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What Do You Need to Know About An Alarm System and Fire Alarm System If You Are a Landlord

If you are a landlord looking to figure out what your responsibilities and liabilities are with your property in regards to a burglar alarm or fire alarm, there are several things that you need to consider.  First, if there is an existing burglar alarm system in the residence, that is an attractive feature for many tenants. If you are going to put it in the lease that one of the benefits of renting that residence is being protected by the burglar alarm system, it would be wise to either yourself, or even more advisable to have an alarm professional take a look at the system, test all of the components of the entire system, and make sure it is all working correctly. 

What landlords should know about alarm systems for rental units

The second thing to consider with a residential burglar alarm system in a rented property is whether or not the system is monitored.  A monitored system is much more attractive to potential tenants. With a monitored alarm system, in the event of an emergency or a break-in, the alarm would send out its message to emergency services.  If you are providing a monitored burglar alarm system, you will at minimum need a telephone land line available to connect to the alarm system. This telephone land line is the avenue that your alarm system will use to send out its messages to emergency services.  

A better, faster, and probably far more convenient way to provide for the burglar alarm system to send out its message would be to use a cellular radio. This is like a cell phone that is installed and connected to your burglar alarm system. The advantage here is that perpetrators have figured out that the way to defeat a lot of burglar alarm systems is to cut the telephone line. The burglar alarm system will still ring locally on the premises, but it is unable to send out its message to emergency services.  The cost for a cellular radio is a one-time charge for the unit itself (It can be more if you have the alarm company install the unit for you and connect it to your burglar alarm system) and usually an additional charge for monitoring. The reason for the additional monitoring charge is basically to pay for the costs of using the cell towers to send out the message to emergency services. It is the equivalent of paying the monthly fee to use your cell phone.  

A cellular radio is better protection because it cannot be compromised by a potential home invader, it is able to send out its message faster to emergency services than using a telephone landline, and with turnover of tenants in your rental property, you are not going to want to deal with changing or cancelling telephone land lines. 

If you do not have an existing burglar alarm system already in your residential rental property, your choices start with do you want to use an alarm company (Either national or local), or do you want to go the Do It Yourself (DIY) route?  Using an alarm company can be a good choice as they will have trained professionals available to answer your questions and meet with you on the premises to discuss your desired level of security. They can also tailor a specific burglar alarm system for your unique application.  

If you are considering going the DIY route, understand that you do not have to be a trained alarm technician to be able to install a state-of-the-art alarm system.  There are plenty of DIY alarm companies that can easily be found online using whatever search engine you prefer. These DIY companies also provide technical support with trained professionals that you can talk to over the telephone.  These professionals can also help you determine the best way to protect your property. This technical support services can walk you through step-by-step or point you to websites and videos that will show you exactly how to find the right equipment and components to meet your security needs.  Most alarm companies’ professional installers can install a wireless alarm system for a home in half a day. It should not take you more than a day to install yours.  

When discussing a fire alarm in a rental application whether residential or commercial, things can get complicated and expensive pretty fast.  To find out what, if anything is required, I would recommend that you contact your local fire marshal. The fire marshal will know the fire codes that apply to your situation.  In most residential applications, you will need smoke detectors (regular 9 volt units that you can buy at most hardware stores) on each level of the home and in each sleeping area/bedroom.  If any more fire protection is necessary, your local fire marshal will be able to help you make sure you are legal. In terms of a commercial fire alarm system, most commercial buildings are required by their states to install a monitored fire alarm.  

Once again, your local fire marshal should be able to help you understand the level of protection you will need for your building to be legal. The fire alarm will be a combination of smoke detectors, heat sensors, pull stations, and horn strobes. The reason that I said earlier that it can become complicated and expensive very quickly is that the required number of these devices and the other equipment and components needed can very expensive. The liability involved in a rented or leased residential or commercial application increases exponentially.  You must be extremely careful and thorough when having a fire alarm installed. Even the wiring for the fire alarm system must meet specific standards. It must be fire grade wiring, which is obviously more expensive.  

I would not recommend using a DIY alarm company for a commercial fire alarm.  You are going to need a real alarm company also because most municipalities require the commercial fire alarm to be professionally inspected every year. In order to cover yourself and limit your liability, I would recommend working with a real alarm company that will be able to have a fire specialist help you understand what is required of you for a commercial application, design a system to meet those needs, professionally install the system into the facility, and set up a schedule for inspecting the system to keep you compliant in your local municipality.   

If you’d like to learn more about protecting your rental properties, contact our home security experts today!