Home Security: Save Money, Avoid Legal Fees

AMA9-1-13Home security issues – from break-ins to slips on a sidewalk — fuel a multibillion-dollar industry that includes technology, consumer advice and even medical and legal fees. Although residential security is a necessity for every property owner, it’s an especially thorny area for landlords, who have to fulfill legal requirements as well as accommodate the concerns of tenants.

Certain kinds of basic home security fall under a landlord/investor’s legal responsibilities. It’s a landlord’s duty to provide doors with working locks and appropriate indoor and outdoor lighting. The landlord/tenant rules in all states require landlords to provide a working smoke detector, too, and in some states, even a carbon monoxide detector. And security in common areas such as sidewalks and laundry facilities is always a landlord’s responsibility

Although homeowners are flooded with advertising for the latest in home security technology, landlords are under no obligation to provide advanced security systems, alarms or surveillance hardware. If landlords do install these things, though, it’s their responsibility to maintain them in good working order, or they could be held liable if an incident occurs.

Tenants can – and do – install their own security devices, and that’s an area that requires clear guidelines, preferably in the lease or rental agreement, to prevent major problems. Generally, tenants need to get a landlord’s permission before installing any kind of security system or making changes to existing ones, and landlords aren’t obligated to maintain these kinds of systems. If a tenant signs a contract with an alarm system provider, for example, and then moves away before the contract term is up, the landlord isn’t responsible for carrying that contract.

A more troublesome area, though, is the question of access to the property. Landlords can legally enter properties under certain circumstances, and that can cause problems unless the issue is clearly addressed in the lease. Both tenants and landlords must have keys to the property, and if a landlord has installed other security, both parties need to have the security codes at other means of accessing it.

If a tenant installs an alarm system that requires a code, the landlord has a right to ask for the code in order to exercise the legal right of access to the property, which includes emergencies, scheduled repairs and showing to prospective tenants.

If you ‘re building wealth through investment property as Jason Hartman recommends, keeping that property secure is the job of both you and your tenants. Clarifying those responsibilities from the outset in writing protects both parties – and your property.(Top image: Flickr/USCPSC)_

Ferland, Carrie. “Do Landlords Have an Obligation to Protect Their Tenants?” SFGate Homeguides. HomeguidesSFGate.com 29 Aug 2013

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