Change locks between tenants?

30 Replies

Just curious what others are doing with door locks. Do you automatically change locks with every turnover? Do you never change locks? Do you only change if there is evidence that previous tenant(s) may not be trusted or you have suspicious feelings about them?

Any thoughts on this?

I always change locks. Seems like a big liability not to. I put old locks and key in freezer size zip lock bags and save. After awhile, you never buy new locks, you just rotate from property to property. 

I am in the process of switching out all of my knob/deadbolts to the Kwikset Juno. You can re-key it yourself in a few seconds. This way I can rotate completely different keys with each new tenant. Piece of mind for me, for the tenant, and no questioning if the old tenants might ever come back with a key copy.

Medium logoBryan O., Note Capital | http://www.notecapital.us

YES, absolutely change locks each time. Totally agree with @Brian Otteson, that the KwikSet is the best!  I re-key in a matter of seconds. The initial set to buy is a bit on the high side but long term it is well worth the money. No need to replace the entire set on each entry door, which saves you time and $$. Most hardware stores and big box stores carry them. Good luck!!

I think everyone agrees to change the locks. I have always kept an extra set of 2 exterior knobs and a deadbolt (that is what every one of my units have) and I rotate them when I have somebody move out. I have enough units and they are spread out enough that I don't think anyone could figure that out.

Thanks for the Kwikset tip!

Kwikset Smartkey deadbolt with a non-locking doorknob. You can easily reset the lock after each tenant and they can't lock themselves out because there is no lock on the doorknob.

Yes, always. 

The only time I didn't switch out the locks was when I rented to a friend.  I knew him enough to know he was absolutely trustworthy.  I could never know a regular tenant as well, so otherwise I always change the locks after each tenant.

Like others have said, I save the old lock and rotate it among other units.

You certainly should change locks to be fair to tenants and to avoid being accused of negligence. I don't like the idea of moving locks around, either, unless you have a large number of properties distant from each other. In most areas it would be easy for a potential burglar to look up properties owned by the same landlord. Also, if you rent single-family homes, they have various numbers and styles of locks that should match.

I buy a rekeying kit from Change-a-lock or Prime-line, online or at a home center for $10 to $15. The kits have enough pins for six locks and come with two or three keys. It takes some practice the first couple of times, but you can learn to change all the locks in a house in maybe a half hour. This is cheaper, at least in the short run, than user-rekeyable locks from Kwikset, Schlage and possibly other manufacturers.

For more money, you could invest in electronic keypad locks and even some that allow remote control. I have not tried them, but they could be ideal if you need to allow one-time access to a repair person or you need to have frequent tenant changes, as in a vacation rental.

You also should change the combinations on garage-door openers.

No discussion of changing locks is complete without a mention of Landlord Locks who sell locks that can be very easily re-keyed.  As with other locks mentioned, I utilize multiple sets of the lock cylinders and can re-key in about 20 seconds per lock.  My experience indicates that the hardware provided by Landlord Locks is much better quality than other brands I have used in the past.  Landlord Locks items must be ordered by mail but the company keeps track of what specific hardware has been ordered in the past and then will provide compatible parts.  I also forgot to mention that they provide a master key that allows me to have only one key to carry that will open all locks on all my properties.

Don Elias

Originally posted by @Derek W. :

I always change locks. Seems like a big liability not to. I put old locks and key in freezer size zip lock bags and save. After awhile, you never buy new locks, you just rotate from property to property. 

 This is what I do as well. The likelihood of an old tenant coming back and trying old keys at my other properties, since they would have to do a property search to figure out which those were, is so remote that I don't worry too much about it. So I use all brass door knobs and locks, and just rotate them through other properties. 

We change locks between tenants as well.  I did have a young pair of tenants who asked me to prove that I was the owner of the property when they came to view it.  Turns out they were taken in by someone claiming to be a landlord but who was actually a former tenant who had been evicted but the landlord never changed the locks.  Since the tenant still had keys to the place they began posting ads to rent the place.  Took security deposits from three different applicants (including this young couple) before the real landlord caught on to this.


Gail

@Mike Palmer either rekey the cylinder or replace the lock set with a new one and use the "old" one on the next unit turnover. Keep rotating the locks so that you have at least two new keys before bringing back the original to same unit. In Illinois, it's a landlord-tenant law to replace locks. Even if it's not there, why open yourself up to the liability?

@Mike Palmer smartkey deadbolt with key control and non locking doorknob. Dont have to change locks again and tenant cant lock themselves out.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Kwikset-816-Single-Cyli...

I started using land lord locks after reading about this here on BP. I have been very happy with them, and you just change the cylinder for a few bucks in between tenants. 

Also, their customer service is extraordinary!

Medium second city real estate logo   white close upJohn Warren, Second City Real Estate | [email protected] | 847‑894‑2433

@Ian Loew

You just identified one of the biggest weaknesses of the Wiesser / Kwickset smartkey - they do not work in a Master - sub-master - key hierarchy. Sure they are fine for a SFH and maybe a 2-4 unit residential property, but would be a nightmare beyond that.

We maintain a pool of spare lock sets for each building and swap them between tenants ... we also have a separate set of deadbolts we put on during renovations which are keyed for our trades.

In our properties where we have migrated to electronic locks, we simply deactivate the old access codes when a tenant leaves.

Medium greenapartmenthires 1024x1024Roy N., Louer Louer Ltd. | 1.506.471.4126

Originally posted by @Christopher Leon :

 In Illinois, it's a landlord-tenant law to replace locks. 

It does, but only in Cook County. The law says,"...changes concerning changing or rekeying a dwelling unit lock only apply in counties having a population of more than 3,000,000". Only Cook County meets that.

In any case, we change the locks. Started off with Kwikset deadbolt and Kwikset bottom knob. Migrated to Kwikset deadbolt and non-locking bottom knob. May migrate to Mr. Landlord locks since we learned of them a few months ago since rentals are getting into the double digits and a master key would be more handy.

I forgot to mention the best thing about land lord locks which is having a master key to every door. I only have one fourplex, but it would still take three minutes to get into a unit... Imagine having a larger portfolio with a huge ring of keys!

Medium second city real estate logo   white close upJohn Warren, Second City Real Estate | [email protected] | 847‑894‑2433

Originally posted by @John Warren :

I forgot to mention the best thing about land lord locks which is having a master key to every door. I only have one fourplex, but it would still take three minutes to get into a unit... Imagine having a larger portfolio with a huge ring of keys!

 Exactly the point I was trying to make above.

While we master key our buildings, we keep a separate master keys for each property.  That way when we sell a property we do not need to put the tenants through the hassle of rekeying the building(s) prior to close.

Medium greenapartmenthires 1024x1024Roy N., Louer Louer Ltd. | 1.506.471.4126

@Roy N. Thanks for the feedback. Currently have 3 properties, totaling 5 units. Future goal is to acquire more properties. For convenience I would like a master key setup. Do you use a locksmith or manage the changing of locks? Do you stick with a particular brand of deadbolts and locks? Thanks.

Ian Loew, Matthews & Co | [email protected] | 9735094649 | http://mchometown.com

Originally posted by @Ian Loew :

@Roy N. Thanks for the feedback. Currently have 3 properties, totaling 5 units. Future goal is to acquire more properties. For convenience I would like a master key setup. Do you use a locksmith or manage the changing of locks? Do you stick with a particular brand of deadbolts and locks? Thanks.

Ian:

We use a locksmith, but typically have enough spare cylinders per building in our inventory that we usually swap them ourselves.  When we need to acquire new cylinders or retire a key, we go see the locksmith.

We tend to use LSD or Schlage locks, but with Schlage keyways simple because that was the majority of what we had when we decided to standardize and those were the electronic locks we had started to use.

We still have a building (rooming house) which is keyed using Weiser locks - as all the rooms had Weiser keyways (incompatible with Schalge) when we acquired the house.   The majority of brands of residential door sets (Weiser, Taymor, Kwickset, big box house brands, etc) tend to be using the Weiser keyway.

Medium greenapartmenthires 1024x1024Roy N., Louer Louer Ltd. | 1.506.471.4126

Landlord locks gets my vote too.  Great quality and good, expandable system.  I love having one key.

Medium logo wordoverwordNick Hawryluk, Venture Works LLC | (844) NOT‑BANK

Absolutely, everytime, and without question. 

Also, if you want to be smart and cheap about it, buy 5-10 different sets of locks, all the same type, but different lock key numbers,. All the locks look the same, but arent the same key. Helps with conformity, as well as lock purchase cost, and allows you to continually cycle locks so that you dont have to worry about previous tenants.