Can Tenants Install Security Systems Without Landlord Permission?

Do you need to ask your landlord first if you want to install a security system, or can you set up a system without telling your landlord? Learn your options and tips on how to collaborate with your landlord to enhance security.

By
Nichole Stohler
|
Last Updated
January 18, 2024
Can Tenants Install Security Systems Without Landlord Permission?

The debate between tenants and landlords over who should be allowed to add security systems to rental properties can cause contention. From the tenants' perspective, the installation of surveillance cameras helps to protect their families and belongings.

This is understandable; who doesn't wish for more safety and security in their home? However, landlords also need to protect their rights and property. So, can tenants install security cameras?

In an ideal world for tenants, it'd be okay to just set up a camera or alarm without asking. Unfortunately, your lease may require getting the landlord's permission first for such upgrades. On the other hand, property owners can't just prohibit security systems altogether — tenants have a right to enhance safety measures in their living space.

So, let's explore the laws and regulations around security upgrades in a rental property. Tenants will learn when they need approval from the landlord before installing systems, and landlords will understand when they can and can't restrict security enhancements.

Apartment security camera laws

Laws regarding security cameras and other surveillance devices in rental properties vary by state. Some states require all parties to consent before installing recording devices in private spaces, while other states only require the consent of one party.

In general, tenants are allowed to install security devices like alarms and cameras inside their rental property, as long as the devices don't record shared or common spaces. However, even if state law doesn't require landlord consent, the lease agreement may require tenants to get permission before installing additional fixtures.

Can tenants install security cameras inside their rental units?

As previously mentioned, some states permit tenants to install indoor security cameras inside their own rental homes without notifying the landlord. If tenants decide to install cameras in their rented space, use WiFi cameras that don't require any physical installation or damage to the apartment building.

In states with two-party consent laws, these cameras cannot record audio. Tenants should also choose camera locations carefully to avoid accidentally capturing shared spaces or other units if they live in a multi-family building.

Review the lease agreement to check for clauses prohibiting tenants from installing cameras or making alterations without approval. If the lease doesn't mention security additions, installing an indoor surveillance camera is usually allowed without giving property managers notice.

Can a tenant install a security camera outside?

If you're thinking about installing outdoor security cameras, there are specific rules to be mindful of. Generally, tenants need permission from property management before installing outdoor surveillance systems.

This is because exterior spaces like lawns, walkways, and parking lots in an apartment complex are usually considered common areas used by other tenants. These spaces are under the control of property owners. Even if the outdoor camera only records the tenant's front door or parking spot, the landlord usually has the right to approve any fixtures on the external premises.

Installing outdoor cameras without consent could potentially violate the lease agreement, so check with your landlord to make sure you are not in violation of your lease.

Note that property owners might be open to external cameras if you politely make the request and position the camera without causing any disturbances. A helpful tip is to present the request as an added security measure that will also benefit the rental property and landlord. Framing it as a win-win for all parties can increase your chances of getting approval.

Getting landlord approval for security cameras

To avoid disputes or lease violations, tenants should get written permission before installing any security devices.

Send a polite email explaining what you want to install, where, and why. You can also increase your chances of success by explaining that you'll follow certain conditions like:

  • Only using specific equipment.
  • Strategically positioning cameras to avoid invasive views.
  • Providing access to footage if needed.
  • Removing cameras upon move-out.

Alternatives to traditional cameras

While security cameras are a popular choice for tenants, there are other security measures available that can provide security without worrying about potential privacy issues.

1. Motion sensors

Motion sensors can detect movement within their range and can send mobile alerts to notify you of any activity. You can stay alert to potential intrusions without the need for cameras.

2. Security alarm systems

Installing a self-monitored home security system with door/window sensors and motion detectors can give you alerts without the need for cameras.

You can also find systems that include additional features like smoke detectors and panic buttons.

3. Smart locks

While smart locks are a great modern option, tenants can't install or change locks without landlord approval. Smart locks work by automatically locking doors and providing authorized visitors with virtual keys or access codes. Check your lease agreement and with your property manager to verify rules.

Ways to find hidden cameras

If you suspect there are hidden security cameras installed on the rented property without your consent, here are some ways you can find them.

  • Visual inspection: Check for any unusual or out-of-place objects such as small holes, strange wires, or odd devices. Pay attention to areas like smoke detectors, wall sockets, lamps, or clocks, because these are the common hiding spots for hidden cameras.
  • Wireless signal detectors: Hidden cameras often transmit video signals wirelessly. You can use wireless signal detectors to scan the area and locate a hidden camera.
  • Infrared scanning: Some cameras on the market use infrared technology to capture images in low-light conditions. You can scan the room and look for any infrared light sources using an infrared scanning app on your smartphone. If a hidden camera is present, it may emit a faint red glow.
  • Radio frequency detectors: These detectors can help you identify hidden cameras that use radio frequencies to transmit data. They pick up any radio frequency emissions in the area so that you can pinpoint the location of a hidden camera.
  • Examining mirrors and reflective surfaces: You can also find a hidden camera by using two-way mirrors or reflective surfaces. Put your finger on any reflective surfaces or mirrors. If your reflection and finger don't meet exactly, there could be a camera behind it.

Advantages of having security cameras

Installing security cameras in your rental unit can have many advantages. The main appeal for most tenants is the increased safety and security that cameras can provide. 

Knowing your property is being monitored 24/7 when you're away or sleeping can provide significant relief from worries about potential home intrusions or damage. Plus, if any incident were to occur, the cameras would capture video evidence of it. 

Aside from safety, security cameras include potential discounts on your renter's insurance policy, the ability to conveniently check in on things from your smartphone no matter where you are, and even advanced AI features like people detection alerts and two-way communication. 

Can tenants install security cameras?

Generally, no. Installing security systems in a rental property without the landlord's permission is not advisable and could lead to disputes.

While tenants have reasonable privacy rights, landlords often reserve approval authority regarding fixtures and property alterations. Carefully review your individual lease terms and applicable state laws first before moving forward.

The best approach is to make any security concerns and installation requests to your landlord in writing. Clearly explain your proposed equipment, placement, and intent. With open communication and mutual understanding from the outset, both parties can feel comfortable with appropriate security precautions.

Can tenant install security system without landlord permission? FAQs

Can tenants be held liable for damages caused by security system installations?

Tenants could be held responsible for damages caused by security system installations. To avoid any issues, make sure to follow proper installation procedures, use approved equipment, and get permission from the landlord.

Can a tenant install a Ring camera?

A tenant's ability to install a Ring camera depends on their lease agreement and local laws, and often requires the landlord's permission.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of NicsGuide.com, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

A hand illustration holding a house with flowers coming out of the roofA logo spelling dont miss out, the rental rundown
Whether you're a property owner, renter, property manager, or real estate agent, gain valuable insights, advice, and updates by joining our blog newsletter.
Subscriber Identity
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
A green hill illustration with houses