How do your tenants return keys?

18 Replies

Our policy is the keys must be dropped off in person by their move out date. However, had my tenants email saying they are going to mail the keys. How should I respond?

I would ask why.  Why do they have to mail them?  My property management team does the final walk after the tenant leaves.  We take photos of issues and send them an email alerting them of any additional charges.  We also have a move in inspection form they sign prior to move in.  If they didn't notate anything and there are damages, they are now responsible.  If they don't pay, they get sent to collections.  If they do mail keys, I would ask them to send them insured in a box and send you the tracking number and proof they are sending, like a photo of the receipt/tracking slip, etc.  For example some times residents forget to give us their garage transponders, they mail them.  Worst case scenario, they don't mail keys, just change the locks and bill them for it. 

@Jen H. This is not a policy recommendation, but for a possible exception to your rule where they move-out at odd hours or you're not available until the following morning, you could have them leave keys on counter and lock the doorknob from the inside.

Sometimes tenants don't want to drop off the keys in person; they are aware they are not leaving the place in the best shape (or they're leaving a ton of junk for us to haul out) and would rather not face management.   Other times they are moving out later in the day (or night).

I've had them leave the keys on the counter.

More often I've NOT had keys returned.   Doesn't matter because the first two things I do when one of our rentals is vacant is 1. take many, many pictures of the condition of the place and 2. change the locks.

Even if someone does leave the keys, locks are changed.  You have no idea have many extra keys have been made and who might have them.


I'm a small landlord -- four houses, nice neighborhood, nice tenants. All my houses are set up so that when the tenant leaves the house he can only lock it from the outside with a key (reduces lock-out calls). When they move out I tell them to leave certain keys and other items on the counter and to take one key with them so that they can lock the house from the outside. At midnight on their last day there I change the locks and re-program the garage door remotes. I do not do a walk-through before they leave, since there's a lot of damage that only becomes apparent later.

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

@Jen H. Real landlords will walk the property on move out while the tenant is there, and you can point out the damage and tenants know landlords will jack the repair cost to get all the deposit and you should give receipts to the tenant how you spent the deposit and don't listen to gurus say you don't need to give a receipt.

@Account Closed

I guess I'm not a "real" landlord, because I've never found all the damage in a rental unit on a first pass inspection - it's only after the turnover process has begun that I find the "skeletons" I would have missed had I assured my tenant that what I saw in that 45 min inspection was all they would be charged for.  Thus, I only give an accounting of the disbursement of the security deposit after the turnover work has been completed.

And to answer the OP - I usually have the tenants leave the keys on the counter when they vacate.  In my area, if they don't leave the keys, it can be argued that they haven't legally vacated, and if I change the locks they could claim they were still in possession of the unit.

@Account Closed  I give them copies of receipts, but only after the entire turnover work has been completed and I have been billed by contractors, which is LONG after they have vacated.  My jurisdiction allows me 30 days.

I'm not a fan of mutual walk throughs.  What's the point?  It just provides the tenant an opportunity to argue with the landlord about who caused what damage.  It's a waste of time.  Upon move-in, my tenants do a detailed inspection - I take copious pics and I encourage them to do the same - and sign the inspection sheet, on which they've noted any damage.  A move-out walk through with the landlord is an anachronism left over from the days before digital cameras.

In Missouri the landlord must notify tenant of the time the move out inspection will be done & tenant has a right to be there.

In CT we have 30 days to refund the deposit.  My building has digital locks so we just reprogram them, very easy.  My personal rental has a hard key and I always have a locksmith change the lock.  It can be very uncomfortable to do a final move out inspection with a tenant present, they can become aggressive, irritated, etc. and like others have stated, you don't always catch items doing a rushed inspection.  I learned the hard way after calling a tenant out on an item, it's just a back and forth argument.  

I second @Wesley W. 's comments. Here in Connecticut, I have them leave them on the counter as well, (or in a cabinet). This clearly defines termination of possession of the unit. There's no "oh USPS must have lost the key" nonsense, and I know I can change the locks immediately. There ARE such a thing as professional tenants, and it's important that I mitigate risk both for our property management team, as well as for our investors. 

@Jen H. returning keys is useless because:

1. They could have made other copies they didn't return.

2. You should rekey the locks between every tenant.

Does anyone else rekey or is it just me and @Gail K. ?

YA NEED to Rekey the locks,, that's what a REAL... landlord does.

Tenants can lock the door and leave keys under a rock for all I care,, or in mail box, or slip one spare under the door and leave the rest on the counter. or at my office or if they forgot they can mail them..

As far as meeting them and doing final walk thru,, it's possible but If I do I always say the cleaners have the final check after the maintenance guy checks so from my stand point I'm letting you know there will,, be cleaning charges,, or their might be ,, or the apt is outstanding and won't be cleaning charges,, the other items will take longer to go over and how much time do you have,, if they want to touch something up ,, I might let them if the new tenant isn't there and we still have time to let them otherwise I just say sorry.. last call and start snapping photos'..