Tenants getting Locked out and call me for keys

19 Replies


I have had a few times where my tenants get locked out and call me to ask for keys. so I was just wondering what type of lock out policy to add to my lease. Please let me know how you handle this and share your thoughts/suggestions on this.


I put only locking deadbolts on the house, so they have to use their key to lock it. No locking doorknobs. They can't lock themselves out this way.

Before I started doing this, I would tell the tenants to call a locksmith when they locked themselves out. 

Locksmith at their expense. They will learn fast.

It happens so infrequently for us and we live within 10 minutes of all of our properties, so we just go and unlock the door for them. We do this cheerfully, but let them know not to make it a habit. We also take the opportunity to check in with them about anything else to do with the property. It is an opportunity to build good will and our tenants don't abuse it. We also give our tenants enough keys at move in so they can secure a spare for times like these. We remind them to do that.

We've all locked ourselves out at one time or another. I've never known a tenant to call a locksmith, but I have heard of tenants breaking a window or door to get in. I'd much rather make a house call than deal with such an aftermath. If a tenant locked themselves out frequently, I would consider adding a nominal lockout fee or changing to the deadbolt only system.

Hi, It's probably a good thing to have a lockout provision in your lease regardless of the convenience or inconvenience involved.  Its the old "better to have and not need than need and not have".  With that said, I like Marcia's thoughts on the goodwill, rapport and "sneak inspection visit" she gets, you could choose to give a free lockout call or two before charging the tenant to show that excellent customer service.  I live in the same town as my rentals but the town is long and narrow so I am still a good 30 to 40 mile round trip away.  I have a realtor key box installed on my units in out of the way places hidden from view.  I started that when I bought one of the units and was getting estimates on repairs/upgrades and the plumber could make a 10am and the electrician was available at 4pm and then the carpenter called saying they finished a job early and could swing by for the estimate as I was pulling in my driveway.  So I just left it and added one at each unit.  It's really there for the peace of mind, I can always get in regardless of what car I am driving (rental key ring is in my car) or if police or fire or medical personnel needed to gain access, they can always get in--without bulldozing the door.     

Originally posted by Account Closed:

I put only locking deadbolts on the house, so they have to use their key to lock it. No locking doorknobs. They can't lock themselves out this way.

Before I started doing this, I would tell the tenants to call a locksmith when they locked themselves out. 

I LOVE THIS IDEA MICHELLE! For my next turnover I am going to implement this. I haven't had problems with lockouts ever yet luckily, and hopefully never will thanks to this advice. 

Definitely switch to non-locking doorknobs.  They are cheaper AND save you the headache.  I was turned on to this via my locksmith.  He said there was an apartment complex that was having a lot of break-ins.  He suggested to the owner to switch to non-locking knobs and wouldn't you know it, the break-ins completely stopped?  From some tenant's perspective it is much cheaper to convert their problem of calling and paying for a locksmith into a bigger problem (and expense) for the landlord by kicking in their own door to re-gain entry and claiming a break-in.

Add a provision in your lease too, but in 7 years I've not had a single lock out with non-locking knobs.

I do something even easier , I have 2 keys hid at each property . I have a note book reminding me where the key is hid . I get a call I tell the tenant to look in a spot .   Places I use ..... under the deck on a nail , In a lawn sprinkler head buried in a corner next to the foundation , under a shingle on the shed .  Once they use that key I get it back and re hide it . ( if they havent lost it first)

Permanent lock box at each house. Keep code in CRM or pm software. Solves 2 problems: 

1. Tenants locked out. 

2. Maintenance guys that can't get in. 


Originally posted by Account Closed:

I put only locking deadbolts on the house, so they have to use their key to lock it. No locking doorknobs. They can't lock themselves out this way.


This is fundamentally a good idea. But tenants are tenants. Have you seen the one who put the deadbolt into the locked position using the thumblatch while the door was opened, because they didn't want to go through the trouble of using the key to lock after the door was in the closed position?  Well, that results in damaged door frames right where you don't want the damage (at the deadbolt) from the deadbolt striking the frame multiple times because the darned door wouldn't close!  True story there ...

We also use passage sets and deadbolts, but in student houses, sometimes roommates {inadvertently} lock out roommates.  

We are moving to electronic locks which can be accessed via our in-house monitoring system.  Tenants can open the doors with their phones.  If they find themselves on the wrong side of the door from their phone, I can grab my phone or laptop and open the door w/o the need to drive across town.

I have a clearly delineated lockout fee. I do not let them back in until it gets paid. Simple as that. If it is AFTER HOURS, the fee is doubled.  PERIOD! I don't let them pay it over time, etc. They need to pay right then. Some complain then, that their rent payment maybe be short and there is a late fee. I just tell them, "Don't lock yourself out!"

Plain and simple. Tenants will learn fast that way. If you want them to pay it with the next, be sure to put the 'Bill" in writing. Then first apply any funds collected to past due fees. This must be stated in the lease as well. Then you can apply a rent late fee, since they technically didn't pay on time, as funds are applied to the outstanding balance first.

I was a resident manager for 25 rented units, and we changed over to the non-locking doorknobs and that really helped.  You'll still get the ones who lock their keys in their cars, though LOL!  

If I was around, I'd open their doors, but I stopped answering my door at 3am for the drunk students who locked themselves out.  I told them all if I'm not available, you'll have to call a locksmith or AAA to get in your car.

Honestly in my leases I just have that the landlord does not unlock doors. Tenants retain all responsibility. If they must change the locks they have to provide the tenant a copy!

It may seem harsh, but put it in the lease that the tenant is responsible to call a locksmith at their expense. 

I've switched to these...and had good luck. Plus, living in the city, many tenants don't drive. This means they can leave the house with no keys. I use these for my unit as well and it's great if you're going out and not driving, no keys to worry about or lose. Tenants like them thus far. 

If the keypad locks start giving me problems I'll definitely go back to the deadbolt/non-locking knob route. Used those in the past and had no issues. 

who do they call if they own the house?  A locksmith, significant other, mother in law, or someone else to whom they have given a key.  Or, they get out the hide a key.  But they dont call me.  Same applies here.  

If they lease their car rather than own it would they call the dealership when they are locked out of the car???

Not my problem.

$25 per instance.  if they are a new tenant we might give them a one time pass.  so far we have made $50 in 6 yrs

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