Security Measures All Landlords Should Take with Rental Properties - dummies

Security Measures All Landlords Should Take with Rental Properties

By Robert S. Griswold, Laurence Harmon

Dispensing the keys is a very serious issue that has significant liability for landlords and managers. Not securing the rental unit’s extra keys can allow access to a resident’s rental unit, potentially leading to theft or crimes involving serious bodily injury.

If you fail to follow reasonable security measures or let keys fall into the wrong hands due to your carelessness, you could be held legally liable for any property loss, medical bills and other economic claims, such as pain and suffering or mental anguish. Master keys and duplicates require careful handling and should be stored only in a locked metal key cabinet or safe.

In addition, make sure doors, windows, and locks are in working order and up to the local industry standard. Include an entry lock set and a sturdy deadbolt with at least a 13⁄16 -inch throw on all solid-core, exterior entry doors. Provide peepholes on the main or primary exterior entry door as well.

Some states have laws specifically requiring rental property owners to provide window locks. Whether legally required or not, you should provide locks for all windows that can be opened. Install window locks on upper-level windows as a safety device and as a way of minimizing the chance that young, unsupervised children may fall from an open window.

Changing the locks between residents is extremely important. Prior residents may have retained copies of the keys and may return to steal or commit some other crime. You can purchase and install an entirely new lock or have your maintenance person or a locksmith rekey the existing lock. If you have several rental units, substitute the existing lock set with a spare lock set.

Keep several extra locksets in inventory so you can rotate locks between units upon turnover. Have your new resident sign a statement indicating she’s aware that the locks have been changed or rekeyed since the prior resident vacated. Then give her a copy of the locksmith receipt for her records.

If you have a master key system for your rental properties, be extremely careful with it. Don’t keep any extra copies or loan the master key to anyone whom you don’t trust implicitly. Although locksmiths are required by law to have written authorization prior to duplicating a key marked “Do not duplicate,” remember that an individual who wants to commit a crime isn’t likely concerned about illegally copying the key.