What to do with all these keys?

46 Replies

How do you guys keep all your keys organized? I don't have that many units yet, but already all these keys are a hassle. On a similar topic, what do you do about changing locks? Is there a good landlord lockset that is easy to change out and keep the keys manageable? Thanks in advance.

I keep my keys in my car. You never know when you are going to need them. Have you ever seen the little boxes for nuts and bolts? You could use something like this:

http://www.harborfreight.com/24-divider-storage-co...

Or they make the yellow ones with handles that are more like a brief case. Get a label maker and print out your addresses. You never have to flip through a key ring trying a dozen keys. Painting the keys or putting a letter on them only goes so far. When you get more and more units you will have more than one unit that starts with A etc. 

If you keep them in your car put them in your trunk for safety. My car has a valet mode where I can lock my trunk and glovebox so if someone smashes a window they can't get into the trunk without a key or physically cutting into the metal.

Google search Master Key Lock System. You only have to carry 1 key. There are also lock system to swap out the core easily.

No affiliation at all, just a very satisfied customer.  1 key for everything including padlocks.  Icore from Landlord Locks.

i have one of these and keep separate keys on paper tags. 

btw, there are NUMEROUS great threads on keys on here.. numerous.

Originally posted by @Ryan Dossey :

I keep my keys in my car. You never know when you are going to need them. Have you ever seen the little boxes for nuts and bolts? You could use something like this:

http://www.harborfreight.com/24-divider-storage-co...

Or they make the yellow ones with handles that are more like a brief case. Get a label maker and print out your addresses. You never have to flip through a key ring trying a dozen keys. Painting the keys or putting a letter on them only goes so far. When you get more and more units you will have more than one unit that starts with A etc. 

If you keep them in your car put them in your trunk for safety. My car has a valet mode where I can lock my trunk and glovebox so if someone smashes a window they can't get into the trunk without a key or physically cutting into the metal.

Sounds like a bad idea; imagine what happens when your car is broken into and the thief finds those keys ... jackpot!

Thanks for the replies guys. I took the easy way out this time and just asked before I did a search. I will look into the 1 key fits all solution. Hopefully they are not too pricy, lots of doors to possibly change out. Does anyone keep lockboxes at the properties like Realtors use. I was thinking this might be a good idea to have one for each unit (for smaller units like singles to quads), This way the tenant would never have a lock out and I would never forget a key.

I charge 25 if a tenant is locked out.  only keep a lock box if contractors are going in there. 

I do not keep keys in my car.  I have a key safe locked up in my house.  I also do not write the addresses on any of the keys.  I don't use a master lock system; I have separate keys for each property.  So far it has not been a hassle and I work with 35 sets of keys.

Find a good locksmith who will do a master system for you.  I have a 24 unit and 3 masters.  As I have turnover I am converting them all to 1 master.  My guy (a small local outfit will rekey my locks for about $5 each including keys!)  Its a great price but I had to do some shopping to find him.  He runs a small shop and puts a sign in the window when he's out on a call!  Also, I have a large ring that has resident backup keys on it along with a mail key with a tag for that unit (no other address identifier).  I keep all my residential homes in a 24-key 'book' that zips shut - you can find them at any office supply. 

Originally posted by @George P. :

i have one of these and keep separate keys on paper tags. 

btw, there are NUMEROUS great threads on keys on here.. numerous.

I have 3 of these and LOVE them!

I use combo lock boxes when a worker needs in a unit and when I leave town I hide a combo lock box at my house so my handy man can get in and access the locked key boxes should the need arise. I don't like the tags that come with them though. I prefer the multi colored plastic ones with the tag inside for writing the addresses on.

I have 2 master keys, a Kwikset and a Schlage that unlock everything I own and will unlock everything I ever buy. I rekey all of my new purchases to one of these masters. My locksmith has the codes to my masters. When I need to have locks changed he simply changes the cylinders to the next combination on the chart. I always have access and don't have to search for the right key for the right house.

Originally posted by @Rob Donovan :

Thanks for the replies guys. I took the easy way out this time and just asked before I did a search. I will look into the 1 key fits all solution. Hopefully they are not too pricy, lots of doors to possibly change out. Does anyone keep lockboxes at the properties like Realtors use. I was thinking this might be a good idea to have one for each unit (for smaller units like singles to quads), This way the tenant would never have a lock out and I would never forget a key.

The "one key fits all" is only so that the landlord can get away with just carrying one key to gain emergency or repair access. Each unit still has an individual distinct key, and you will only give a tenant a copy of the unit key. And even if a unit is undergoing extensive renovations, the unit key is all that should be accessible to the contractor (whether via lockbox or you hand the contractor a copy).

I personally will not take on the liability of a master key.  All you need is for someone to get ahold of a copy and then they have a key to all of your units.  I can't always be at every unit everytime someone needs access.  There are plenty of times that I need to hand a key off to someone else.  It would not be pleasant to have to switch out or re-key ALL of the locks.

I use an organizer for each apartment complex with tags.  They are clipped in to a holder and locked in a box.  I can re-key a lock in less than 5 minutes with my kwikset lock kit.  I also use the smartkey system in which I can re-key in seconds.

I keep all my keys in four fishing tackle boxes, which I keep in my car so that I have access to the properties at all times.

@Steve Olafson , nobody besides my locksmith gets my master keys. (I don't think he even has a key but he knows the coding so he could make one if he wanted to.) He could get into all my properties but, then again, he is a locksmith and could probably get into almost anyone's properties if he wanted to.

Originally posted by @Jeff Rabinowitz :

@Steve Olafson, nobody besides my locksmith gets my master keys. (I don't think he even has a key but he knows the coding so he could make one if he wanted to.) He could get into all my properties but, then again, he is a locksmith and could probably get into almost anyone's properties if he wanted to.

It is a good system while you only have a few units.  When you get over a certain level it cannot be managed the same way.  I have more than 100 units most of the time.  It would be very difficult to be the only person that could open doors.

@Steve Olafson , I have only a dozen units but I almost never open doors. If someone needs access and the tenant is not available or is not willing to hide a key (they usually are) we hang a lockbox with the key to that unit in it. My property manager has the individual keys to the units he manages. I, my wife, and my locksmith can easily enter any of our properties at any time if it is necessary. I can't remember the last time it has been.

off topic: in one of my buildings (88 units) i bought a key machine and my onsite manager make extra keys.  Saves me $$$ on having a locksmith or going to home depot to make duplicate keys

Originally posted by @Jason Mak :

off topic: in one of my buildings (88 units) i bought a key machine and my onsite manager make extra keys.  Saves me $$$ on having a locksmith or going to home depot to make duplicate keys

I believe 

@Rob K.  has done the same sort of thing. 

@Jeff Rabinowitz  

This sounds like a great system for you.  Your property manager still has to have individual keys though. 

I once had a 30 unit property with an on-site manager that proudly set all the locks up with a individual keys for the residents and a master for himself.  When I let this person go, I had to re-key every single lock on the premises.  This manager still had access to the keys even if it was not done this way.  But, he would have had to go through a lot more trouble to make the keys.  Plus, there is no telling if he ever handed that key to anyone to use at any other time.

I was worried about liability if anyone ever got broken into without forced entry.  Having a master key seemed risky to me.

Always a master key system that no one else gets. I would never let a contractor into my house to access a lock box with all the keys to all my units. With the Landlord Locks system, I have a contractor cylinder that I put in units under construction and vacant. If the tenant can't meet the contractor (which is required in my lease) then it doesn't get done. If it's something I want done then I can meet them there. When I get bigger and have a manager that would be their job in my stead. Tenants get new lock sets on turn over.

Also only deadbolt locks so no tenant lockouts. The knobs are all passage style which do not lock. Tenant can not lock themselves out. No other way to roll.

I have never seen tenant lock outs as much of an issue. I have a clause in my lease stating that there would be a $100 charge if this happened. In 14 years it never has. If anyone ever needed the service I would have them call my locksmith. They might have to spend the night in a hotel. That seems fair to me.

For people who only have say 10 units or less I was wondering if anyone found a

phone app like Keyme that you can take a picture of the key and the app can identify the location it matches.  This would help if you find any unlabeled keys that you have logged into the phone app inventory.  Just brainstorming with people in the profession as there has to be a better solution with todays tech.

I don't like to put the address on my keys also because of liability issues and I'm human and could lose them.  Looking for a solution for a lower inventory landlord with under 15 units, but has door keys, mailbox keys, and pool keys.

We use a coding system. If you get those colored tags you can put on the keys or get the color in the keys you can use them.  A color green goes to a particular unit, you can even write on them and who says  it has to make sense to someone else. For student keys I usually get  a  color in the key so I know if they duplicated.

For other areas like garages I have the locks with number codes. You can change the codes if you need to and you can just give the code to the furnace guy to get in the basement if you need him to.     All the keys go in a lockbox with a key code on site.

I also have a master key but that is just for me.   

I hate keys though and I can't wait until keyless entry  is a reliable option.

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