Podcast 259: Issues with Smart Home Rentals

In a recently released settlement, a judge ordered landlords of an apartment building to provide a regular key for tenants who don’t want to use the smart lock…

The first settlement of it’s kind addressing privacy concerns from tenants over smart locks that have data sharing apps. Something to be aware of before dropping lots of money on smart devices for rental.

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Resources Mentioned in this Episode


The 3 Best Landlord Locks To Protect Your Rental Properties

Show Transcription:

00:00 Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Rentprep for landlords. I am your host Eric Worral. And this is episode 259 we’re going to be talking about smart devices, smart locks for your rental properties. The reason that we’re gonna be talking about this week is there was a recent news article actually popped up on May 7th, I’m reading this office CNET, but it’d be a title, is tenants when as settlement orders, landlords give physical keys over smart locks. So we’re going to be getting into that story and what the background of it is and things that you should be thinking about if you’re thinking about creating a smart rental apartment. All right, let’s get to that. Right after thi…

00:40 1,2,3,4 ya ya ya…Welcome to the RentPrep for landlords podcast. . and now your host, Steven White and Eric Worral.

00:47 So I saw this on that World wide web this week. And this comes from CNET, as I mentioned earlier. The author is Alford, a, n. G. I don’t know how to say that last name. Um, uh, I’ve seen it before, but I’m not sure how to say it. Uh, and as I mentioned the title is tenants when as settlement orders, landlords give physical keys over smart locks and reading through this article a little bit of set in a settlement release Tuesday. So by the time you hear this, this should be the previous Tuesday, a judge ordered landlords in an apartment building in New York to provide physical keys to any tenants who don’t want to use the latch smart locks installed on the building last September.

01:24 So the interesting thing about this, a new story out at New York City is that this is the first time this is, there’s no legal precedent or legislation deciding how landlords can use smart home technology. So this is the first time ever that there’s anything out there on the subject matter. Uh, the interesting thing though is that it won’t set a legal precedent because it’s a settlement, but it does represent a win for tenants who had issues with smart locks and landlords installing them against their will. So the reason that the tenants were upset is they thought that this app that was needed to be used to access the building, that it was tracking their location and they thought there was privacy concerns. The a company that was mentioned earlier, latch smart locks, says that’s actually not how it works. We don’t share your location data or anything like that.

02:09 Uh, but there’s a little bit back and forth. And it turns out the, uh, the judge decided a sided with, uh, the tenants on this one. Um, it’s an interesting story in the fact that it’s the first one right there. There’s always a first, especially with like legal legislation, it’s always sliding behind what’s actually happening because for there to be, uh, something, uh, precedent to a reference for this, it would have had to have already happened before. And smart locks have only been around for a few years and this is the first time that it’s become an issue. Uh, I think it’s kind of lean towards it being a little ridiculous, but they do have one story in here. Um, as you read down the article, it talks about a tenant who is 93, who wasn’t capable of using a phone and found himself trapped in his home because of the smart locks.

02:51 My, uh, grandmother rest her soul. I used to get calls from her, we used to get calls from her on the house phone back in the day and she say her printer was broke and there was this, this, uh, what was it called? That cone king. It was an ice cream place that was around the corner or whatever. And uh, you know, you’d go over there and there’d be a giant comb, king coupon just lodged in the paper tray or something like would always be something ridiculous. Or you’re like grandma, like you’ve got to comb king coupon in the printer. Well, I can understand how somebody who’s 93 maybe doesn’t have the technical savvy to operate a smartphone and to open up their home that way. So in my opinion it does make sense to at least provide the option. Um, I think when it comes to tenants that are just worried about their privacy, I mean honestly your privacy at this point.

03:35 And I’ve got a Google home sitting next to me right now and it’s funny, as, I said that it just turned on a is probably listening to everything that’s happening right now and knows everything about me somehow. So, uh, I think being worried about your landlord really digging into the data where you are, I don’t think that’s going to happen with a smart device like this. They’re not going to share that data with your landlord anyways, but that’s neither here nor there. I, it’s still an interesting article in the fact that is the first time that this has been addressed. And I thought it would be a nice excuse to talk about smart home devices for your rental properties. Because it’s something I’ve thought about. Uh, I flirted around with it with my own home. Um, what I found, at least from my experience is there’s a certain level of complexity where it’s not worth the hassle, but there is a certain level where you’re like, wow, that’s super convenient.

04:24 And tenants, you’re going to appreciate it. So at my rental property, I know some people are not big on the Kwikset smart keys. They say that they can be, uh, busted open forest manually open or something like that. I don’t really worry about that. If somebody wants to get into the apartment that bad that they’re gonna, you know, take crowbars and things of that nature to get in, they’re going to get in, in my opinion. Um, I have the smart key, uh, so it makes for rekeying very easy. But one of the things I love about it is got to key pad on it. And I forget what version is. They have all sorts of different ones. There’s like nine 50, eight, nine 57, but if you go to home depot, you see them in the aisle, they got the keypad to get in.

05:00 Uh, the thing that it’s great for his lockouts, um, the number of issues that I’ve had as far as lockouts and it has gone down dramatically. It just not a problem anymore because somebody just has to remember their code to get in. So then they had the option to use their key or the code. Um, but the other, uh, the benefit of it that I didn’t really think of was I attendance do head problem, closing the community door. It’s a duplex and the side door, they would just leave it open and it would drive me nuts. And I hate to stereotype, you know, a certain age, right? Cause you shouldn’t do that. But I kind of feel okay doing it because I’m a tail end millennial, uh, at 33 years old. But they’re younger renters and the effort of having to close the door and stick a key in and lock it and then leave, it’s just way too much.

05:45 You can’t be bothered with that. I’m sure somebody is going to be coming and going behind me anyways. I’ll just leave it open. So the tenants upstairs were rightfully so, getting annoyed that they were leaving the door open the side door to the building. So what I did when I put that, um, quick set key, uh, the smart key on the, uh, the, the door is I removed the functionality for it to even close unless they lock it. So the door, the hinge actually forces the door open a little bit, but now when they pull it shut, all they have to do is just click a button and it’s the little lock icon on the, uh, on the smart key around the a Kwikset a lock. And it just automatically just locks it and it’s good to go. And what I found is that in a little bit of less of effort on their behalf, um, now they’re locking the door behind them.

06:31 And maybe that’s something on my end where I should’ve been threatening them with notices and letting them know. But I think that’s one of the things that, you know, landlords struggle with where you’re like, oh, like do I need to explain to this person why they should close and lock their doors? Like, do I explain this to them? And you kind of start feeling like a parent and that’s where you start to feel like you start to lose your stand and the a little bit, but sometimes in some situations there’s things you can do to just make it easier. So that doesn’t become an issue. Uh, you know, remove the ability to even close. So the, the, the handle of that door used to have a locking mechanism on it too. And it had the pin, the cylinder on it that would, you know, actually closed the door.

07:10 I removed that. So that was just a loose handle that all it acted as was a way to open and close the door as far as being able to give you something to grab onto. So then they had to pull the door shut and then just press that lock button. Otherwise that thing is, you know, swinging wide open because of the way the hinge was set up. And, uh, trust me, it just eliminated that issue. So, uh, one of the things that we’ve been working on here at Rentprep is really trying to work on the business instead of in the business. So much that’s coming out of a reading a book at the recommendation of a Gen, if you’ve ever watched her on one of the episodes of ask property manager, she recommended this book called Traction, which we all read and it’s great and you realize how many times there’s little things that you just deal with because you’re like, ah, i’ll only take me like two minutes and only take me five minutes.

07:56 But you deal with those things over and over and over again and they suck you of your energy, they suck you of your time and you know by the end of the month, the end of the year, you’re like, wow, I spent like 15 hours doing that. And if I had just, instead of spending two to five minutes to address it each time, just spent 15 to 30 minutes to actually come up with a more solid solution and put an end to it, I wouldn’t have had that reoccurring thing popping up in my life over and over and over again. And I do believe that some smart devices help you with that. In my home. I have a smart light bulbs. I have Google home, I have a, I do have a smart lock on the front door, but it doesn’t connect in that way. But I just installed the ring doorbell.

08:38 So, uh, that’s been really handy. I know when people are coming and going now and if you look into the details as far as our rental property, eh, that’s kind of a grey area. Most places say it’s fine to have, uh, some sort of surveillance on the outside of the property and having, you know, a ring doorbell, which costs me 99 bucks. And then if you want the monthly package, it’s 10 bucks. I think as long as there’s an internet connection, it can hook up to, you’re going to have video footage of everything that’s coming and going out of the apartment on the outside of the house. So that’s something that if you’re going to go that route on a rental property, you probably want to at least check your local laws. Your state law is your city laws. Make sure that it’s something that you can do.

09:16 But from my understanding on the outside of the rental property, surveillance is not an issue. It’s when it’s in the inside is when you’re really, um, you’re really, uh, you know, interfering with people’s privacy. So he never, even if it’s on the outside, you don’t even want to be able to see into a window. Like it needs to be on the outside only of the property. Uh, but for the a rental property, of course the amenities that you put into it are going to attract certain type of runner. If it’s in a area of town that tends to attract young business professionals who are going to get a kick out of, you know, Oh, this apartment I already came, like wifi ready with a Google home set up in and the front door works, you know, they’re going to love that. Uh, but in the case of a, this story where they forced a 93 year old person to have a smart lock on their door that can only be operated from their phone and they got locked inside of their apartment.

10:10 Not a great feature. Right. So, yeah, I think you need to think of those things too. Like what kind of apartment do you have? Where is it located? Are people going to appreciate these kinds of features added then or are they gonna find them to be a nuisance? The level of features that you can add two apartment complexes takes it to another level. I mean there’s, I’ve seen products out there, I think once called the water scrooge where it will actually let you know when there is a toilet leak. So if you have like a thousand units it’ll say, hey, unit 982 has a leaky toilet and that’s going to cost you hundreds of dollars a month and it’ll identify that poor you through some sort of technology. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I mean there is no end to the level of technology that you can outfit an apartment with.

10:49 Um, but typically for longterm rentals, I think people typically aren’t paying for the Wifi and kind of keep it simple. But when you get to the short term rentals is where I think you can really make a lot of sense because then in that case, you know you probably are supplying the Wifi and then in that case you can also put in a ring doorbell. So if somebody comes up, they can ring the doorbell, it opens on your phone. And my parents were, uh, babysitting for me this week. Uh, we don’t have coverage on Monday. So there at the house and I got a little ring notification on my phone, pops up, I can see my dad coming in with a coffee and I just jokingly like kick hit the call button and start talking to them through the doorbell. So if you have a short term rental, absolutely.

11:30 Like I’d say, get the Wifi, get the package, get the ring doorbell, whatever the doorbell is that you want. Nest has them a bunch of different options out there, but there’s so many ways to make it more convenient for yourself. So just don’t have to think about, uh, you know, if you have any ideas on it. If you guys have found any smart devices that were for your property, you know, hit me up at a rentprep, eric@rent-prep. I’d love to hear about it. And then, uh, also consider the legal implications right now. There’s still no official, a precedent since this one actually just settled out of court. Uh, but this is something that the courts are looking at now and tenants are aware of and they’re, you know, people are more and more concerned about their privacy as we lose more and more of it, uh, by, uh, just be aware of it and, uh, think about what works for you and your situation. So, uh, just one article this week, guys just wanted to cover that. And, uh, I’ll link to the resources in this article and I believe we also have a nice article on landlord box if you’re looking at smart locks and different ones to consider, I’ll link to that from the podcast as well. All right guys. Have a great rest of your week and I’ll catch up with you next week.