Electronic Locks for Small Multifamily?

11 Replies

I'm in the middle of rehabbing my Quadplex and am considering installing electronic keyless entry locks. My idea is to pay the money now to install locks that won't need to be replaced during tenant turnover. It should help me avoid the infamous ziploc bag of keys too. Also, I the keyless locks will come in handy if I ever decide to transition and turn my property into an AirBnb. That being said, does anyone reccommend a brand/model of electronic keyless entry locks?I understand that "smart locks" are available as well. Would they be beneficial for a rental? Thanks in advance BP!

Hi @Kevin Brenner ,

That is a great idea that I am always thinking about as well.  Keys are annoying to keep track of, and it becomes a problem the moment you get a little disorganized.  I've had a great experience with August smart locks.  I have no affiliation with them.  

The one I bought uses bluetooth and still works to this day (about 2 years after installing).  If anyone needs access, I just add their phone # (they receive a link to download app) and they can unlock the door.  It also gives info on who enters/exits the place and still allows a key to be used as a backup.  

Word of caution - you have to be precise with installing the lock so that when the door closes, the electronic lock mechanism can lock the door with no friction.  Once you have everything aligned correctly then you are good to go. 

I have started using the kwikset deadbolts that have two cylinders in them. One is a landlord lock and you can have a master key that fits all of them. Then the bottom cylinder is for the tenants and you can easily re key it when a tenant moves out. For the bottom knob under the deadbolt I just use a normal hallway/closet knob that does not have a lock. I went this route over electronic for price and I figure it would be less maintenance issues than an electronic one. You can order them from Home Depot.

Great post, I have thought about doing this for my MF units as well to make maintenance and showings easier, so I'll watch the replies with interest. The key thing that has held me back is the need to maintain wifi access across all the units, which I'm typically not paying for. @Doug Shapiro my understanding of the August locks is that they require wifi. 1) is that correct, and 2) are you using a wifi signal that you pay for, solely for this purpose, or a tenant-paid-wifi, or how are you doing it, exactly?

Kwikset sells locks that you can rekey yourself in seconds. You just unlock the door, insert a tool that comes with the lock, remove old key, insert new key, and you're done. They call then Smart Locks (but they are not electronic) and you can buy them at Home Depot.

I prefer then to electronic locks because the batteries in electronic locks can be tricky to replace, and electronic locks are more expensive.

Its great to be keyless but it also raised a battery issue. I work for a property management company in manhattan and needed to buy electronic locks for the bathrooms. got 25 of them and batteries kept going out and needed to get the key to open the lock and then change the battery. What I did was buy them from a small locksmith online and asked him to re-key all the locks to the same key. He did it for free for me buying that many locks. it made it so much easier. 

I am not going to recommend a brand just look up that it can send you a warning when the batteries run low. It will need wifi access to send a notification. 

Its great to be keyless but it also raised a battery issue. I work for a property management company in manhattan and needed to buy electronic locks for the bathrooms. got 25 of them and batteries kept going out and needed to get the key to open the lock and then change the battery. What I did was buy them from a small locksmith online and asked him to re-key all the locks to the same key. He did it for free for me buying that many locks. it made it so much easier. 

I am not going to recommend a brand just look up that it can send you a warning when the batteries run low. It will need wifi access to send a notification. 

@Blake Jarrett Thanks for the comment.  I'm researching some Kwikset double cylinder deadbolts and I'm only finding deadbolts with cylinders on both sides of the door.  Can you help me understand how this would be helpful from a landlord perspective?  Do you know the model number that has top and bottom cylinders as you described in your post?  I understand how that could work (having a master key for all the doors would be super convenient).  Thanks!   

@Kevin Brenner the ones I use have two key holes on the exterior. The interior part of the door is normal. I use the Kwikset 816 Series Venetian Bronze Single Cylinder
Key Control Deadbolt featuring SmartKey

You should be able to google that and go to lowes or Home Depot's website and see it.

@Elliot Galpern thanks for responding.  I agree that the batteries in the locks are definitely a limiting factor.  Some locks say batteries last 6 months, others say they last 3 years.  I was looking at Tacklife Electronic Deadbolt Door Lock.  It's reasonably priced.  It's battery only lasts 6-8 months, but it does have a low battery warning light and a backup key.  

@Blake Jarrett thanks for the clarification.  I'll look into that option as well.  Kwikset makes some great products.  

@Kevin Brenner . On the electronic locks that we installed which were only on the bathrooms, Never has a tenant ever told us that the battery is low. If they could get in, they did not care. They only called when it did not work altogether. 

The lock was designed so that it would wait 5 seconds before letting someone in. It would flash red for the 5 seconds to alert that the battery was low. No one cared. Our solution, we have the super replacing all the batteries every 6 months, dead or not. 

Its a lot of work to keep changing the battery and probably easier to change the locks on turnover. We did it because its on a commercial building where the bathroom had keys that people kept losing. I was giving out 2-3 keys a day. 

Keep in mind that if the battery runs out, its your problem. If they lose the key, it's their problem.