As a child, my family owned a few rental properties and I recall how the first few minutes of each trip was spent going through the house, looking to see what was missing or damaged.
I also remember being shocked by what people took. They seemed less likely to take the items that were most appealing to me—like the decorative items. Four out of five stolen items were household items, like bedsheets, entire sets of towels, area rugs, and kitchen gadgets.
But what if there was a way to cut back on this sort of theft? Theft which, over time, can become quite costly. Well, now there is and you can thank modern technology.
How the Perception of Being Watched Affects Behavior
Consider this: Do you change your behavior when you know you're being watched? What about when you know you're being recorded or monitored on video? Are you more likely to “behave?”
Numerous studies have revealed that the presence of another person, surveillance cameras, or even the illusion of being watched can have some very significant (and positive) effects on human behavior. In fact, it's a phenomenon that many researchers have picked up on in recent years, particularly in relation to the use of surveillance cameras.
Another study was performed with children who were placed alone in a room and told to follow very specific rules. In one group, the children were left to their own devices, while in other instances, the children were told that there was an invisible princess sitting in the room. The children were far more likely to follow the rules when the invisible princess was present and the results were comparable to the behavior that was witnessed when there was an actual adult in the room.
Similar results have been observed in adults who were in the presence of photos where the photo's subject appeared to be watching them. So even the perception of being watched can have a great impact on how you behave.
So what if you were to install surveillance cameras inside your vacation home? Would that reduce the number of thefts, parties, and other issues that are the result of just plain bad behavior that can cause damage, disturbances, and neighbor complaints? The research suggests it can and many Airbnb property managers are now recommending that homeowners install surveillance cameras on the inside and outside of their vacation homes.
But what are the legalities of this? And where do you install the cameras? Do you need to monitor them? Let’s explore those details.
What Are the Legalities of Installing Surveillance Cameras in a Vacation Rental Home?
The laws concerning video surveillance do vary quite significantly from region to region, but generally speaking, you are permitted to install video cameras on private property. Some regions require you to inform subjects that they are being monitored and recorded, particularly in locations where there is an expectation of privacy, such as a bedroom or bathroom.
It's not advisable nor necessary to install surveillance cameras in a bathroom or bedroom anyway. But common areas such as the living room, kitchen, hallways, and the exterior are usually fair game. The cameras should be positioned so they can capture entrances, exits, and the areas of the home that will see the most activity. They should be placed high up, usually in the corner of the room. Placing them high up also makes them less prone to tampering.
Before you install surveillance cameras inside your home, you should consult your property manager and research the legalities in your specific location. Your property manager will be well-versed on the local requirements and laws concerning rental home-related privacy issues and video monitoring.
In cases where real surveillance cameras are not permissible, you may consider installing “dummy cameras.” These “dummy cameras” are basically plastic shells, without the electronic equipment inside. While they cannot actually capture footage, they can serve as a wonderful deterrent and are equally effective in modifying behavior for the better.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Installing Video Cameras in a Vacation Rental Home?
As the owner of a vacation home, you'll be faced with lots of important decisions. The decision concerning whether or not to install video surveillance cameras can be a difficult one, as many have privacy concerns.
Could the presence of surveillance cameras be off-putting to some potential renters? Certainly. It's possible. But on the other hand, today's society is very accustomed to being videotaped and surveilled. Many homes are equipped with interior cameras, which are accessible to security system monitoring personnel and virtually all modern hotels have quite sophisticated surveillance systems in place. So the reality is that electronic surveillance is a part of everyday life for many people.
It's typically best to disclose on your website and in your rental agreement that the premises is equipped with interior and exterior surveillance cameras. This is a topic you'll want to discuss with your property manager—how the topic of the video cameras can be addressed with guests in a positive way if the discussion arises.
You can work with your property manager to ensure that the video cameras are presented as a benefit, an added security measure. Your property manager can also tell guests that the surveillance system helps you to offer more affordable rental rates (and it's possible your insurance company may also provide you with a discount). Plus, video surveillance helps ensure that guests are protected from having to pay for damage that may have been created by a prior guest.
You want to avoid a scenario in which someone arrives at your vacation home and is shocked to discovered that there are video cameras present. So it is important that you work with your property manager to ensure that this fact is disclosed on the website and in the rental agreement.
Our property manager once told us about a case in which a fellow property manager's client received a negative review from a guest who was displeased to discover that there were surveillance cameras on-site. Therefore, it's in your best interest to disclose the presence of any video monitoring.
Do We Need 24-7 Monitoring for Our Surveillance Cameras?
You'll have a choice as to whether you want to hire a security company to monitor your cameras and whether you would like to record the footage onto a DVR. Many systems can now be configured to save footage to the cloud, so you can preserve footage indefinitely.
Some of the higher-end systems are noise and motion-triggered, so they only record when they sense motion and sound. These systems tend to be the better option, as you'll end up with less footage of silent, empty rooms.
This also makes it more economical to save the footage, since you won't be paying to store useless footage of vacant rooms. It is wise to save the footage for a period of time, like six months or one year. This allows you to refer back to the footage if you later discover that something was taken or damaged.
Today's surveillance systems are typically connected to the web, enabling you and your property manager to monitor your home's video feeds from anywhere with just an internet connection. So video surveillance systems can provide you with tremendous peace of mind, as you'll have the ability to peek in on your home whenever the need arises.
This can also be associated with reduced time expenditures for your property manager since he or she won't need to drive by to check on the home. The manager can simply peek in on the surveillance system to ensure that everything is in order. This allows your property manager to check in more often, which is certainly a major benefit, especially if you rent to college students and have a home in a location that's prone to parties.
When adding a video surveillance system to your vacation home, be sure to consult your property manager and ask if he or she has any preferences or recommendations. After all, the manager is likely to be the one who's spending the most time monitoring it.
If you're seeking a property manager to oversee your vacation home and handle things like security and surveillance, check out Rented.com. Create a free profile, call us at +1 (844) 736-8334, or chat with us below to get started.
Lead image: Flickr CC user Mike Mozart