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The best home security for apartment renters’ peace of mind

A room in an apartment building.

No one wants to feel unsafe in their own home — that’s just a fact. Whether you own the property or rent it, there should be no difference when it comes to how secure you feel living in that space. But, maybe your landlord doesn’t see the merit in putting up an apartment building security system for their tenants. Or, maybe you just want to keep proverbial watch over your space for your own peace of mind. Whatever the reason may be, you deserve to have a solid sense of security and safety for yourself, your family, and your possessions.

It used to be the case that home security systems were mostly for really rich people and their mansions. But the advent of the “smart home” and consumer demand for products they can install by themselves have helped lead to much more affordable and accessible home security gear and systems. We’ve rounded up our favorite home security systems before, but apartment dwellers and renters have different needs (namely, getting your security deposit back in full).

So, that’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best security systems and home security gadgets to help apartment renters feel a little more at ease in their abodes without putting holes in the walls or causing any other damage to their living space.

One thing you won’t find here, however, is any recommendation for Ring products because, frankly, they have hella bad vibes. But seriously, a study by the EFF found that they send personalized and identifiable data to third-party trackers, and Ring footage is (or was) stored in the easily-hacked cloud which Amazon employees have access to. Not cool at all. 

Why do I need home security?

Home security shouldn’t be a luxury afforded only to homeowners. No matter what kind of neighborhood you live in, a home security system can provide the ultimate peace of mind. This is especially true if you live alone — which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was 28% of all U.S. households in 2021.

“Home security” doesn’t always mean catching burglars or vandals in the act, or keeping an eye on other potential intruders to your home, though. Apartment security systems — particularly entry sensors — are also really beneficial for households with kids. These sensors are installed on windows and doors (or even cabinets), and they sound an alarm when the entry point is opened, ensuring that you always know if your little one is getting into trouble that they shouldn’t be. 

Indoor home security cameras are also a good option for keeping tabs on babies and kids in nurseries and playrooms (and misbehaving pets, too). They can also make you aware of accidents, like fires and burst pipes, so authorities can be alerted before extensive damage occurs. The same is true if you care for a relative who is elderly or has a medical condition that might require emergency assistance at a moment’s notice.

Aside from all of those important safety reasons, there’s a financial benefit too. Having an apartment security system set up in or around your rental can also help you save on renter’s insurance.

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What does a renter need in a home security system?

The best home security for apartments consists of renter-friendly devices that don’t require any alterations or professional installation, like drilling holes into the walls or hooking up to existing wiring. These security cameras, motion sensors, alarm systems, and other security equipment should also be easy to move to another property if or when that time comes. For these reasons, you’ll want to seek out home security devices that can be stuck onto surfaces with adhesive strips (rather than screwed in) without causing damage to the property.

Removable sticky strips of some sort will typically be included with your security devices, but if they’re not — or the ones provided aren’t the best — you should be able to easily supplement with high-quality 3M Command strips of either the adhesive or velcro variety. (The ones designed for hanging picture frames should be good.) No matter the brand or style, just keep in mind that you’ll want to keep the removal instructions handy and follow them carefully when it’s time to take your security devices down so you don’t cause damage. You may even need to apply a little heat from a hair dryer or heat gun to help the removal process.

Aside from easy, non-damaging installation, renters should also seek out apartment security systems that don’t require long-term contracts for professional monitoring or subscriptions. Even if you plan to live there for a while, it’s best to opt for a month-to-month service or choose to self-monitor your space for free.

What typically comes in a full home security system?

A full home security system for apartments will typically include most or all of the following:

  • Security camera. Either freestanding or easily mounted with adhesive, these smart devices can alert you about an intruder or emergency, or help you keep an eye on loved ones, all via an app.

  • Motion detector. Stuck in an entryway or in the corner of a room, these can send you app notifications to alert you of movement in your home when you’re not there.

  • Entry sensors. These devices are composed of two pieces that sit side-by-side on the edge of a door or window, sounding an alarm when the point of entry is opened. “Smart” ones can even notify you via an app.

  • Keypad. This will allow you to arm and disarm your alarm system when you leave and return home, though some systems are controlled completely through a smartphone app instead.

  • Home base. Smart home security systems will require all of the devices to connect to WiFi to communicate with each other and you, typically through a smart home hub that’s provided in the kit.

  • Doorbell camera. This will allow you to greet visitors while away or get notified when a package arrives at your door. (Just be cool about it and don’t use it to be a creep or narc on your neighbors.)

  • Smart lock. Smart lock devices allow you to access your apartment via an app rather than your key, and let you lock and unlock the door remotely. This is great for those who tend to misplace their keys a lot, or can never remember whether or not they locked the door on their way out. Some even allow you to unlock the door hands-free when you get close, which is super useful for those times when your arms are full of groceries or kids.

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Do I need professional monitoring?

Full home security systems also typically offer buyers the option of signing up for professional monitoring. This service employs trained agents to keep a 24/7/365 watch over your smart security devices for you, and they’ll quickly alert police, fire, and other emergency services as needed. 

Professional monitoring is typically a non-negotiable for homeowners’ full-fledged security systems and is often tied to a lengthy contract. However, the best security systems for renters allow for monthly subscriptions to professional monitoring, with no hidden fees or contracts. Or, you can completely opt out and just monitor the system yourself, relying on smartphone app notifications while you’re away and individual alarms while you’re home. 

The choice is a personal one, depending on your security needs and concerns. But because it’s usually offered to renters on a month-to-month basis, you can always try it and then opt out if you feel it’s overkill (without incurring any sort of penalty).

What is a DIY home security system and what do I need for one?

Renters live in a variety of apartment complexes and house-like dwellings, so your needs may vary greatly from what’s provided in a full home security system. Fortunately, you can buy all of the same home security devices à la carte — from motion detectors and entryway sensors to security cameras and smart locks — to suit your particular apartment complex or home rental needs.

For example, a renter living in a high-rise apartment building may have only one door that opens out to a hallway and a few windows that are completely inaccessible to any nefarious activity from the outside. This apartment renter might opt for a bare-bones, DIY home security system that includes one door sensor and maybe a motion detector for their entryway.

On the other hand, a person renting a space in a more suburban or even rural area may have access to a backyard and a front porch, and have lots of windows that can be accessed from outside. In this case, the renter may opt for more motion detectors or security cameras to cover more outdoor space, and more window and door sensor alarms for all the various entry points. 

Just be sure that if you’re buying smart devices a la carte, you’ll probably want a smart home hub — like an Amazon Alexa-enabled Echo or the Google Nest — to connect everything and give you more streamlined control of your DIY home security system. It would probably also be a good idea to try and buy all the devices from the same brand so everything plays nicely together, and so you can control everything in the same app.

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