Juggling Keys

When you have one or two rental properties, you have no problems with keys.  But when you add another property, and another, you begin to see the key juggling issues arise.  Your key ring is getting unwieldy and heavy.  If you use a maintenance man, his key ring is getting heavy as well.

The solution to the key juggling issue is the master key system.  It’s wonderfully easy.  After I bought my second duplex I switched to this system.  I had tenant keys to the units, and I took the locks off the front doors and brought them to my locksmith and had him master those for me.  So now, the tenant keys still worked the front door locks but so did the master key.  I left the back doors as is; they can be opened only with the tenant key.  (Why spend the extra money to have all the entrances mastered?)

So now, 15 years and 27 rental units later, I carry a plastic lunch box in my car with all the tenant keys inside, but the only key I need on my key ring is my master key.  It’s a very easy system I highly recommend. 

Another huge plus to the master key idea is that you can give a copy of it to all of your trusted sub contractors.  My heating and air company, plumber, sewer cleaning people . . . they all have my master key.  You can’t imagine how much time this has saved me over the years.  When I have an issue at one of my rentals, all I have to do is make a call to them.  If my tenant isn’t home, no problem.  The contractor can get in with his master key.  It’s awesome!

Another note about keys . . . it used to drive me crazy when tenants would call me and say “I lost my key, can you come and let me in?”  If I wasn’t in the area I’d call Craig, my maintenance man, and he’d run over and open the door.  He lives in the area.  Then I decided to start charging for this, so I added a clause to my lease, saying there’d be a charge for coming to unlock doors for tenants.   

I thought this was sufficient, but learned otherwise.  The first couple times Craig had to go unlock doors for tenants, he was told, “I don’t have the cash with me right now, can I pay you in a couple days?”

So….yet another tweak to the lease!  Now it says “Immediate $20 charge if we have to come unlock your door.”  No money, no unlock.  It may seem cruel, but many leases have clauses like this and if the tenant has to pay it one time, it’s usually the first and last time it happens. 

So that’s the story on locks and keys.  Using a master key system saves time and money, and keeps life simple.  The next time you have a move-out, start converting your units to this system, one at a time.  You’ll be glad you did!

1 thought on “Juggling Keys

  1. Be glad for the renter who has locked himself out and calls you. I once had a roommate in college who locked himself out one night, screaming drunk, and proceeded to break the door down to get in. Next day, he called up the landlord and reported a break in (omitting of course the part about who did the breaking). I’m sure the landlord would have rather gotten out of bed in the middle of the night and come over to let him in, rather than having to pay for the door repair.


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