By Harley Rose
Complaints filed with the city against developers of a Broadway apartment building illustrate a growing tension for Capitol Hill renters, landlords, and tenants across Seattle over new “smart lock” and home automation technology.
Patent 523 tenants say in June Essex Property Trust informed them by email that a SmartRent system was to be implemented at the Broadway apartment complex.
SmartRent is a home automation company that develops software and hardware for home owners, property managers and renters.. The application system acts as a control on smart home functions from a centralized application, including but not limited to heating, rent payment, and key code entry to a house or apartment.
Tenants who want a year long lease renewal said they were informed that the code entry system would be necessary for the renewal. Notification of the installation of this application was posted in late October with a choice to opt out of the system by renewing on a shorter term lease.
The state requires a 48 hour notice before any landlord or property owners can enter an apartment in a non-emergency setting.
Two tenants who filed complaints and say they chose to opt out by signing a shorter term lease, tell CHS they had an event of entry without the required notification.
According to these tenants, on November 4, the installation day, “the SmartRent installers knocked on our door, waited a few seconds, then unlocked it and tried to enter. Thankfully my roommate was home and kicked them out.“ One renter describes the events as “definitely an unlawful entry since we received no notice and didn’t consent.”
CHS is not identifying the renters out of concerns over possible retaliation.
In September, The Stranger reported on the growth of the SmartRent industry in Seattle which can include smart locks, water sensors, touchscreen thermostats, smart plugs, and a wireless hubs. In addition to individual privacy and security concerns, the trend represents another challenge and expense for area tenants already dealing with high rents and limited housing choices.
One tenant CHS heard from said they are a security consultant and are frustrated with the process after not receiving a response from management about their concerns, which lie mostly in the security of the building.
According to the tenants, they spoke with SmartRent to express that “no matter how good their product might be, we didn’t ask for it and it adds unnecessary complexity that puts our security and privacy at risk.”
Several complaints have been filed regarding this change, and according to a city representative, the complaints “haven’t been assigned or investigated yet.”
The official added that the “Prohibited Acts Ordinance echoes state law by requiring landlords to provide two days of notice before entering units to do necessary if agreed repairs. If they fail to do so, City of Seattle will start by educating the owners on the requirements and warning them. If violations persist, we could issue a Notice of Violation.” Since talking to the official, two of the statuses on the complaint page have been updated to “Under Investigation.”
Both Essex Property Trust and SmartRent declined to comment when asked about the issues.
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