Best locks for landlords to use

24 Replies

I would like to hear what other landlords use for locks. I was recently told about a lock that can be used on multiple properties but the landlord/owner can get in all with just one key. Anybody out there using any special locks that make life easier?

You can change out lock cylinders and just have a few extra and rotate among properties. That's the most cost effective way.

I'm checking in on Kwik Set. They have a smart key system where you can do it yourself. 

If anyone has input on this system, any feedback would be great!

Thanks!

I've used the Kwikset Smartkey system for years. Easy to install and change the key during tenant turnover. The system doesn't have a master key which is a disadvantage. I am thinking about changing all my deadbolts at the front doors to a digital Kwikset Smartkey. You can put up to 16 codes. That way you have one for the tenant, another for repair people, one for yourself etc. Change to door knob to a passage / hall knob. That way no more tenant lockouts! You need to change the batteries every year.
You might also look into LandlordLock.com. They have the capability of a master key. I bought some for a new rental but had some problems getting them to install so I ended up installing the Kwikset system.

Schlage keypad locks.  They'll cost you a bit up front ($120/ea) but you'll never have to deal with keys ever again.  You can just give your tenant a 4 digit door code, then when they move out you delete their code.  You can store up to 19 codes at one time, but of course you can just delete an re-enter new codes all you want.  You could use your own code for every lock, then have separate codes to each unit for the tenants.  And you can only change the code if you have the programming code, so tenants can't mess with it.  Check out the Schlage fe595, I just installed my first one and have ordered a second.

I go with landlordlocks. They are great for multiple doors and keep a record of your tumblers.

I started using kwiksets.  It takes less than two minutes to rekey each lock.  Much more cost effective than having a lock smith rekey, or switching out cylinders, and they aren't expensive either.

I use a combination of Kwikset SmartKey locks and Schlage keypad locks at my properties. 

On another recent project Lowe's was able to special order me a master keyed system from Kwikset. We purchased 60+ locksets keyed individually but with one master key that fits them all. If we ever want to add more Lowes keeps the lock numbers on file and can order more straight from Kwikset. Pretty slick if you are in need of a real master key system.

Another up vote for Kwikset Smartkey. It literally takes one minute to rekey the locks. You can buy them at Home Depot, Lowes, Menards or even on Amazon. There is a landlord version as @Ryan Murdock mentioned, but I have never used it. I got a handful of unique keys from Lowes for free. They have a bucket of left over keys after they rekey locks for people. The guy gave me a bunch, so I always have fresh keys for a new tenant.

Pro tip: I only put locks on the deadbolt. The handle never gets a lock. This greatly reduces lock-outs, because you need your key to lock when leaving. For the handle on the main door, I purchase commercial grade door knobs. They cost more money, but since they are used multiple times a day, it is worth it to buy quality. Cheap handles break.

@Keith Smith - eLocks are the way to go! It's so nice not having to fumble around with keys and never need to worry about keys and the tenants never need to worry about locking themselves out. 

I have the Schlage, which, as Mark mentioned allows you store up to 19 codes and you can delete and re-enter new codes all at once. 

Lockstate provides a more expensive, but more robust option whereby you can add/delete codes through their online portal as well as unlock/lock the door remotely (in case a contractor needs to get in). It also time stamps each time the door is either locked or unlocked. 

@Keith Smith - eLocks are the way to go! It's so nice not having to fumble around with keys and never need to worry about keys and the tenants never need to worry about locking themselves out. 

I have the Schlage, which, as Mark mentioned allows you store up to 19 codes and you can delete and re-enter new codes all at once. 

Lockstate provides a more expensive, but more robust option whereby you can add/delete codes through their online portal as well as unlock/lock the door remotely (in case a contractor needs to get in). It also time stamps each time the door is either locked or unlocked. 

We had a locksmith put us on master key system. Best thing we did! All locks are kwikset or at least rekeyable and deadbolt only. We either have the locksmith come out or we take them to his store to rekey. Any new units we acquire, he will rekey to be compatible with our master key and still be unique among all units.... we always have our master key so we never forget the right set of keys!

Haveing a local locksmith put all the keys on a master key system is the best I have found. He can rekey the locks and that alone saves a lot of money.

Also if one of my tenants looses a key the locksmith has that key on file. They show their ID, I give the locksmith a call, and the tenant pays for a new key.

Kwikset master control smart key locks (model 816) they cost about $30-35. We install them everytime a unit turns over on all the doors. Worth it. One key for tenant and you can move the face of the lock up for the landlord lock. Both locks use the smart key technology and are super easy to change.

Updated 4 months ago

I'm not sure it's clear, that $30-35 is a one time cost after that it's just the cost of the key to rekey.

So here is something I learned before getting into this: Rekeying locks is not that difficult. It's not for everyone, but if you're just a little handy it only takes a minute or two to rekey a lock. I bought a rekeying kit and a bunch of spare keys from amazon and watched a few YouTube videos. It's really not that difficult. Now I can use whatever basic knobs/deadbolts that came with the house and key them all alike, including storm doors. As a bonus I've set them up so that my personal house key is the master key. Tenants are happy because all the locks work with their one key and I'm happy because I can always open every door for any property, with 1 key that I already carry. On a turn I can just take another set of spare keys and rekey all of the locks in 15 minutes or so. The re keying kit costs less than one fancy smartkey/number pad lock, cheap and easy.

@Keith Smith Landlord Locks icore series. The cylinders can be user replaced in seconds and so you can change the locks yourself in between tenants in a moment or two. You can have them set up as a master key system so that you have one key to access all of your rental units, which is efficient and saves carrying large bunches of keys around. Being able to easily change locks enhances security for new tenants at turnover time. Being able to change locks yourself reliably is very important and cannot be taken for granted with other systems. I used to have Kwikset Smartkey locks installed but if you read around you will hear about how they can lock up on you when you go through the process to change keys. It happened to me when I was turning a unit over and neither the new nor the old key would work the lock. For this to happen once is too often as far as I am concerned. When it comes to security I want a system that is absolutely rock solid and trouble free. I spoke to my locksmith about it and he told me he has a couple of buckets full of failed Kwikset Smartkey locks that he has had to remove for customers.

I have been systematically replacing Kwikset Smartkey locks at turnover with Landlord Locks iCore locks and selling off the used Kwikset Smartkey locks on Ebay for a few bucks each. They are no good to me. Service from Landlord Locks is top notch. They are efficient, polite and know their business well. I am a happy customer and much better off with this robust product.

@Keith Smith I used the KwikSet system for a while, but you still need 1 key per property and you still have the pain of contractors needing access. I am 45+ minutes from all my units, so I use eRentalLock. It's a customized Schlage lock that lets you give time-sensitive codes. That way if you want Handyman A to have access for a 1 week project, you can do it. It does not require wi-fi or bluetooth. It makes managing maintenance nearly invisible. I am slowly switching all my units to those. No more keys, no more coordination, no more issues.

We run a huge portfolio. 1,000's of tenants so we change out locks very often. We do not use anything other than schlage. It's a great product, very durable & easy/quick to install or replace.

Quick Tip: Use non locking handles. The deadbolt should be the only thing that locks. This way tenants can't lock themselves out of the unit & when you do your next turnover you do not have to change out the door handle, only the deadbolt.

James Wise, Real Estate Agent in OH (#2015001161)
216-661-6633

Anybody have issues where tenants take it upon themselves to change locks to prevent landlord or PM access?

you guys are describing a problem that only landlords that have lots of turnover have I started out putting smart Keys everywhere what a waste of money. all those houses are Smart Key Systems at there's never been any turn over 5 years and counting now I put in the cheapest to Dorset that you can get at Home Depot Reliant 29 bucks two doors. I don't think I bought a second set for any house. yes I agree the push-button system would be very nice to have a master key code I would love to do that but I like having all doors have the same key so I means I'll be buying two of those and sometimes three per house that be crazy at $120 per.. just put in the cheapest. I suggest Focus bigger picture redesign you're buying rentals to have less turn over. see the paper I uploaded off my profile how to buy bulletproof portfolio.

New lock set is $30-$50.. just update your lease that says the tenant has to pay $250 for replacement on exit.. new tenants are happy, your lock problem is solved, and your making a little profit.

@Tony Salemi Hey Tony. Never had that problem and never should because of what my lease says. I would make sure your lease is clear on tenants not doing that.
Originally posted by @Keith Smith :
@Tony Salemi Hey Tony. Never had that problem and never should because of what my lease says. I would make sure your lease is clear on tenants not doing that.

 I don't want this to sound bad, but (some) tenants break all kinds rules set forth in leases.  I don't see how any language prevents that. 

Another vote for Landlord Locks. The flexibility is awesome. Plus, the locks are a step above various retail locks. The keys typically cannot be copied as they are not the run of the mill key. Literally takes less than a minute to re-key a deadbolt. Having a master key is terrific, as is having a standard contractor key that we give to our regular contractors. (We use a chrome cylinder so we know when it is not the "real" cylinder for the home.) Read 

Also agree with only keying the deadbolt. First, the door handle without the lock is cheaper, and helps to offset the higher cost of the lock. Second, there is no chance of lockout. 


Lastly, if you want or need it, they also have, "Tamper Resistant Attachment Products," which is a screw with a 5 sided attachment to drive the screw. This would prevent the tenant (or at least make it harder) to change the lockset out. 

Originally posted by @Tony Salemi :
Originally posted by @Keith Smith:
@Tony Salemi Hey Tony. Never had that problem and never should because of what my lease says. I would make sure your lease is clear on tenants not doing that.

 I don't want this to sound bad, but (some) tenants break all kinds rules set forth in leases.  I don't see how any language prevents that. 

 Doesn't sound bad at all, and I completely agree with you. But it's better to have that in the lease than to not have it in the lease.

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