Home security is by no means a one-size-fits-all enterprise. You can install a system that only makes noise when activated. You can opt for a system that makes noise and includes 24-hour monitoring. You can handle your own installation or hire professionals to install a system for you. The options are numerous and sometimes confusing.

The topic of this post is equipment ownership in cases where monitoring is involved. Believe it or not, the topic is not as straightforward as it seems. Whether or not a homeowner actually owns his home security equipment may depend entirely on language contained in a contract he signed.

In light of that, Vivint Smart Home recommends that consumers always read contract language thoroughly before signing on with a home security company. If necessary, consumers can always contact their attorneys for help in understanding contract language.

DIY Security Systems

DIY systems are the easiest to understand in terms of equipment ownership. In all but the most isolated cases, DIY home security systems are owned by the homeowners who purchase them. A homeowner purchases the equipment installs it himself and then decides whether or not to have the system professionally monitored. If you own a DIY system, rest assured that you own it entirely.

The one caveat here is that future monitoring might be a problem. If you were to install a DIY system only to decide at some point down the road that you are unhappy with the vendor’s monitoring service, you can go ahead and cancel that service. However, your equipment might be such that no other monitoring company can provide replacement service.

Your options in such a case would be limited. First, you could choose to not monitor the system at all. Second, you could elect to self-monitor by setting up the system to send alerts directly to your smartphone or e-mail in the event of activation. Third, you could scrap the system and start over with new equipment and a new monitoring provider. Needless to say that this is something to think about before choosing a DIY system.

Professional Installation with Purchase

Homeowners who prefer professional installation have two choices. The first choice is the ownership model. Under this model, the homeowner purchases a security system from an authorized dealer. That dealer furnishes the equipment, installs it, and then arranges to monitor between customer and security company.

Although the homeowner might sign a one- or two-year monitoring agreement, said agreement is separate from the equipment itself. The homeowner always owns that equipment free and clear. Should he decide not to renew his monitoring contract once it expires, the system itself is not affected. It remains in the homeowner’s possession.

Like a DIY system, a purchased system installed by professionals may not be compatible with services offered by other monitoring providers. The chances are lower with professionally installed systems, but the risk exists, nonetheless.

Another concern about this sort of arrangement relates to equipment upgrades. Owners who own their systems are responsible for paying for upgrades even if they have a monitoring contract with a professional service provider. Should the monitoring provider no longer support older equipment, the homeowner would have to consider upgrades or a total replacement.

Professional Installation with Lease

The other option for homeowners who prefer professional installation is to lease their equipment. Under this model, the home security provider designs the customer’s system install it and monitors it for a flat monthly fee. The homeowner pays nothing for the hardware. How does the company make its money? On monthly monitoring fees.

A typical lease agreement stipulates that the home security company owns all hardware as long as a monitoring contract is in place. At the end of the contract, the homeowner has several options. First is the option of keeping things as is by renewing the monitoring contract.

The second option is to not renew the contract but purchase the equipment from the home security provider anyway. A third option is to return the equipment and end the relationship with the home security company entirely. Note that language in the contract would stipulate how each of the options could be implemented.

Language in the monitoring contract would also stipulate how equipment upgrades are handled. One would assume that the monitoring company would provide regular upgrades to ensure that equipment remains compatible with monitoring capabilities. But that is not necessarily a given. It is entirely possible for a contract to not make any provision for upgrades.

Like Leasing a Car

As you can see, home security system ownership is not as straightforward as it would seem. Only homeowners who buy their equipment completely separate from monitoring contracts know for sure they truly own that equipment. Leased equipment is entirely different. Leasing a security system is a lot like leasing a car.

When you lease a car, you have all of the rights of ownership along with most of the responsibilities. Yet the car ultimately belongs to the company that holds the lease. You have to choose to either return the car or buy out the lease at its expiration. Neither option is necessarily a good deal for you. The same is true for leased security equipment.

Consumers Should Pay Close Attention

Anyone planning to install a home security system with monitoring should pay close attention to all the details – particularly those who opt for the professional installation with a lease model. Far too many homeowners sign up with monitoring companies because they are offered free equipment and installation. They do not realize that the equipment belongs to the monitoring company until after the fact.

Consumers can avoid the whole equipment ownership issue by going with a DIY system instead. DIY home security is not hard to set up if you know how to set up a wireless router. And even if professional installation is required, the installation is separate from monitoring and equipment ownership. That is the way it should be.