A San Diego company that started out offering billing services to apartment owners and managers is developing technology and programs that allow landlords and renters to remotely control more of what happens in their apartments.

“We’re investing heavily in the smart apartment tech space,” said Dirk Wakeham, CEO of PayLease. “We think that’s a really promising area as landlords look at ways to differentiate their property.”

Among other things, the smart apartment technology, or proptech as Wakeham called it, allows renters to use their cellphones to remotely control the thermostats and lighting in their apartments and to lock and unlock their doors.

Building owners can use the same technology to monitor and control heating, cooling and other components when apartments are vacant.

That can be especially important in humid climates, where mold can develop inside apartments if moisture accumulates. If temperatures aren’t monitored in cold climates, pipes can freeze and break in winter.

“Property managers can (remotely) see what the temperature is in an apartment,” Wakeham said.

Controlling Access

Smart locks give people the freedom to control who can enter their apartments while they’re away without relying on property managers.

The technology is commonplace in many of the high-end apartment towers going up in downtown San Diego.

To compete, owners of existing apartment complexes are retrofitting the technology into their apartments.

“The residents are what’s driving the demand for these services,” Wakeham said. “With millennials, they want everything online.”

Still to come is technology that will allow landlords and renters to remotely set apartment locks to open on a predetermined schedule using a code to admit people for appliance repair and other services, Wakeman said.

“Residents can issue temporary codes to their guests, house cleaner, their dog walker — all of that,” he said.

Self-Guided Property Tours

The same technology would allow property owners to remotely admit prospective renters to tour apartments without having someone else looking over their shoulders giving them a sales pitch.

“They want to go look at it, stand in it and not have the property agent looking on. They want to do it themselves,” Wakeham said. “They don’t want to be pitched.”

Preliminary data shows that people are twice as likely to rent an apartment they’ve explored on their own as they are an apartment they’ve been shown by an owner or manager, Wakeham said.

Landlords also like the idea of self-guided apartment tours because it cuts their management costs, he said.