Do you rekey when turning over a rental?

104 Replies

I would go as far as a rekey between the tenant and any trades you have in doing repairs and make ready and then from the trade to the new tenant. And I wouldnt rekey until the tenant was on site and saw it happen.  That way there is no question. No need to open a liability question over a $50 set of rekeys. 

@Mary Mitchell We always do it especially after an eviction. I don’t think the new tenants would be very happy if they knew someone, especially someone with a potential grudge, could get access to the unit. It’s not expensive to rekey a door or even install a lock. Well worth it.

You have to change the locks. I never considered anything else an option. Whether that is rekey, recode or swap out the lock set - same end result. It is illegal in some state to not change locks, but more importantly it is a major safety and liability risk. I give tenants one key and they usually give me back 3-5 keys. My point is they make copies. One of my tenants once caught an ex-tenant's ex-husband trying to unlock her door. Very scary stuff. Last thing I want is an intruder caught in the property with a key in his hand that I gave him.

Interestingly when I buy houses, I have changed out locksets that I know are 20+ years old and two or more owners have been through the property during that time. I don't think people usually change locks when they buy properties. 

@Nathan G. great point about door openers or key pads. I bet half the garage door key pads out there are set to the houses street address. I reset door key pads and even reset all codes on the opener, then reprogram key pads. Many people don't realize you can easily add a opener. Maybe I am paranoid, but at least I know if someone enters it was a forced entry and not me just trying to save time/money.

Originally posted by @Mark Fries :
@Dan Robbins

It looks like from your profile you are in the military, so I wanna say thanks for your service.

Of course I completely disagree with your assessment and I would classify it as extremely opinionated.

40 rental homes, 5 years, 3 evictions and 4 turnovers... This is why I do not believe I need to change out keys or locks. To be honest tenants have no idea what I do with keys or locks. They wanna rent a great home at a great price..that's it.

The idea that people are gonna come back and break in is a very very low probability unless you are in an F market.

I assure you Mark that any professional rental company is rekeying locks. Way too much potential liability and courts would find that to be negligence. The reason people don't ask isn't because they don't care - it is because they assume you are rekeying. If you are not going to rekey, you should be upfront and tell tenants to give them the option to rekey at their own expense. If you are uncomfortable telling them this, then it is because you know it is wrong. 

I was an on-site apartment manager for years and only 1 of the 4 companies I worked for did not change the locks between tenants. I changed that policy immediately. Although very unlikely, I wanted to make sure we did everything we could to ensure someone did not have access to their apartment with a stray key roaming around. You never know who the tenants gave the key to. The great news is that nowadays there are many options that make rekeying fast and simple. Many people have already posted great options: Kwikset has a lock that can be rekeyed in 2 minutes, keyless entry is a great option or you can have extra sets around and swap out as tenants vacate. :)

When I had a bunch of rentals, I would number my locks 1 to 25 and I would drive around with a set of door knobs in my car, when someone moved out I would swap out the door knobs and dead bolts with the ones in my car. 

Then when the next person moved out I would install the door knobs from the last tenant and I would just keep track not to put the same one back in the same house, if I had used it on that house before then I would go home and get another set. 

The dead bolts and door knobs only have two screws and it takes about a minute to change one, I just made sure all my door knobs were all made by Kwikset so I didn't have to change the bolt part that goes into the door, that would have taken an extra minute.

@Mary Mitchell We used a Kwikset lock on every door. Front, back, security gate, etc., all keyed the same, so you only need the one key. When the tenant leaves, I personally rekey each of them, because Kwikset has that feature. Takes maybe 5 minutes each. I don't know whether other brands have that feature, but even if I needed to hire a locksmith to do it, I'd do it.

Not only should you rekey locks ASAPfor the reasons of safety for your next tenant but you also need to consider the legal implications of not doing so. Some jurisdictions require you to change the locks after each tenant and not doing so could land you in hot water in a court room.

In Illinois the Illinois Landlord and Tenant Act added a new section 765 ILCS 705/15, "effective January 1, 2012, requiring landlords in counties with a population in excess of 3 million people (ie. Cook County) to change or re-key the locks on a dwelling unit after a tenancy ends. Exempt from the law are (1) owner occupied buildings containing four or fewer units or (2) rentals of a room in a private home." (Magnone, 2011)

This is an older updated to the law but one that probably isn’t followed by everyone. Just be sure to check your local landlord tenant laws to be sure your avoiding any liability.

I would highly recommend absorbing the nominal expense of re-keying locks. The first question the tenant will be asked by law enforcement following a potential situation is "who has access to the property?" If they tenant provided keys to a third-party, no issue for the landlord. If they did not, guess what? Landlord is the next stop. IF landlord is the source, that landlord could be liable for not delivering a "secured" property to the tenant. It's also a good practice that helps secure the property between tenants on behalf of the landlord. Good piece of mind, good business. 

If you are cost conscious and a DIY-type landlord, you can spend a little more and install a SmartKey system. This allows you to easily re-key the lock yourself for all future move-ins at no additional cost. These can be purchased at any big-box home improvement store. 

Always change the locks when a tenant moves out. It keeps them moved out, removes the temptation to return for the faucet they like or the copper plumbing etc.

You never want to stand up in court and tell the judge your soon to be former tenant was assaulted, burglarized, raped or killed by a previous resident who returned and used your laziness as an entry tool.

We always change the cylinders (not the knobs) between tenants. 

We always buy our "Master Keyed" handsets and deadbolts from Ernie Riddle at Landlordlocks in Indiana.  PM me for contact info.

We always install the satin chrome finish since it ages better than the brass look-a-likes.

Landlord locks sells hand built versions of the Ultra Max series similar to a  Kwikset Titan. However these locks feature a 6 pin pick resistant tumbler. Most of Ernie's employees are Amish.

There are three kinds of keys: tenant key, master key and control key.

The control key lets you change the cylinders "WITHOUT" using a screwdriver. Put it in, turn counter clockwise and the entire lock assembly slips out of the door knob or deadbolt when you pull back on the key.

They sell hundreds of lock series. Each series is coded with two letters. AA, AB, LZ for example. Each lock series works with one master key and one Control Key and has 217 possible combinations.

We use key number 217 in our series as well as the matching cylinders as a contractor's key system.

When a tenant moves out we change the cylinder to brass so it is in contrast to the handset and deadbolt. We install cylinder 217 top and bottom.

Each  contractor gets a copy of key #217. We also have a code that is unique for them in our alarm system, This way we can tell not only "IF" someone went inside "After Hours" we can also tell what crew they are a part of.

We leave #217 in place until time to move in. Then as part of our resident move in process we change the cylinders while they are watching and have them sign a document that acknowledges it.

Good Luck and Good Investing.

@Mark Fries definitely sounds questionable.

Also have you ever thought about the fact that you just posted this online with your name and general location listed so anyone that rented from those 50 units over the last x amount of years basically knows they could go back in at any time...... :/

@Mary Mitchell imho what I do is buy just an extra lock set or 2. Once they move out just change the entire lock set. Very simple to do as all you need is a screwdriver. The old one then gets cycled back in at a later date on different units. Saves a ton of money in the long run.

I rekey at every tenant turn over.  I use schelage locks and have extra cores so when the tenant moves out I grab a set of cores and change them out.  You can find rekeying kits on amazon and videos how to rekey the cylinders on the YouTube.  With the kit you can set up a master key system as well.

@Mary Mitchell

Yes I have always rekeyedmy locks. I also have my locksmith set the locks up so you have 1 key for the front and back door locks. For my condos we only have the deadbolt lock. The actual handle does not have a separate lock. So I only have to rekey the deadbolt, between tenants or contractors. It is cheaper then swapping out the cylinder or lock.

I have 6 units. One thing I am considering is buying two deadbolt locks and swapping out the lock myself between tenants. Sort of like playing Three Card Monty but with locks. It's a one time cost and the only cost I may incur, are to cutting new keys.

We change the lock immediately after the resident has vacated. Every lock is keyed to be operated by one master key. We have a Schalge locksmith set and repin the cylinders if needed. We also have a key copying machine.... is that too much?

Along with the rekeying question, how does everyone lock their doors? I do the deadbolt lock system with a passage lever so that no one can lock their keys in the house.

When I landlorded, absolutely I rekeyed.  I heard some pretty horrific stories of what happened to people when the rekey wasn't done.  I don't know if they were true or not but they were stories of theft, rape and murder.  I couldn't have that on my conscience for 20 to 30 bucks in rekey costs.

@Mary Mitchell I rekey the locks each time when new tenant moves in. However, when the house is being worked on, I generally change the front door locks and leave a lockbox so contractors can access the house, I have a spare set just for that. Once the work is complete all entrances get new set of locks so there is no chance of someone getting in. I also bought few sets of smart locks on Black Friday of last year when they were $15 a piece Kwickset but have not used it yet.

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here