As we have already covered recently on GearBrain, renters can install a wide range of smart home devices — and often without checking with their landlord first. Lights like those by Philips Hue and LIFX are easily fitted and removed, and smart plugs make a wide range of appliances smarter without any DIY requirements whatsoever.
With smart locks, this situation changes. Some smart locks — those which require you to change the deadbolt or install a numerical keypad outside — are unlikely to get the go-ahead from your landlord. Unless you can convince them that a professionally-fitted lock will enhance security (perhaps after a neighbor's lock was compromised), then they will likely say no.
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However, there are some smart locks which use the door's existing deadbolt, fit in a couple of minutes with just a screwdriver, are completely removable and reversible — and, importantly, can function exactly the same as before, so your landlord can still enter with their own key.
Clearly, property owners get a far better deal as there is a wide range of locks designed for them. Some include keypads, some work over a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone, and others can be controlled remotely over the internet.
But for renters, changing the deadbolt and getting keys cut are not things you will be able to do. Thankfully there are some alternatives, but even with these you should seek your landlord's permission before installing.
Friday Smart Lock - $199
Claimed to be the smallest retrofit smart lock currently on sale, the Friday Smart Lock fits to your existing deadbolt in just a few minutes, which means the door can still be opened with the original key.
The Friday's sleek design is much more pleasing to the eye than the chunky August, and its latch cover can be swapped out for a range of seven alternatives with different colors and finishes designed to match your decor.e
But, while the Friday looks smart, it doesn't act all that smart. There is no support for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT or Samsung SmartThings— although it can be controlled by Siri and Apple's HomeKit system — and there's no feature for letting you know if the door is closed but not locked.
All that said, the Friday smartphone app is nicely designed and makes it easy to know who has passed through the door, and when. You can configure the app to alert you when your children get home from school, for example, or when the repairman (who you can give temporary access to) has left.
Fitting the Friday will require your landlord's permission. But given they can still access the property with their key, the deadbolt remains the same as before, and the device can be removed when you leave, they might grant you permission.
August Smart Lock Pro - $229
August is one of the bigger names in smart locks, and it just so happens that the firm's third-generation Smart Lock Pro+ Connect can be fitted to locks without changing the deadbolt or using different keys.
You have to remove the latch from the inside of your door with a screwdriver, then fit the August's mounting plate and the motorized mechanism itself, but this is all completely reversible and the original keys can still be used to gain entry.
Once installed, the lock will open when you walk up to it with your Bluetooth-connected phone in your pocket. The lock can also be connected to your Wi-Fi network via the included August Connect, which lets you control the lock from anywhere in the world.
For an extra $50, the latest model of Smart Lock Pro can be bought with a sensor which you attach to the door frame; there, it can tell the lock if your door is open or closed, which you can check from the app or by asking Amazon Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant.
The lock is powered by four AA batteries -—and because you can still use your original key, getting back in when the batteries have died isn't an issue.
You can use the August app to grant temporary access to other people, such as the cleaner, a handyman or other members of the household.
Nuki (Europe only) - €299 ($370)
This low-tech smart lock fits over your key and existing mechanismNuki
Only available in Europe for now, the Nuki lock goes a step further than the August and Friday, in that it requires no modifications at all. Instead, the Nuki fits over your existing internal lock (with the key in place) and turns the key to let you in.
It's a very low-tech solution, but one which means you don't have to use any tools at all. However, the Nuki is stuck to the door with a peel-off adhesive strip, so removing this when you come to move out might take some effort and leave residue behind.
You can check the status of the lock remotely via the smartphone app, and there is Alexa support for locking or unlocking the door with your voice. There's also a scheduling feature so you can have the door lock itself at a set time every night. The Nuki is powered by four AA batteries, but you will need to make sure your lock has an external key override function; otherwise, when the battery runs out you won't be able to open the lock with a key from the outside.
As you can see, it is theoretically possible to install a smart lock on the door of a renter property, but with several caveats. First, you will need to get your landlord's permission and explain to them how devices like the August and Friday still work with their key. Then you need to explain how these locks do not affect the deadbolt (so do not change the physical security of the door) and that fitting such a lock is reversible.
While the Nuki offers an even simpler installation process, the need for an external key override function could rule out your lock, and removing the device after it has been stuck to the door could be more difficult than unscrewing the August or Friday.