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4 Tips to Improve Key Security in Multitenant Office Buildings

With threats of data breaches, theft, and workplace violence looming large, physical security should be a top priority for facilities managers. In the current risk landscape, key and access control are critical. But managing keys, access cards, and fobs in multitenant office buildings presents unique challenges. What’s the best way to give tenants and vendors the access they need? How do you reduce key control liability risks? What if some tenants prefer physical keys while others want smart locks? Let’s take a look at how to address these concerns.

Segregate Access

One of the biggest challenges of key control in a multitenant facility is segregating access to different areas of the building. You need to ensure authorized personnel have access to the appropriate spaces, while also maintaining the security of common areas and supply rooms.

Honor-based or manual key management methods are risky, and one misstep can lead to serious consequences. For example, one facilities manager shared how they landed in hot water after they mistakenly issued a master key to the wrong person, who used it for unauthorized reasons.

Honor-based or manual key management methods are risky, and one misstep can lead to serious consequences.

To avoid finding yourself in a similar situation, use an electronic key management system to create user profiles and access levels to control who can access different keys. The system will automatically authenticate each user so you won’t have to worry about issuing keys to the wrong people. By digitizing key control, you’ll reduce the risk of theft, unauthorized access, or lost keys.

Clearly Communicate Key Control Policies

To reduce your liability and help tenants follow key security best practices, clearly communicate your facility’s key management policies and procedures. By setting concrete guidelines, you can avoid misunderstandings and make each tenant aware of their responsibilities for handling keys. Two common places to include your key control policies are:

  • Lease/Rental Agreements: Sometimes lease or rental agreements outline specific key control requirements. For example, they might stipulate that it’s the tenant's responsibility to keep a key or access code on file for emergency purposes.

  • Keyholder Agreements: Every time you issue a key, consider having employees sign a keyholder agreement that outlines the person’s responsibilities for safeguarding the key. It should include the consequences for misusing or losing the key, such as paying any replacement costs.

Using a key control system adds another layer of security. For example, when adding a user to your key control system, add a note to their profile indicating that they have a keyholder agreement on file. You can also put the lease’s end date as the due date when issuing a key. If it’s not returned by that date, the system can send you a text or email alert. Having an audit trail will help reduce your liability risk if a key is lost, stolen, or misused.

Manage Mixed Access Control Methods

Digital locks have become increasingly popular due to their convenience. Many tenants appreciate the ability to control access remotely and grant temporary access to visitors or contractors. However, some people still prefer physical keys for various reasons, including familiarity and ease of use. Additionally, physical keys may be a better option for older facilities that don’t have the budget to install smart locks on every door.

Depending on the specific requirements of each tenant and the facility as a whole, your building’s access control might involve a combination of physical keys and digital locks. When managing mixed access control methods, remember these best practices from other facilities managers:

  • Audit access privileges regularly. During a key card audit, a newly hired facility manager discovered that 75 key cards were missing, several former employees had retained door access for years, and one employee had master key privileges despite their job only requiring access to one room. Whether you use cards, fobs, keys, or all of the above, regularly review who has access to various parts of your facility. Physical keys are as easy as fobs or cards to audit electronically if you use a key control system.

  • Keep physical copies of keys. Since digital locks are subject to failure during power or internet outages, one person recommends keeping a copy of a physical key. If you do so, be sure to secure those keys with an electronic key control system to maintain your audit trail of key access.

  • Decide if you’ll allow tenants to install their own locks. If your facility has traditional locks and a tenant wants to install their own smart locks, plan for how you’ll handle those situations. For instance, one facility allows businesses to install keyless entry systems at their own expense as long as they provide an access code to facility management in case of an emergency.

By finding the right balance between physical keys and digital locks, you can meet your tenants’ needs without sacrificing security or convenience.


Streamline Operations

Facilities management is filled with repetitive, detailed tasks, whether it’s managing vendors, preparing for new tenants, or coordinating work orders. When possible, use technology to help you streamline these tasks while increasing security. Some examples include:

  • Vendor Access: When a vendor needs access to a specific area of the building, use an electronic key control system to quickly issue keys and create a verifiable record of key use. If they need more than one key to access a certain room, the system can prompt the user to check out those keys together.

  • Office Moves: When tenants move in or change office locations within the building, you must ensure that each tenant receives the correct keys and access credentials for their office, while also updating your records to reflect the change. Using an electronic key control system provides a centralized location for key information, making tracking and management easier.

  • Supplies Management: Use your key control system to manage assets such as parts, tools, or equipment. You can monitor inventory life and track information such as the location, item type, model, make, warranty expiration date, vendor, and serial number. In addition, you can cut down on theft by tracking if supplies are being depleted more quickly than usual.

Technology is an indispensable tool for managing the complex tasks and responsibilities you encounter every day. By optimizing workflows, you’ll enhance security and have more time to focus on other important areas of your operations.

Although safeguarding a multitenant office building is challenging, following the above key and access control best practices will help you protect your facility and those who work within it.

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