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No Sign of Forced Entry: Who Has Access to Your Tenants' Keys?

There are few things worse for your property's reputation than a string of break-ins. Except, of course, when, instead of using a crowbar, the assailant uses keys to enter your tenants' apartments.

In February of 2013, residents living in an upscale apartment complex in Boston reported at least five break-ins with no sign of forced entry. It was immediately obvious to police that the thief had access to a set of the apartment's keys.

One victim paints a terrifyingly realistic scenario: "What if I had been home when someone came in," she said. "It is a very unsettling situation, and I don't think the management company has done much to address it."

She told reporters that she planned to move out, despite the fact that the property manager had just completed the expensive and time-consuming process of re-keying all the locks.

This compelling news story teaches us three things: 

Tenants Don't Quickly Forgive and Forget

Once you compromise your tenants' safety, it's difficult to gain back their trust. Not only will they not easily forgive the lapse in security, they won't stay quiet about it. As the popular saying goes, bad news travels faster than good. Would you move into a property if you heard that it had a history of poor key management?

Property Managers Must Do Their Due Diligence 

You can be held liable for not providing adequate key control, because leaving tenants' keys unsecured or failing to track who has access to keys is grounds for a negligent security lawsuit. You wouldn't expect your tenants to move into an apartment that didn't have locks installed on the doors. In the same way, you must do your due diligence to tightly secure the keys that unlock your tenants' homes.

Installing a Key Management System Is Better Than the Alternative 

Between the damaged reputation and cost of re-keying every apartment, losing control of keys is an expensive slip-up. It's much more prudent for you to purchase a system that secures keys, keeps a verifiable record of key transactions in real time and controls users' access to keys.

To find out what other key management mistakes property owners make that leave them open to liability, check out our white paper.

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