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Discussion: Do Renters Have The Right to a “Dumb” Apartment?

March 8th, 2019 Discussion

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Do renters have the right to reject smart home technology?

by Molly Wood
Twitter: @mollywood
Pictured: A Google smart device. While these kinds of smart devices are the choice of the consumer, do tenants have a right to refuse smart technology built into their apartment?
Photo Cred: Thomas Kolnowski on Unsplash

Smart homes full of connected devices aren’t just for those who own their houses. And if you’re a renter, you might get a smart apartment whether you want one or not. In January 2019, security researcher and blogger Lesley Carhart got a letter from her landlord saying their building was getting internet-connected door locks. Her response was, “No, thank you.” Host Molly Wood talked with Carhart about the big business of smart apartments. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Molly Wood: What are the pros of smart apartments?

Lesley Carhart: There are a lot of good reasons for implementing this technology. First of all, it makes it easier for rental properties to manage and maintain the units, especially when they’re unoccupied. They can do things like monitor for water leaks. They can also make an added convenience for their users, which is a good sell for potential residents. You can change your temperature from your phone. You can grant access to people when you’re not home and know who’s accessing your apartment when. There are a lot of benefits in terms of convenience and also the ability for apartment management companies to require less staff to do things like show apartments.

Wood: What are the cons, ranging from physical security to privacy?

Carhart: I often tell people that, in terms of security, things can be quick, cheap, secure, but not all three at once. In this case, the industry is asking for this to be implemented quickly and cheaply. Consumers really need to be asking for security here for multiple reasons. First of all, you’re sending a tremendous amount of data about the way that you live, who’s home, when you’re home, when you go to work. You’re sending that out over the internet to multiple parties. You would ostensibly want to send that securely. Also, the lock, of course, is granting access to your apartment. You want to be certain that nobody malicious can grant access to your apartment in a way that, unlike breaking into a window or breaking a lock off a door, is not really easily detectable.

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