You can control them with gestures or voice commands, program them to turn on or off automatically. You can even access them from your smartphone while at work.

Smart technology transforms the way you interact with your home.

But if you’re renting, your choice of smart devices might be restricted. While some devices can be connected without consulting your landlord, others will require some negotiation for physical installation.

We invited Christian Cawley from Broadband Genie to talk about smart tech in rented properties and go over some tips and tricks to getting started.

Smart devices suitable for a rented property

Want to get your home connected, with smart devices designed to make life easier? In a rented property you should avoid fitting equipment to walls and ceilings.

Any modifications to the property like screwing or drilling must be approved by the landlord. Unauthorized work will be picked up by the check-out inventory report and an appropriate portion of your deposit will be deducted.

Smart home assistants

Today you can have a digital assistant around the house that listens to your commands and controls connected smart equipment.

Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod are the leading smart domestic assistants.

They feature speakers which you place anywhere in your home. When you call for your assistant – whether Alexa, Google, or Siri – the device will play your favourite tunes, schedule a TV show recordings, manage lighting, or simply tell you a joke.

Smart displays combine the benefits of smart speakers with a touchscreen display. These let you enjoy streamed media, online shopping, and even video calling. Smart displays you should consider include Amazon’s Echo Show, the Google Nest Hub, and the (Alexa-voiced) Facebook Portal device.

Smart lighting

One of the easiest ways to modernise your home is with smart lighting. There’s no need to rewire the house as several manufacturers have created connected bulbs that you can control remotely, and all you have to do is screw in the bulb (and maybe plug in a relay box).

These can be managed via an app-based timer or prompted to switch on when you come home. Options include the Lumiman range of Wi-Fi bulbs with RGBCW LEDs, and the Phillips Hue range.

Smart wall sockets

Smart plugs, make any device plugged into a wall “smart”. With Wi-Fi compatibility, smart plugs sit between the device’s power lead and the wall, much like old-fashioned timers.

With a smart plug installed, you might switch on a TV or kettle using an application on your smartphone. For example, you can warm up the room before you get home by switching on your electric heater.

Some smart plugs have motion sensors and can activate by detecting you coming through the front door. Not sure about the price of smart light bulbs? Don’t worry – you can use a smart plug to control a standing or tabletop lamp.

The Amazon Smart Plug is perhaps the best option available, and features Alexa integration.

Smart security systems

Various indoor security cameras are available that ship with a pedestal stand, rather than requiring mounting on the wall. These often come with environmental sensors for monitoring temperature, noise, humidity, and movement.

You get weather data, helping pick out the best outfit for the day. Depending on which sensor gets activated, the system can trigger actions or alerts.

For example motion or noise near the window can prompt a notification to your smartphone. At the same time, if the window actually opens while the alarm is on and you’re out of home, several things can happen.

The system will sound the alarm, notify your phone, and open a video link to the strategically placed camera.

Check out the Spotcam Sense range of home security cameras. A more compact, cheaper option is the Neos Smartcam with Alexa compatibility.

Negotiating with your landlord for installing other types of smart devices

Want to go further and install smart home devices that require modification to the property? You’re going to need to make some plans. Minor modifications are often included in rental agreements, so check the small print.

However, if more substantial work is required, or it’s likely to result in unsightly scars when you move out, contact your landlord first.

They may be accommodating, but you shouldn’t act without checking first. Assurances that you’ll fill and paper/paint any holes left behind and present the property in its full splendor will be more convincing.

Just know that your landlord will use your deposit to remedy any problems left behind.

Several types of smart device can require minor modification to property.

Smart locks: These locks require installation. Depending on the product, you might be able to simply bolt it on the door and when you move out, return the original one without much hassle.

If possible, choose a smart lock which easily fits your door. Key examples include the Yale L1 Smart Lock and HAIFUAN Stainless Steel 304 Smart Digital Door Lock.

Be sure to check your door material before buying as some locks are more suitable for wood, while others are designed for composite.

Video doorbells: The great thing about two-way talk Wi-Fi connected doorbells is that you can chat with the visitor via an app. You don’t even have to be home!

The Ring video doorbell is a good choice, requiring only minor fitting. It’s also compatible with Alexa.

Smart central heating: Connected boiler systems let you manage your heating, controlling the thermostat for hot water as well.

These devices let you set temperatures manually, or based on weather conditions, and are compatible with most heating systems. You’ve probably heard of the top smart heating kits, from Hive or Nest.

Security alarm: Looking for a security alarm with smart home functionality? These typically fall into two groups: motion detection for intruders, and smoke/gas detection.

The Veho Cave Smart Home Wireless Security Alarm System features motion and contact sensors with a central hub and mobile app.

For smoke and carbon monoxide detection, consider the Nest Protect, complete with app notifications and a split spectrum sensor to detect slow and fast burning fires.

Smart CCTV: Smart security cameras also feature motion detection, with Wi-Fi connectivity letting you check activity from any mobile device.

Various kits are available, often with Alexa integration. The Blink Indoor Home Security Camera System is one example, including five cameras for mounting (or placing) around your home.

Security and maintenance of smart devices

Once you’ve got your smart devices up and running, consider the importance of security and maintenance. While each piece of equipment will need specific attention, follow these tips to ensure everything is working right:

  • Check your router is secure and up to date
  • Regularly check smart equipment is connected to your network
  • Confirm smart home apps are updated
  • Update device firmware when required
  • Ensure apps are sending notifications
  • For smart cameras, ensure cloud storage is subscribed; if a microSD card is in use, check this regularly

In addition to these maintenance steps, ensure your smart home devices are secure. This typically means taking the time to change the default password. You should also set up a secure password on your smartphone, in case of theft.

Another vital step is to use the guest Wi-Fi capability of your network to connect smart home gear. This can protect other hardware on your network from insecure devices. Fortunately, most modern smart home hardware is designed with security in mind.

Concerned about Wi-Fi coverage for external devices like security cameras and sensors? Find a wireless repeater that can connect to your Wi-Fi router and extend the range of the signal.

Again, you’ll need to agree installation with your landlord, so perhaps factor this into your earlier discussions. If that doesn’t work out, however, don’t worry. Consider powerline adapters with wireless networking. They can do the same job as a wireless repeater without having to fit a Wi-Fi repeater to a wall.

Disclaimer

This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our category.

The Tenants' Voice works in conjunction with Deposit Recovery Claims to assist tenants.

If you experience problems with your tenancy deposit, have disrepair in your rented property or suspect that your landlord should have a licence to rent your property but does not have one then you can receive a free consultation by calling our advice service: Call Tenant Assist on 0333 344 3788.

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