Smart home devices are predicted to represent a £347 billion market by 2019. But connected homes aren’t all about smart phone-controlled TVs – they are already providing housing providers with new ways to maintain their properties and avoid tenant disputes.
It has never been more important for housing providers to be better aware of their responsibilities as well as their rights. For those with tenants living in shared buildings, a duty of care to ensure that fellow residents do not compromise each other’s safety and security needs to be allied with a determination that tenants uphold their end of the bargain when it comes to being accountable for their own actions.
For example, take the case of suspected illegal activity. There are rarely instances when the monitoring of tenant activity by means of CCTV within a property would be justified; that would usually be confined to communal areas. Imposing Big Brother-style monitoring inside a property can constitute a criminal offence. If illegal activity was suspected inside a property, the conventional course of action would be to contact law enforcement agencies.
Then there are cases where a landlord is required to cover themselves, in the case of a potentially costly dispute. Consider a scenario where there has been a consistent build-up of damp or mould inside a property; this can result in claims from tenants that the landlord is not maintaining a property sufficiently. But if the mould is a reoccurring problem, it could be the tenant who is at fault.
If a property is sufficiently well-ventilated, it’s likely that it is tenant activity, or lack of action, which is causing the damp and mould. This could be due to erratic heating patterns inside the property, appliances being left on for long periods of time in a room without shutting the door, or a leak which has been left unreported.
With no way to monitor a property aside from periodical inspections, what can be done? One of the answers is a humidity sensor, which allows the exact cause to be pinpointed. This high tech but innocuous device can be placed in a property to extract data which can provide a graphical understanding of exactly where damp and resultant mould is originating from. Access to data such as dew-point temperature, specific humidity and vapour pressure can make all the difference when it comes to determining why a mould problem is happening.
The same principle can be applied to noise. There are now sensors which can be built into the wall which monitor noise levels. If a noise dispute is threatening to get out of hand, this can be a way for landlords to gather enough evidence to determine if noise levels are within reason. These decibel sensors can be connected to wi-fi, meaning landlords don’t even need to enter the property in order to keep track.
There are also specific leak-detection systems which run via the cloud and can notify landlords instantly when a potentially damaging and expensive leak has occurred. Some systems go one step further and have the ability to proactively turn off a water system when a leak is occurring.
Today’s monitoring devices are discreet, intelligently-designed and data-driven. Crucially, they have the ability to benefit tenants, as well as landlords, putting them a world apart from any part of a Big Brother-style monitoring system.
David Bly is the operations director at Cornerstone.