Multimedia, Property Management

Locks for a Rental Property – Video Extra

In this video, founders Eli Secor and Chris Lee discuss locks for a rental property why they recommend changing locks between tenants. They do so not just for the safety of the tenants, but also for the security that it provides for the entire property. Eli and Chris also discuss the difference between electronic and manual locks, as well as the pros and cons that come with each. 

Topics in this video include:

  • Should landlords change locks between tenants? [0:17]
  • Recommendations on changing locks [3:04]
  • All about electronic locks [3:32]


Eli Secor: Hello, I’m Eli from Landlord Gurus and we have Chris here, our co-founder. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about changing locks on units and common areas when there’s a changeover in tenants.

So, the first question is, “Should landlords change locks when there’s a turnover?” Chris, you’ve written about this. What’s your take on that? 

internal link Also Read: Do Landlords Have to Change Locks Between Tenants? Should They?

Chris Lee: Generally, I think that it’s a good idea. I know that not everybody does it. It can be complicated but there are a lot of reasons why you should and we’ll get into those later and we’ll talk about what those options might be. Yeah, I think, first, we can discuss what are your responsibilities as a landlord, right?

You know, are you required to change locks? And I think that sort of depends. 

ES: Yeah, location by location. We are required to, here in Seattle. My guess is that most places don’t require it, but we highly recommend that you look into the law and be sure that if you are required to do it, you’re absolutely following through on that. Both so you’re not on the wrong side of the law, as well as the potential for being liable for some kind of damages if you don’t, and somebody has an issue with somebody breaking in or that type of thing. 

CL: Yeah, I think it’s common in a lot of places, where if there’s evidence of domestic violence, things like that, where you’re probably responsible for changing the locks. In those cases, just to make sure that the abuser doesn’t get back into the units.

ES: Yeah, and even in cases where there isn’t any kind of a conflict, it just feels to me like the right thing to do. 

CL: Right. 

ES: To help ensure the security of your new tenant by making sure that only they have the keys or access. 

CL: Right. Yeah. So, you know, when you don’t change keys, you end up with keys floating around.

You don’t know who’s in possession of a key to a particular unit, you just never know what can happen, both in terms of access by people who shouldn’t have access and then also just in terms of you. There’s a landlord keeping track of all the keys in case somebody does get locked out. You want to be able to have a copy that you can get to them or, you know, that they can go get a copy made themselves.

I’m sure you’ve dealt with keychains, and I know I do have keychains. 

ES: I got one that big. Fortunately, I’m using it less and less, but yeah, it’s something that I’d like to ditch altogether. 

CL: Some of those may not even be valid keys anymore. Maybe you’ve changed a lock and key around, so it can be confusing. We have some recommendations as far as how you can take care of that and not have to deal with that. 

ES: First off, why should you change locks, or change a method of access between tenants?

Some of the benefits that come to mind for me are that I don’t have to call a locksmith each time I have a turnover, which was costing me $100 a pop. You can either pay a locksmith to re-key or you can buy a deadbolt and put it in and they’re going to be about the same price. So there’s the security element where only your new tenant and you have access to the unit.

We’ll get into the recommendations on how to do this, but there are a lot of benefits with some of the new options out there. I guess that leads us to what we recommend. So, what are your thoughts on what we recommend? Do you rekey? How do you do it? 

CL: Yeah, so I guess to start off, yes, I think it’s a good idea to rekey or to have new access for each new tenant that comes through. Whether that’s a new key, a new lock, or something different. 

You got into this, with changing deadbolts or having a locksmith come out and re-key—that’s option number one. That’s probably the most manual, the most, kind of, old-school way of doing it, right? This was what you did, and so that’s an option. And like you said, it probably is going to cost you the same, whether you get a new deadbolt and put it in yourself or whether you get a locksmith to re-key.

Another option is getting an electronic lock that you can install and it has a numbered key pad and you can set codes. In some cases, I’ve got one where you can set like eight different codes at a time. If you need one code for yourself, one code for the tenant, one code for the maintenance person. 

You set those codes manually, you can change those codes when a tenant leaves and a new one comes in. Everyone has access via the electronic keypad and it usually runs off battery, sometimes it might run off, wired, electricity. I’m not sure.

ES: Yeah, I use those everywhere now. And actually, it occurs to me as you’re talking, there are non-electronic versions, which have been around for a while. It’s still a keypad, but they’re mechanical. They are not what I would recommend and I don’t use them. They’re more expensive.

I think the last time I looked, they were $500-700, but they’re very robust, and they’re for a commercial application. You know, I think there could be an argument for that. For me, I use the Schlage, off-the-shelf, electronic battery operated, either deadbolts or levers.

So, what I usually do is have a keyless knob and a keypad deadbolt. Since the deadbolt’s much more secure, and I don’t want to also have a key or another keypad for the lever. I just change out the two of them. The passage knob on non-locking is very cheap and the deadbolt’s $100-130 usually. That’s my approach. 

CL: Yeah. The pros of that, as we talked about, you can change codes at any time for when tenants move in and out, you don’t have to deal with keys, and it’s a one-time cost as well. You install it once and you don’t have to reinstall a new deadbolt every time.

The cons maybe are that if they’re battery powered and you run out of battery, then, hopefully, it doesn’t happen in the middle of the night or something, but, it gives you time that you’d have to change the batteries.

ES: That’s a routine thing, about once a year in my experience. It keeps you from running out of battery if you do it about once a year.

There are other Wi-Fi enabled, as well, so that you can program remotely. 

CL: Those are more in the smart lock category, I suppose, where, they’re Wi-Fi enabled. You can give access via your phone, you can change codes via your phone, you can even unlock it remotely if you’re not there and somebody needs to get in. You can push a button on your phone and it unlocks right there. So, those are just great. 

ES: That’s great because you can give somebody access without them having access again later. 

CL: Exactly. Like a handyman or a plumber or anything like that. Or if the tenant forgets their code. 

ES: Exactly. And, I think often you can program those codes to expire. You can give access to somebody that is only for a short period of time. 

There are also more sophisticated systems, which are more for larger buildings. Often they’ll have access where you can contact the different units and you can be buzzed in, basically it’s a it’s a modern version of the buzzing in. That has benefits for package delivery. They can be as sophisticated as facial recognition. We’ve written about one of those systems and we’ll link to that as well as another article that we’ve written about all of this that we’re talking about today. 

internal link Also Read: Swiftlane Intercom and Access Control Review

You can get really fancy. You can do remote showings, which is something I haven’t done, but it’s worth considering.

CL: Yeah, definitely. If you just open the door for them remotely or give them a code in advance that expires after a particular amount of time and they can go and look at it themselves. Yeah, it’s a good idea. 

ES: Some definite things to consider there about security and who you’re letting in and that type of thing.

CL: And so I guess, you know, back to our recommendations, I know you were saying that you use those, battery-powered, electronic locks that you can change codes, on-site. They’re convenient, they’re easy, they’re affordable, that’s kind of what you’ve gone with and you like that and you’d recommend that system.

ES: Yup. For my purposes, with either an individual property or an apartment building, that’s what I go with. Both on common area access as well as individual, apartment access. 

CL: Okay, that’s great. I guess we can add links to examples of products like that as well. So, you guys can take a look and see what Eli’s using.

ES: Yeah, I’ll share that info. 

CL: Okay, great. Anything else that, comes up for you about this? 

ES: That’s what comes to mind. No, I think we covered it. So, yeah, thanks for watching and we’ll put some links to our content and example products.

We hope you’ll come back for our next episode. Follow us and subscribe and we’ll try and keep good content coming. So thanks for watching.

CL: Bye.

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Here at Landlord Gurus, our commitment is to provide expert advice on the complex and important issues faced by landlords and property managers. Together we have over 30 years of experience in residential property ownership and management. In addition to sharing our own expertise and experiences, we call on specialists in fields including maintenance, law, tenant management, and more. Where we see topics that require more in-depth discussion, we create insightful articles that provide valuable information and guidance.
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