Best Home Security Systems for Renters in 2020
Best Overall Value
A state-of-the-art system and advanced home automation features.
Best DIY System
Easy-to-setup. Small, powerful, and stylish. No middlemen. No contracts.
Best Home Automation
The oldest—and possibly the most trusted—home security provider in the U.S.
Home security systems have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. And thankfully, renters no longer need to set an appointment with a professional installer, nor pay exorbitant amounts, to feel safer in their homes. Modern alarm systems offer flexibility, convenience, and peace of mind.
As a renter, ensuring the safety of one’s home and valuables, as well as loved ones and pets inside, is important. Home security systems are perfect for deterring thieves, keeping an eye on pets while at work, and protecting deliveries once they arrive.
What is a home security system?
A home security system is a network of sensors and devices that work together to monitor unauthorized activity and intrusions. Systems can be purchased as a bundled package of components, or on a customizable piece by piece basis. Many can even be installed by customers themselves, as opposed to trained professionals from the security company.
What's more, home security systems for renters cover the gamut in terms of complexity, and may consist of just a few sensors and a base station or a network of dozens of sensors and devices depending on home size and security goals.
Why should I get a home security system for renters?
A home security system can help deter break-ins, home invasions and theft, as well as prevent flooding, and detect firesand unsafe levels of carbon monoxide. Many security systems also come with a 24/7 monitoring service so that law enforcement can be contacted during an emergency.
What are the key features to look for in a home security system for renters?
When evaluating home security system options, you'll come across a variety of different options. As such, it's important to have a good foundational understanding of which ones are absolute must-haves based on your goals, needs, and budget. While home security systems are more affordable than ever, the numbers can really start to add up when advanced features are tacked onto the foundational basics of the system itself.
Push to connect
Most smart devices are now effortlessly networked, and the best home security systems should be too. The key is to ensure that all “network components,” including things like security cameras and motion sensors, are able to “talk” to display devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops and even TVs.
Traditional home security systems require the hardware to be linked to the electrical system of the home, which is labor-intensive and expensive to install. Thankfully, wi-fi connectivity is becoming more and more common for electronics, and as a result, many home security system manufacturers now incorporate this technology into their products as well. Modern home security systems are simpler to install, don’t require drilling into walls and are more visually appealing.
Discreet door and window sensors
No one wants to feel like they are living in a high-security compound. Small, discreet sensors can be easily attached to doors and windows with strong, yet removable, stickers. This improves security, without detracting from the aesthetics of the rental unit itself.
Most security companies require long-term contracts that range from 2 to 4 years. The monthly fees for a security package, which include monitoring and equipment rental, can be both expensive and inconvenient for renters who want to end the service early. Early cancellation charges and clauses in the contract can also end up making the security system more of a hassle.
The best security firms don’t outsource monitoring to other companies. They have their own dedicated monitoring centers that conform to industry best practices. Having dedicated monitoring systems allow them to have faster reaction times in case of an emergency. When a robbery takes place, the speed of dispatching a response team is critical to catching the criminals and protecting the victims.
Almost all home security systems have a battery backup in case of power failures. What this means is that they can still monitor the unit for intrusions, unauthorized entry or environmental hazards and sound the alarm for up to 24 hours after the power outage starts. It's important to note, however, that monitoring systems may not work if the mobile network or Internet connection is affected.
Home security system FAQs
Do simple, affordable home security systems for renters actually exist?
The new generation of home security systems is more affordable, as well as easier to install. This makes them ideal for renters since they no longer require specialized skills or expensive professional installations.
Basic systems consist of surveillance cameras that stream video footage to smartphones, with customization options that include everything from door and window sensors and smart lights to thermostats and video doorbells.
How do home security systems protect against fire and floods?
Many of the best security systems include equipment that senses carbon monoxide. Once the sensor detects dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, an alarm sounds and the customer can be alerted of the danger. Similarly, smoke detectors can also sound the alarm in the event of a fire.
Some systems also include water detectors, which are sensors that can be placed in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements to detect flooding. In such cases, most modern security systems can send a message or alert to mobile phones to alert the user.
Why install a home security system yourself?
Up until recently, home security systems required professional installation, which meant they become a permanent fixture to the property. This often violated specific terms within rental agreements, so many renters were unable to take advantage of all the benefits that home security systems afford.
Modern systems are simple to install, and in many cases, can be dismantled and removed when the renter moves out. What's more, some landlords will even agree to help defray the cost of the system, since they have a vested interest in ensuring the property remains safe and secure.
Will my pet trigger a false alarm on my home security system?
Often, customers don’t activate their security system’s motion sensors for fear of their pets setting off false alarms. Too many false alarms due to motion detection can result in heavy fines and possibly even being placed on a ‘Do Not Respond’ list by the authorities.
Fortunately, many modern systems are pet immune, meaning their motion sensors will ignore pets up to 80 pounds using infrared technology to recognize and disregard animal heat signatures. Renters with large pets are advised to opt for pet immune motion sensors so they make full use of their home security systems.
What is the difference between a monitored and unmonitored security system?
For starters, monitored systems are more expensive than unmonitored systems because professionals in dedicated monitoring centers are on standby to keep track of your home’s security, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. When the system detects a break-in, a fire or any other emergency, it notifies first responders or security teams as needed.
Monitored systems also have the major advantage of providing peace of mind while renters are away from their homes, and are usually more comprehensive than systems customers purchase and install on their own. Some monitored systems include home automation and other value-added services along with monitoring.
While unmonitored systems can offer the same level of functionality, the upfront costs of the equipment may be higher. For renters looking to save money, an unmonitored system is best. But if peace of mind and convenience are important, then you're better off choosing a monitored home security system.
What’s the initial cost for a home security system?
The cost of a home security system will vary greatly, depending on the package selected, the company, the length of the contract, installation type, and monitoring contract.
- Equipment - If you are buying all the equipment yourself, a complete package will include a control panel or base, door and window sensors, cameras and motion detectors and alarms. any companies won’t charge upfront for the equipment, and will instead charge rent for it on a monthly basis. While convenient, this means that customers end up paying a large amount over the years, yet don't actually own any equipment.
- Installation - Renters who choose DIY home security systems option can save quite a bit upfront, although it can be expensive if you don’t have all the proper tools and expertise, particularly for a wired system. Thankfully, most wireless systems come with everything needed for installation, and are a breeze to install.
- Monitoring Costs - Renters with an excellent credit history can usually get shorter contracts, but will still be required to pay a monthly monitoring fee. On average, prices for the equipment for home security systems range from $99 to $599 upfront, with ongoing monthly monitoring fees of anywhere between $14.99 and $34.99.
What is home automation and how does it work?
Home automation is a relatively new feature in home security systems for renters. Many systems are compatible with existing home automation products such as Nest Thermostats, Alexa smart speakers and Philips lighting systems.
- Energy Efficiency - One of the biggest advantages of home automation is in energy efficiency, as lights and appliances can be automatically turned off to save power when the home is unoccupied. Lighting and heating systems can also be programmed to behave differently so that they are turned off according to the time of day or seasons. This feature may help save enough money to at least partly offset the cost of a new security system.
- Home Automation - Home automation includes the various aspects of smart home devices, including lighting, electrical outlets, appliances, heating and cooling, sprinklers and even door locks.
- Remote Control - Many home security systems offer the functionality of controlling appliances and equipment remotely. You can watch live video of video cameras, set the doors to lock at specific times, arm or disarm monitoring, unlock doors, and even turn on lights - all from the convenience of smartphones and tablets.
The best apartment security systems
After considering the key factors of a good security system - including features, contract terms, costs, and monitoring - here are our top picks for the best home security systems for renters.
- Overall Rating: 4.6
- Features: 4.6
- Price: 4.4
- Ease of Use: 4.7
Vivint is a world-class leader in home security and has received numerous industry awards, including PCMag Editors’ Choice Award and U.S. News & World Report's Best Home Security System of 2019.
All Vivint systems are monitored 24/7 by certified agents, and the company's product ecosystem includes wireless security, as well as home automation devices. Available equipment includes video cameras, a smart hub, smart locks, motion sensors, smart sensors, smoke sensors, and carbon monoxide sensors. While the company does offer professional installation, a DIY option is available as well. All equipment comes with a 120-day warranty after installation and is compatible with Philips, Nest Secure and most Z-Wave devices. What's more, Vivint’s innovative Smart Home app can be used to manage home automation devices from anywhere and includes functions like locking the front door automatically at 10 PM.
Contracts range from 42 to 60 months and can be difficult to cancel. Financing is available, however, which makes Vivint a good choice for renters who can't afford to pay for the system upfront.
- Overall Rating: 4.3
- Features: 4.8
- Price: 3.7
- Ease of Use: 4.4
ADT is one of the leading names in the home security industry and offers a complete suite of customized, comprehensive home security systems. While ADT has more monitoring centers than any other vendor, it's also one of the pricier options. What's more, equipment must be professionally installed. DIY installation is not an option.
ADT offers a variety of packages for suit any budget, starting with a basic package that includes a touch screen controller, wireless door and window sensors, a panic button and a motion sensor. Depending on the package selected, ADT's home systems can also provide warnings against fire, smoke, carbon monoxide, and floods.
Contracts start at 36 months, and cancellation fees are assessed for early termination. While packages range from $28 to $60 per month, the basic package doesn’t even offer video monitoring or mobile app access, which are features most other vendors offer by default.
- Overall Rating: 4.6
- Features: 4.8
- Price: 4.4
- Ease of Use: 4.4
Simplisafe is one of the most budget-friendly, feature-rich and advanced home security systems on the market today. And with no contracts and a low monthly monitoring fee, it's one of the most affordable, sensical options for renters.
Simplisafe offers equipment that can be purchased as a bundle, or individually, and must be paid for upfront. Equipment includes a base station, keypad, key fob, window and door sensors, motion sensors, siren, and panic button, and contains all the latest innovations. What's more, the company offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, so if customers are not fully satisfied with the equipment, they can claim a full refund.
Two big complaints about Simplisafe are that you need to pay extra for mobile app access and the system lacks support for home automation since it is only compatible with Amazon Alexa and Nest thermostats.
- Overall Rating: 4.5
- Features: 4.6
- Price: 4.2
- Ease of Use: 4.8
Frontpoint is known in the home security industry for excellent customer service, coupled with advanced technology.
All systems offered by Frontpoint use cellular networks for monitoring connectivity. They offer wireless equipment with Z-Wave compatibility, as well as powerful home automation functionality. Installation is easy thanks to the peel-and-stick process, and all the equipment comes pre-configured for DIY installation. Their systems can usually be installed in around an hour.
Unlike many newer home security companies, Frontpoint offers contracts of a minimum of three-years, which isn't necessarily ideal for renters, especially considering that cancellation costs can be rather expensive. Professional monitoring plans range between$35 and $50 per month, and there's a 30-day money-back guarantee if customers aren’t completely satisfied.
- Overall Rating: 4.3
- Features: 4.8
- Price: 3.7
- Ease of Use: 4.4
Protect America is known for quality equipment, competitive rates, and home automation features. The company offers a lot of value for a low cost, which makes them one of the most budget-friendly options.
Equipment installation is DIY, and all packages include a control panel, 3 window/door sensors, and a motion detector. The door/window sensor has a 5-year battery life and can be installed or removed easily. And the motion sensors have been designed to eliminate false alarms due to pets. The system is also compatible with Z-Wave devices, as well as Amazon Echo Dot.
Protect America has no upfront fees, monthly fees are $20-$43, and equipment comes with a lifetime equipment warranty. The minimum contract length is 36 months, but customers can get their money back within 15 days of installation if they are dissatisfied. Unfortunately, canceling the contract early means that customers are on the hook for the remaining balance of the contract, which is something to consider as you're evaluating your options.