Rental properties and keys

Industry News, Investors, Property Management,  Property Managers

If there is one thing that has never changed in property management, it is the frustration of a property manager attending a property only to find the keys don’t work in the door anymore.

  • Have you brought the wrong set of keys?
  • Has the tenant changed the locks and not told you?
  • Are you holding your mouth just right to click the lock?

In recent years we have seen the development of products such as Key Tracker which allows us a better model from internally and externally tracking our keys. For those with especially large rent rolls, this is a big win.

However, there are still legal requirements and best practice methods that we should unpack when it comes to property management and keys.

1. Keeping keys safe

The client expects that the property you manage on their behalf is secure and safe and so do the tenants that live there.

There is an element of precaution with keys, so we need to ensure that keys are locked away and there is no record of property address attached to the keys in the event that keys are misplaced or lost.

2. Providing keys to the tenant

The property manager/owner must give at least one of the tenants a key for every lock that is part of the premises. This includes sheds, gates and letterboxes. If there is more than one tenant named on the tenancy agreement, the property manager/owner must supply each of the named tenants on the tenancy agreement with a key for each lock that is required to access the premises.

3. Giving tenant access if locked out

We the agent are not able to charge tenants for anything other than rent, bond, key deposit and holding deposit so think twice about inserting a charge to the tenant to provide keys or call-out services.

Also if a tenant has locked themselves out, be very mindful of who is collecting the office set of keys. We should have procedures in place to confirm identity and confirmation from all tenants to provide access. We often don’t know if there has been a domestic violence situation or breakdown in the household.

4. Changing locks

It is not legislated that locks need to be changed between tenants. However, it would be a very safe precaution for investors as there is no real tracking method to identify if tenants have had general keys cut during their tenancy.

However as many lessors find this a costly exercise, it often doesn’t get done.

Whilst the tenant is required to seek lessor consent to change the locks, the lessor must allow the tenant and ensure the property is reasonably secure. If you are allowing a tenant to change the locks, it would be advisable to ensure your landlord conditions the change by stating that locks must be changed to that of a similar quality to what is currently installed and that a set of keys must be provided to the lessor or agent for access.

5. Ending a tenancy

There are times that all of us wish you could just turn up at a house and change the locks on that tenant not paying their rent. Unfortunately, you cannot. We must end tenancies in accordance to the law and its process. Only when possession has been given back to the lessor/agent can locks be changed.

6. Owner access

Many of our landlords live interstate and most of our correspondence is handled over the phone or via email. Very rarely do we get to put a face to the name. So what do we do when an owner decides they would like to collect keys to inspect or work on the property between tenancies?

It is essential that we verify identity and ensure that if owned by multiple parties that all parties agree to the handing of keys to that particular party. The last thing you want to do is hand the keys to someone who is not an authorised party or become stuck in the middle of an ownership dispute or break down.

7. Tradies and access

Facilitating access between tenants and tradespeople can be a timely exercise and we often provide a work order with tenant contact details hoping the tradesperson and tenant can negotiation access together.

However what processes do we have in place to verify communication if there is no request to issue a form 9 Entry notice?

Without an entry notice there must be mutual consent from the tenant for a tradesperson to access the home and whilst we like to trust that our tradespeople have achieved this consent, what would you do if a tenant stated that they never gave consent and a tradesperson accessed the home?

Potentially a failsafe idea would be that once the tradesperson contacts your office to arrange collection of keys, communication is quickly sought from the tenant to verify or have the tradesperson provide evidence in the way of email or text of approval.

While keys can be a property manager’s worst nightmare, with good systems and best practice procedures in place you can eliminate some of your frustrations. I am sure that in the future we will be a keyless industry and will see smart keys and access pads the norm for accessing homes.