How to Choose a Security Camera System
We have all heard the horror stories about Airbnb guests that refuse to obey House Rules and hotel guests that spend their short stay destroying property. As a property owner, you are, of course, interested in protecting your investment. However, Is it necessary to protect your short term rental property with security cameras?
I’m sure that the answer is different for different people and for people with different intentions. It is clear that having camera footage can help a host when attempting to recoup money from an insurance claim. However, camera footage may not be necessary and can lead to a loss in income from your rental property if your potential client’s find the practice invasive.
Do You Even Need This?
Before deciding to invest in a security system for your rental property, you should be aware of the rules established by Airbnb regarding the use of surveillance devices. Airbnb allows hosts to use security cameras and recording devices within the exterior of their property and in common areas within the rental property. However, hosts are not allowed to place recording devices in any private space. Private spaces include any bathrooms, bedrooms, and spaces with fold out sleeping space. So, depending upon the layout of your space, there may be little interior space where you can reasonably place security cameras.
Not only are hosts not allowed to monitor private or potentially private spaces, but they are required to disclose the use of these devices prior to rental within their House Rules. If recording devices are not disclosed prior to booking, the renter has the right to cancel their reservation upon disclosure of the security cameras and recording devices. If the renter cancels the reservation upon disclosure of the recording devices, they will receive a refund and the host may be responsible for cancellation penalties.
Hosts who have been caught using surveillance devices without prior disclosure have been removed from the Airbnb community in the past and can face prosecution in accordance with local law. Hosts should also be aware that there are specific laws regarding audio recording in many states that may not be covered under normal disclosure of security cameras.
- Consider where and for what purpose you plan to use your security cameras. While traditional surveillance cameras only record events that occur within their field of vision, security cameras will provide you will alerts of specific events. Some security cameras will alert you to movement, while other cameras can alert you to both movement and noise.
- Make sure your internet bandwidth can support the camera system you choose and make sure your router has sufficient coverage for your needs. The amount of bandwidth your system will require depends upon the image resolution of the cameras you choose, the number of cameras you are supporting, and whether your system provides both sound and image recording.
- Determine the type of camera that fits your needs:
- Bullet Cameras: These cylinder-shaped cameras vary in size and are generally mounted on a wall. These cameras can be ideal if you have a clear idea of where you want camera coverage. Bullet cameras are good or obtaining images of points of entry into a space.
- Dome Cameras: Generally mounted on the ceiling, these fixed location cameras offer coverage of large open spaces. Dome cameras can pan and tilt to cover large spaces. You will often find that dome cameras allow you to define zones for coverage. The cameras can then will pan across the defined zones in an established pattern.
- Hidden Cameras: Brought to fame in the era of Nanny cams, the hidden camera is often used to capture images of thieves or intruders who might assume their actions are not under surveillance. Designed to look like everyday objects, these cameras may be counterproductive in an Airbnb rental as hosts are required to disclose the fact that cameras and recording devices are in use.
- Live Streaming Cameras: These cameras can be placed throughout your space and will feed signals directly into your mobile device or computer for live streaming. These cameras are most apt to be off-putting to Airbnb guests who may perceive live streaming as an invasion of their privacy. You should also be mindful that live streaming cameras require a good deal of space for recorded data.
- Wireless Cameras: These “plug and play” cameras can be integrated into home security systems and can be relocated throughout your space as needed. If, for example, you choose to repurpose a communal space into an extra bedroom, you can simply move the camera from that space. Likewise, if you choose to redecorate a small bedroom and make it into a common space, you can easily add a wireless camera to that space if you so choose.
Features You May Want to Consider
- Motion Detection: Many cameras come with built-in sensors that pick up movement within their field of vision. These detected movements will trigger recording and can often send alerts to your smartphone or computer. Having a camera with motion detection allows you to pick up unexpected activity when your space is supposed to be empty.
- Audio: Many cameras only capture images. However, an increasing number of cameras are being manufactured with embedded speakers. One-way audio speakers allow you to capture sound as well as images and some cameras allow you to establish alerts based on these captured sounds for added security. Two-way audio picks up sounds around your camera and allows you to speak through the camera. Some Airbnb hosts like this feature at their entry as it allows them to provide instructions to a renter who is having difficulty with entry. Devices like these can streamline home automation and make your Airbnb listing stand out from the rest.
- Night Vision: As most break-ins occur at night, you will want to seriously consider this option. Cameras equipped with night vision will switch to low light conditions in the evening allowing them to continue to capture usable images. Most cameras equipped with night vision will specify the distance at which they can capture usable images in dark conditions.
- Weatherproof: You will find many indoor/outdoor cameras on the market. As outdoor conditions include extremes in heat as well as potentially wet conditions, it is advised that you buy weatherproof equipment for use in outdoor spaces and spaces that aren’t climate-controlled to support longevity and proper function of your equipment.