Options for Rental Home and Apartment Security System: A Renter’s Guide to DIY Home Security

In Security Cameras by by jes

Can you set up a house or apartment security system in a rental?

As a former renter, I can tell you that I’d never really considered an apartment security system. All we had to choose from was ADT or Brinks, and at that time, only home owners had that option. But we live in a new world.  Whether you rent an apartment or a house, you have options for installing a home security system.  First the facts on burglary. Second the language you’ll need in your lease agreement. And finally, we’ll review the types of security cameras and devices that work for renters.

Did you know that according to National Crime Prevention Council renters are 85% more likely to be burglary victims than homeowners? I tried my hardest to figure out how they determined that number.  Without knowing how many people rent versus how many people own, that’s not a helpful number.  However, everything I found, such as these stats from the FBI or these from the Federal Bureau of Justice, report similar trends.  Across the board: renters experience higher rates of burglary (reference).  What we discovered in general was that apartment complexes with 10 or less units were more likely to be burglarized than larger ones. Single family homes fell into the second place. And last, apartments with 10 or more units were the least likely.

Who knows how people come up with numbers like this one. Our only point is that renters need to think about home security. Modern security camera systems make it much easier for renters to install them apartments and rental homes. What kind you choose will depend on your rental agreement. Most residential leases uses standard language regarding alternations.

Your rental contract should have a specific clause regarding alterations to your apartment. Typically, the language will read something like this:

Tenant Alterations:

Tenant shall not make any alterations, changes, replacements, improvements or additions (any of which is an Alteration) in and to the Property at any time, unless Tenant shall first obtain Landlords prior written consent, if required pursuant to Section 9.3. Landlord shall not be required to furnish any services or facilities or to make any improvements, repairs, replacements or alterations in or to the Property after the Lease Commencement Date. Landlords interest in the Property shall not be subject to any lien for work ordered by or furnished on behalf of Tenant.

Tenant Alterations:

All alterations, improvements, or additions to the demised Premises to be made by Tenant shall be subject to the written consent of the Landlord, which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld, provided such alterations and improvements do not weaken the structural integrity of the Building or detract from its dignity and/or uniformity. All alterations and improvements and/or additions made by Tenant shall remain upon the Premises at the expiration or earlier termination of this Lease and shall become the property of the Landlord, unless Landlord shall, at the time of approval of the alteration, provide written notice to Tenant to remove the same, in which event Tenant shall remove such alterations, improvements and/or additions, and restore the Premises.

Any questions about your lease?  Get consent before you install a rental home or apartment security system

If you install a security camera in your apartment or rental home without consent, you could be in violation of your lease.  If you leave any traces of the setup, then your security deposit can be withheld. From my experience as a renter in the U.S., as long as you leave no visible evidence of what you done, you’re good.

The basic rule of thumb is that you cannot do anything that alters the structure of the building.  Anything you do must be restored to its original condition.

Our advice is to let your landlord know what you want to do. Once you have gained their consent, make those changes on your existing lease and both you and your landlord should initial them or add an addendum to your lease. Typical language regarding a rental home or apartment security system will look something like this:

Rental Home or Apartment Security System

Tenant may, in accordance with Section 6 hereof and at its own expense, install its own security system (Tenants Security System) in the Premises; provided, however, that Tenant shall obtain Landlords prior consent with respect to the plans and specifications for Tenants Security System (which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld, conditioned or delayed), and shall coordinate the installation and operation of Tenants Security System with Landlord to assure that Tenants Security System is reasonably compatible with the Building Systems. Tenant shall be solely responsible, at Tenants sole cost and expense, for the monitoring, operation, maintenance, repair, replacement and removal of Tenants Security System.

If there are any disputes by your landlord or anyone in your building from then on, you’re covered.

I am focusing only on apartment security cameras and devices that act as your first line of defense. You can have any kind of camera you want around the house. We cover those throughout this site.

Can tenants put home security cameras outside their apartment or rental house?

Modern home security cameras make it possible for you install them in a rental home or apartment without altering the structure. For example, both Ring and Kuna security systems have porch light home security cameras that integrate with standard outdoor wall light installations.

Both of these cameras are motion activated, which means you’ll get a text message the second someone triggers them.  They also have two-way speakers so you can “answer” your door from wherever you are, whether you’re in the backyard or across the globe. If you rent a house, then these cameras are definitely a good option for you.

Apartment Door Security:  Can I  put security cameras outside my door?

Technically, there are some issues with installing security cameras outside of your apartment. For example, if you live in an apartment complex and share a front porch with the apartment next door, that’s community space.  If you live in a tower block apartment, then your hallway is community space. Any time you’re dealing with community space, you’re going to run into trouble with outdoor cameras.

So, the only way you could install cameras in the communal spaces of an apartment block is with your neighbor’s consent. Have a chat with them, tell them about your idea.  If they in agreement, then you can approach the landlord together.

Once you get several people in on the idea of an apartment security system, then you have your own sort of Neighborhood Watch committee. That alone will deter would-be thieves. Keep your neighbors informed about who might be coming around your place. Introduce them to your friends so they know when a stranger is lurking.

Can you put a security system inside an apartment?

According residential lease agreements, the inside of your apartment is your private space, which means that as long as you follow the standard rules on alterations, you can install your home security system in an apartment.  Only under strictly outlined circumstances can your landlord enter your home without prior approval, so there should be no expectation of your landlord’s privacy if he or she walks into your apartment. Check your lease to find out what those circumstances are.

Let’s take a look at some apartment-friendly security camera systems.

Interior Apartment door security camera

In order to stay within the terms of your lease, the key to using an apartment door security camera is not to do any damage to your apartment door.

One of the easiest options for renters is to install a door peephole security camera. Like the porch light cameras above work with standard outdoor lights, door peephole security cameras work with your existing peephole set up.

You’ll have to remove the existing peephole, but that’s not difficult at all. You can even use a quarter to bridge across the hole and screw it out.

One you remove the peephole, your peephole security camera fits right into that hollow space. They are adjustable according to your door’s thickness.

And again, like those porch light security cameras we mentioned, they are motion-activated, equipped to send you text messages, and allow you to communicate with the person at your door.

Apartment door security camera: Doorbell cameras

If your apartment has an existing doorbell, then the Ring Doorbell Camera might be an option for you. Like Ring’s other products, these cameras use your Wi-Fi network to alert you when someone comes to your door. You can view and HD video stream of anyone at your door, as well as speak directly to them. Ring doorbell cameras have over 9,000 reviews.  Their whole line of cameras in total, over 30,000 reviews.   If you want to know more, we have a full review of Ring products here.

If you want a less expensive option, you can take a look at the wireless doorbell kit from VueBell.

A Scary Recollection of a Stranger at my door

I lived in apartments for years before I owned. In all of that time, I had one really scary incident where a door camera could have prevented it entirely. While I was sitting in my apartment one night, someone knocked at the door. I looked through the peephole and a strange man was standing outside my door. I asked him who he was and he told me that he was a police officer. He said there was a report of the smell of marijuana coming out of my apartment.

Now, I was terrified – more from the idea that a police officer was at my door who thought I was smoking pot!  Can you believe that?  I was so afraid that I didn’t even ask for identification.  I know, I know. That was incredibly so naive. So, I let the cop in to prove to him that I wasn’t smoking anything.

He started looking around my apartment. Then he sat down in a chair. He started describing my every move for the last two weeks. He knew when I went to work and when I came home. This creep knew even what my friends looked like. I realized he’d been watching me for at least 2 weeks.

He asked me if I always allowed strange men into my home. Now, you’re not going to believe what happened next. He said, “you’re about to get raped.” Now, that that point, that scared little girl disappeared and someone else stepped into my body. I looked him right in the eye with a look that could kill and said, “oh no I’m not.”  Then something took over my whole being. I became possessed by a Raging Goddess archetype.  And it scared the living crap right out that guy.

I was hurling curse words and threats at him in a voice that sounded outright demonic. I got to my front door and outside before he could even get his ass off my chair. He ran out.

Lesson Learned: Get a front door security camera

Honestly, even to this day the incident is upsetting to recall. I felt stupid and vulnerable, despite the fact that I’d scared him. I was really afraid he’d come back. While that story did not end in the tragedy it could have, it also scared the living crap out of me. I was caught off guard.

This is another reason why you should get security cameras. They give you filter. If I’d had one, maybe I would have composed myself and asked for identification. My guess is that if he knew that I was looking at him and talking to him through a camera, he would have left.

Rental Home and Apartment Security System:  Window Security

Okay, so we have the doors covered. Now for me the next place I want to secure my apartment is my windows. In that same apartment complex from the story above (and this was a really nice complex – with hundreds of units), one of my neighbors woke up to a man crawling through her bedroom window.

With a window security camera my goal, is to see someone outside of my window. Your best option for that is a a motion-detection camera with  night vision installed outside your window. This might be possible if you live in a rental.  However, if you live in an apartment complex, it’s unlikely that you can install an outdoor camera. Unfortunately, you can’t aim an indoor camera at a window in order to see outside. Infrared cameras don’t work through glass and pixel shift motion detectors are unreliable.

If you can’t install a security camera, then your best bet is to secure your windows with alarm sensors, such as the SABRE Wireless Security Door and Window Burglar alarm. Once the door or window has been opened or penetrated, a 120 dB alarm goes off.

Window and Door Sensors


More options for Apartment Window Security

Another system that might be worth checking out is called the iSmartAlarm System. This system also sounds a siren, but for the cost of a motion-sensor upgrade, it will also send  you a text message if you’re out of the house.

To me, these are supplemental home security devices. I wouldn’t use only these.  You can continue to expand the system with cameras, but they just don’t seem to measure up to the other cameras we’ve seen.

Rental Home and Apartment Security Systems: Final Thoughts

Renters are no longer priced out of the market or shut out by their lease agreement in terms of diy home security. You may have only a few options, but they are really good options. Take advantage of that and secure yourself and your belongings.


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