This month's blog is on smart locks, advantages, and disadvantages. First off, in my research, we here have been calling this the wrong thing. What we use are Smart Keys or SmartKey technology from Kwikset. "Smart Locks" refers to keypunch style locks that usually also have a keyhole. Many Smart Locks can also be unlocked using a smartphone. In this, I will explain, from the view of Management One Property Management, why we use what we use, as well as why Smart Locks, the keypunch style, is a bad idea in our business.
Why Change the Locks on a Rental Property Anyway?
It is all about security and liability.
We have found over the years that once a resident vacates a property, there is a high probability they will return, for one reason or another. You would not think that was the case, but it is. Why does this matter? Anyone on your property - at any time - poses a liability risk. Have you heard the story of the cat burglar (who seldom steal cats, by the way) who fell through a rooftop kitchen skylight, was injured by knives he fell on (which were on the counter), then sued the property owner and won? Everything you do to secure your property is to your advantage. Anything you forego is at your risk.
Now, say the fictitious and often referenced "Joneses." move out, and partway through the rehab of the property, Mr. Jones returns and takes your worker's tools. Your contractor is going to be furious and will likely bill you for this. However, let's look at it another way.
The property is fully rehabbed (meaning the property was painted, cleaned, and repaired as needed), the new residents, the Smiths, move in, settle in, and life is good! You're happy, they're happy, and we are too! Then a flat-screen LCD TV, brand new, turns up missing. This becomes a who-done-it. The Jones family had the same keys as the new Smith residents now have. The Jones Boy gave his buddy a key. The babysitter for the Joneses had a key. The dog walker too! Ding-dang it, now there is a liability issue.
Re-keying a Rental Property Solves Problems
During the rental process, many people may have entered the property to view it. Contractors from various trades likely did too. Who is to say that one of these folks, or someone they know, is not a crook? Not only that, but the past resident had keys too! Re-keying a rental property after a move out partly solves liability issues. Re-keying it before a new resident moves in solves it entirely. And that is what we do at Management One Property Management.
Smart Keys versus Lock Smith Lock Changes
The first thing I want to point out is that by using smart keys, we can change the locks at a fraction of the cost that locksmiths charge.
At present, according to HomeAdvisor.com, the cost of a household lock change is:
National Average: $153
Typical Range: $96-$210
Low-End to High-End: $50-$355
When we re-key a home, the cost is a flat $75. Period. That is dirt cheap for a little slice of peace of mind pie. Furthermore, each subsequent lock change is also $75. Should the resident need a re-key, at their own cost, it's $75. When they move out, $75, and so on.
However, this is all dependent on Smart Key Technology locks being on the property! With that comes the initial cost for change over to Smart Keys, which we highly advise. You are looking at about $97 per door installed. Yes, it is an initial chunk of change, but there are other advantages, even beyond the long-term lock change cost reduction.
SmartKey Locks are Bump Proof
What is "Bump Proof" regarding locks? Well, class, you see...
A standard lock tumbler has multiple pins, and for every pin, there is a second one that sits above it, held in place by a spring. One set of pins sit in the channel the key notches slide into and against. Another set sits atop the first set, and spring sits above these two twin sets of pins, pushing them down. When your key notches match the pin settings, the notches of the key pushes the first set of pins, which in turn pushes the 2nd set of pins into a position, allowing you to turn the key to the unlocked position.
What locksmiths discovered, and subsequently, criminals, is that by applying a certain amount of blunt force, a jolt if you will, to the lock cylinder, the 2nd set of pins would briefly jump. If timed right, the criminal can turn a dummy key and open the lock during the short time these pins jumped. The bad guys have even gone to the point of creating a machine that repeatedly jolts locks rapidly, like a small jackhammer, allowing them to get your stuff quickly.
SmartKey technology uses a patented slide, not a second set of pins, preventing lock bumping.
By the way, if anyone has tried to bump your locks, the act of doing do usually leaves a tell-tale mark or "ding" on the cylinder. Go check yours now; I'll wait...
SmartKey Locks are Nearly Pick Proof
When we have to utilize a locksmith, we have a great one located only about a block from our office. Interestingly, a couple of years back, before we utilized SmartKeys, this locksmith showed up at an abandoned property we were taking possession of. Their task was to pick the locks. These are full-on pros, mind you.
When the locksmith walked up to the front door and saw the locks were SmartKeys, he let out a quiet sigh, mixed with a guttural grumble. It was a very odd sound, by the way.
"These are SmartKey locks, I can't pick these!" he said after trying for several minutes. "The only thing I can do it drill out one of the cylinders, but it won't be easy." He had to drill three out before he could get one door to open.
The point is, SmartKey locks are hard to breach, and they are durable.
8 Keys for One Property - or Just One?
It is rare, but I have seen properties with as many as eight keys to operate all the doors. Add to that door keys from wholly different lock manufactures. The knobs, standard Kwikset, the deadbolts Schlage.
Okay, so, you know that nightmare you had as a child (don't lie, we ALL had this one) where the monster (mine was Frankenstein) is slow-walking after you, and you're trying to run, but you're running in thick mud? You fall. You can't get away. Then you wake up. Now add to that trying to get through the front door of your house to safety, but dang it, there are six keys! Which one, which one, which one!!!
By the way, that is why in EVERY Friday the 13th movie, the good guy or girl falls and Jason, slow walking, gains ground, they capitalized on that same dream we all have.
Now rarely does Frankenstein, or Jason, chase our residents around in thick mud, but there are instances when you NEED to get in right now. It's night, and there is a sketchy character on the sidewalk or your child is screaming and yelling, making a scene. No one wants to fumble around with a gazillion keys every single day, especially when it is urgent.
Years ago, we looked to resolve this, as we knew this sort of thing was aggravating. As a matter of fact, we put ourselves in our resident's shoes all the time. Not literally, that would be weird. Figuratively. I know if something would bug me, it will bug a resident, and a bugged resident does not stay in a property if a sated resident.
With the SmartKey, there is no need ever to have more than one key for the whole property.
Downside to SmartKeys
There are very few downsides to using SmartKey locks so far, and we have been using them for some time. The only real downside I have seen so far is cost. For a contractor to install them, you're looking at about $97 per door. Honestly, the upsides of reduced cost and everything else outweigh that initial cost a wide margin.
Another upside is that should the resident loses their key, there may be a drill out in their future. That would be at the resident's expense; however, we do have a copy of the key for each property safely stored away. As I said above, that $75 re-key cost will look good compared to what a locksmith will charge for drilling out the locks, then replace them all. Or even just one!
Smart Locks - Why We Don't Use Them
Smart locks, you know, the type that has keypads on them? Well, we do not use them. Let me explain why that is.
For starters, they are even more costly than SmartKey locks.
Sometimes it is simpler to draw an illustration by citing an example or two.
A house is vacated. It makes no difference if it is a property owner or a renter that vacated, but that resident installed a smart keypad lock on the front door. Said prior resident forgets something behind and returns to retrieve it. They have the door code. The problem is, the house has already rented, and someone is residing in the house.
If they enter the house, an unauthorized breach of the property, they can be in serious trouble.
But let's look at this in another way: just like keys. As mentioned earlier, the past resident's babysitter had the door code too. And the babysitter's friend, as well. Stuff comes up missing, and, as a result, someone is getting blamed.
In other words, there is no security control of keys, nor the entry process itself. Keypad Smart Locks are a wildcard. Maybe a contractor changes the code and enters later. Maybe a past resident does. Perhaps the former dog walker is a crook who covets other people's possessions, not to mention dogs. Since they are not just a physical key, there is no real assurance that the code to a smart keypad lock has been changed. And what if a past resident's phone app lets them enter? You might as well not have any locks at all.
I can't speak for other property management companies. Still, we here at Management One are always looking for ways to maximize the property owner's profit, protect their property, and minimize their exposure to potential threats. At the same time, we also look for the same assurances for our residents.
Looking for repairs that are worth the money on your rental property. Check out this blog.