Safe & Sound: Great Home Security Options for Renters

Safe & Sound: Great Home Security Options for Renters

Carley Knobloch
Nov 16, 2015

According to a Consumer Electronics Association study, only 12% of renters have a security system. That’s a crummy statistic, made even worse by this one: Rented homes are twice as likely to be burgled as owner-occupied homes. There are so many barriers to installing a security system for renters that it’s not hard to see why. Most landlords won’t allow renters to install anything that involves wiring or drilling into the wall, and even if you were given the green light, high monthly fees and a long-term contract might make you opt for a German Shepherd instead.

Fortunately, there’s a whole new breed of security products aimed right at renters that make security an affordable, easy option (that won’t drool on your duvet). None of them require drilling, or long-term contracts. All of them can be set up in minutes and offer 24/7 home monitoring that puts you in the driver’s seat, not a call center. All you need is a WiFi connection and a smartphone to start feeling like you and your family are a bit more protected.

These products are new-ish, and many have overlapping features, so it can be a bit challenging to figure out what you need and which one to invest in. So let’s kick the tires on a few.

Keeping an Eye Out

At the heart of many of these systems is a high-resolution camera with a wide lens. Positioned in a strategic part of the house, it can get a good view of the comings and goings of inhabitants (or invaders) and send you alerts on your smartphone when they detect motion. Products like the Nest Cam connect to an app and let you check on your home from wherever you are. You can even use the two-way audio feature to speak to members of your household (this feature is great for scaring the pants off people, and is also useful for telling the dog to get off the couch while you’re at the office). They do need to be plugged in at all times, so sometimes it’s a struggle to position them in a strategic place that also has an outlet nearby. Plus they don’t come cheap: At $199 each, they’re missing some of the more sophisticated features of the products below with the same price tag.
The Withings Home ($199) has many of the same features, but will also send you air quality alerts, and can serve as a baby monitor, nightlight, and will even play lullabies. My favorite feature of the Withings home is that it integrates with Apple TV— new parents can now watch their children sleep on a big screen in HD.

Face Facts

Other home monitoring systems get personal to keep your family safe. Systems like Netatmo Welcome ($199)and Simplicam ($149) have facial recognition: Alerts will tell you exactly who got home (great for tracking your teenagers arrival from school, or when the dog walker came and left)... and will send you a “stranger” alert for everyone else, showing you a screenshot so you can quickly determine if it’s an intruder, or just your aunt Rosie who is a little too liberal with that emergency key. The Sentri home control system allows you to control other devices like Philips Hue lightbulbs, so you can use app to turn the lights on remotely, making it look like you’re home when you’re not. Sentri's price tag is steep at $299, but it’s the prettiest one of the bunch, with it’s large, customizable touchscreen, and an interface that doesn’t require you to reach for your smartphone, which is a nice change as more of our home’s appliances become app-operable.


Sensors are standard on a traditional alarm system, and can tell you that a door or window has been opened or closed. They also have to be wired into the system, which is costly and permanent— a no-no for the landlord. Wireless sensors, however, can be placed anywhere with a little adhesive, and the results are even better. Linked to a smart home monitoring system, they can not only tell you what was opened, but by whom, thanks to those cameras. No need to stop at doors an windows: You can use wireless sensors to track entry into a liquor cabinet (delinquent kids be warned!), or the freezer (so you’ll know who ate the last of the rocky road). In fact, strategically-placed wireless sensors are great way to keep tabs on an aging grandparent from afar. Samsung’s SmartThings Kit ($249) includes two sensors, with more available for purchase so you can begin to build out your home’s fortress. Piper (shown at the top of the posts, $199) doesn’t come with any sensors, but you can add them for $39 each (extra SmartThings sensors are the same price).

Sirens & Emergency Buttons

When I think of a traditional alarm system, it usually involves the pleasantness of a deafening siren, ringing through the neighborhood. In fact, according to a Freakonomics study, 2/3 of homeowners with traditional alarm systems don’t use them because false alarms are so frequent (and costly). New options are a little more intelligent: Alerts to your phone let you evaluate the situation, and either sound an alarm, call the police, or tell the app that everything looks okay. Piper ($199; $249 for Night Vision model) has easy-to-set “Home” and “Away” modes, so the system is on alert when you’re not there, and gives you some privacy when you are. Piper will also let you connect up to 5 units to monitor a home that’s too large for one camera to see all important entry points.
Canary ($199) also has a loud siren that’s ready to sound if you see an intruder, and has quick buttons that connect you to local authorities. Canary also has temperature sensors that can detect fluctuations that might mean your house is on fire— another way to give you peace of mind whether you’re home or not.
Home security has definitely gone high tech, and that’s good news for renters, or anyone for whom a costly, traditional system was out of reach. With all these great solutions, you can tell your German Shepherd to go take a nap on the sofa.

Greetings! Carley Knobloch here, digital lifestyle expert. I am BEYOND thrilled to be writing for Apartment Therapy! When I'm not digitally-lifestyling it up, I'm tweaking something-or-other in my house, so I'm always trolling the ol' AT for home inspo.

I'm also a regular correspondent on the Today Show, and the smart home expert for HGTV, where I help audiences understand the ever-evolving world of home technology in an easy, approachable way.

Anyhoo, why am I here, exactly? I’m on a mission to tackle those home tech headaches that make you want to rip your router out of the wall and go live in a yurt. Because, can be just… hard. To navigate all this tech stuff. To keep things up and running, you know? I’m here to help.

For more tech hijinks, check out my blog, or follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

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