Key Control

Key control is a mundane, boring task, yet it is a vital responsibility in an apartment complex environment. Failure to implement an effective key control system could cause a tenant to suffer serious harm or property loss. It could also lead to a liability lawsuit directed at the management company or the investors.

The essential first step is to replace the locks or re-key the locks each time a tenant moves out--before a new tenant moves into an apartment. The second step is to retain a duplicate set of keys carefully tagged for identification and maintained in a key lock box in a secure area within the office. Do not lend the duplicate keys. If a tenant has lost keys, you or your staff can open the apartment for the tenant. You can have the tenant's locks replaced or re-keyed at management company expense or at the tenant's expense, according to your policy. Do not give an apartment key to a vendor, even if the vendor is working in a vacant apartment. Only carefully designated employees should be allowed to have physical possession of apartment keys. The employee should be required to sign for the keys, stating name, date, and time. The log should reflect the same type of information when the key is returned to the key lock box. If you lose a key, change the locks.

It is very tempting to use locks that will accept master keys. Using master keyed locks is a very bad practice. Master keyed locks increase risk enormously. It is possible to lose a master key. Although reputable locksmiths will not make a duplicate copy of a master key, copies can be made. Manufacturers of master keyed locks sell master keys to the many purchasers of those locks, so there will be other people who have copies of the master key.

Tenants should not be allowed to install their own locks or re-key the locks. The landlord or a responsible management company agent has a right to enter the apartment under legally specified conditions, and that right should be maintained. It may be necessary to grant entrance to official emergency personnel, i.e. fire, police, or emergency medical personnel. The capability to enter the private dwelling place of a tenant emphatically suggests that management company employees must be certifiably trustworthy, and their every action must generate trust.

You can delegate duties. You cannot delegate responsibility. Key control is a managerial responsibility in apartment complex operations.