Gold Bar
Row of single family homes

4 Key Control Best Practices for Build-to-Rent Communities

4 Key Control Best Practices for Build-to-Rent Communities

The build-to-rent (BTR) market is booming, having grown more than 300% since 2019. These purpose-built rental communities offer the privacy of a house with the convenience of professional property management. If you’re a developer or property management firm in the BTR space, implementing strong key control processes is essential for effective operations and resident security.

Here are four key management best practices:

1. Build Resident Trust Through Clear Key Control Policies and Procedures

Whether BTR residents are millennials who can’t afford to buy or baby boomers wanting to downsize and reduce home maintenance tasks, they’re looking for “the privacy of a single-family home without all the upkeep.” And since many of these renters pay a premium of 10% to 20% above market rents, they rightfully expect a high level of security and privacy.

Since many of these renters pay a premium of 10% to 20% above market rents, they rightfully expect a high level of security and privacy.

To meet those expectations, implement clear policies around when and how staff can enter occupied homes. As part of that process, be sure to:

  • Communicate Expectations to Residents and Staff: Establish guidelines on the amount of notice required (e.g., 24 hours) and preferred notification method (email, text, etc.).

  • Define Exceptions for Immediate Entry: Outline circumstances like emergencies or resident requests allowing entry without standard notice.

  • Maintain a Digital Audit Trail: Every time a key is checked out for a resident's home, it should be documented. If the resident has any concerns about someone being in their home without permission or if they suspect something has been damaged or stolen, this documentation gives them peace of mind while reducing your organization’s liability.

Investing in an electronic key control system strengthens your commitment to resident safety. The system automatically logs every checkout, recording who removed the key, the time, and the reason. This verifiable audit trail ensures accountability and deters unauthorized access. In addition, the system can be programmed to email residents when the key to their home has been checked out, providing transparency and security.

2. Don’t Overlook Key Control in Smart Communities

While some BTR homes are equipped with smart locks, don’t write off the need for a key control strategy. There are numerous other areas and assets that require physical key access, such as:

  • Common areas
  • Maintenance/service rooms and supply closets
  • Cluster mailboxes and package rooms
  • Maintenance trucks
  • Storage facilities

The keys for operating these areas of the community need to be properly secured and tracked, ideally in an electronic key management system. If your smart lock system uses fobs, you can attach them to key tags and manage them in your key control system for an added layer of security.

3. Optimize Key Management for Efficient Maintenance

The average BTR development includes 120 to 130 homes. Considering that there are hundreds of keys to manage across a single community, maintenance technicians need a streamlined process to quickly retrieve the correct keys for the homes they’ll be working in.

To enable maintenance personnel to complete work orders efficiently, it’s important to implement the right key control infrastructure. An electronic key control system allows management to assign keys to individual technicians in advance so they can quickly retrieve the keys they need from the key control system. For quick key identification, label key tags with QR codes that technicians can scan with your key control provider’s mobile app.

Scanning a KeyTrak tag with QR code

4. Plan for Expansion

In 2023, 27,500 BTR homes were built — 75% more than in 2022 and 175% more than in 2021. This year, another 45,400 are under construction and are anticipated to open in 2025.

As your BTR operations continue to grow, your key management needs five years from now will likely look very different than they do today. That’s why having a key control solution that can easily scale is a must. Implementing the right technology now allows you to seamlessly expand rather than having to overhaul systems later.

Implementing the right technology now allows you to seamlessly expand rather than having to overhaul systems later.

When evaluating options, look for providers that make it easy to increase key capacity or install interconnected systems at multiple locations. With a networked infrastructure, your organization can:

  • Automatically synchronize data across all systems.
  • View consolidated reporting on key usage, overdue keys, and system activity.
  • Enforce standardized key control policies and procedures across all your BTR communities.
  • Support maintenance teams with seamless key assignments.

As the BTR market continues its rapid growth trajectory, having a scalable and flexible key management solution will be crucial for streamlining operations across all your communities.

By prioritizing key control best practices, you can provide residents the sense of privacy, security, and professional service they expect. With the right systems and protocols in place, key management becomes an asset rather than an obstacle.

Get More Key Control Tips