Tip #32

Re-key the Locks Between Tenants with Kwikset SmartKey

Written on July 8, 2013 by , updated on June 26, 2014

Kwikset SmartKeyBesides online rent payments, I think Kwikset’s SmartKey technology is one of the best inventions in property management in the last 10 years.

When a tenant loses a key, these special deadbolts and door handles allow a landlord to easily re-key the locks within seconds.

Each of the Kwikset SmartKey locks cost about the same as traditional locks, and they will pay for themselves in one visit from a locksmith.


How it Works

How it Works - Kwikset SmartKey

My Lesson Learned

Just recently, a tenant returned four keys to me when he moved out. My curiosity was piqued, because I had originally given him only two keys. Obviously, he made some copies even though he was specifically instructed not to.

He said that he only made two copies, but I have no way of knowing for sure. A month later, a back door was found unlocked that the tenants claimed they had locked, and there was no sign of forced entry.

After a few days of anxiety, I decided to hire a locksmith to re-key all the locks to the apartment, which cost me $180. By that time, I had already returned the deposit, and wouldn’t be able to ask the former tenant to pay for it.

If I had used SmartKey locks, I could have re-keyed the unit myself and taken my wife to Ruth’s Chris Steak House instead of paying a locksmith.

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21 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Armadale Locksmiths

    Locksmith technology is getting smarter day by day, and rekeying your locks is one of the most important things you should do when move into a new home.

    • Lucas Hall

      I couldn’t agree more. I’ve even experienced theft because I didn’t change the locks. It’s hard to prove anything was stolen when you don’t have forced entry.

      • Penny J Andrews

        I live n a 208 person unit locks are usually replaced but security is diminished by using old locks and switching them fr one apt to another. I have been robbed several times. Had the locks changed and someone is still taking my food and clothing. Wonder, is there anything to do about this.

  • Sam Maropis

    In Texas it is the law that you must change locks between tenants. Also if you use landlordlocks.com system changing locks is easy and cheap. The issue with the SmartKey locks is that you have to have blank keys ahead of time. Not an issue but one to think about. Here is a video of breaking into a smart key lock
    rather chilling

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sam,

      That video is chilling, but not totally unique. YouTube has a video like this (some hot-shot locksmith showing the public how to break-in to a property) for almost any lock out there – although some are obviously worse than others. Thanks for sharing though. It’s important for folks to know everything they can about a product before buying anything.

      • Joshua C

        Really locks are not hard to pick at all. Get a decent set of picks off the net and little practice is all you really need. You can have youtube teach you as well.

      • Corey

        Improvements to the SmartKey cylinder have been made. The SmartKey cylinder is really quite an impressive piece of security technology, especially given the price. They are way more pick and bump-proof. If you want serious attack protection, you can always opt for a much more expensive product like Medeco or Mul-T-Lock, but you rely on locksmiths for everything. Not bad if you’re a large commercial property but for a landlord that can get expensive fast.

        At the end, brute force is brute force. If the lock is destroyed, it takes time and makes noise and leaves a visible trail. Either way, if you’re intent to destroy a deadbolt, there are probably easier ways in than the door. I think this is a pretty great product.

  • Michael

    I spent a lot of time looking at how to key my rentals. The smart key was at the top of the list because of the ease of use, however I ended up settling on an online distributor called landlordlocks.com (www.landlordlocks.com). I’m in no way affiliated with them, but absolutely love their service and pricing. Not to mention these locks are actually easier to work with than the smart keys, they’re more tenant proof, and you get a master key. Depending on how many units you have, it might be worth checking out. I’m glad I started out with these from the get-go. Every unit I purchase gets one of these locks on it as soon as it turns over!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your input. You’re the second person to recommend them. I think I’m going to order a set to try out.
      I just wish Landlordlocks.com had a better website. They don’t look credible or reputable simply because their website is so poorly done. How can I trust the quality of their locks when their website so bad? On the surface, it looks like they are a business that operates out of a garage.

      • Michael

        I completely agree with you on that one. I can’t recall what initially swayed me to give them a try. I actually don’t use their website at all – I’ve got their number stored in my phone, any time I need a lock I give them a call (usually it’s Charlie that I get on the phone and he always remembers me) and tell them what I need. They pull me up in the system, work up the order and charge my card on file.

        They could definitely use a website overhaul, but their telephonic service is awesome, so I’d suggest skipping the website for ordering and only use it to get a visual of what you want to buy.

        • Lucas Hall


          Thanks for clarifying! It’s nice to know that they are a valid option for locks. Having your comments in this thread will help future readers know about them.

          • Nichole Quinn

            Hey Lucas!

            Did you ever tried out those locks from Landlordlocks? I am reading all of the articles and I do not recall reading your update on SmartKey and Landlordlocks. What is your current opinion on the products? I I have two properties housing a total of 7-10 units. What would you recommend, using these types of locks for the property entrances, for each unit, or both?

            • Lucas Hall

              Hi Nichole,

              I’ve never used them so I can’t say one way or another. The only negative I can see is that using their system would require me to order locks from them, and I would have to keep a box of heavy deadbolts around just in case. With kwikset, I only have to keep a bunch of various keys, but I can reuse the existing deadbolt. But again, I haven’t used them.

              • Debra Gregory

                I am curiously following this thread. The locks via Landlordlocks are Kwikset brand too. I’m wondering what’s to prevent the same interventions from being used instead of the master landlord key for their model (ie; that shared on the tampering video of the SmartKey model). I guess that would be a question for Landlordlocks.

  • Dan @ The Mad Real World

    I also use the SmartKey locks and it had been one of the best things I have done as a landlord. Easy to re-key and I can make one key work for a whole apartment. I wrote a post about it on my blog.


    I have other real estate articles on there too.

  • MBR

    If a tenant has a pin, can they re-key the kwikset SartKey lock them selves – even after I already re-keyed it, or would the have to have the master key that comes with the lock upon purchase? I guess I am a bit worried that they might re-key without my knowledge. Concerned.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi MBR,

      That’s a great question.

      To rekey a SmartKey lock, you (or your tenant) need (1) a working key, (2) a pin, and (3) a new key. So if they had all three, they could rekey the locks. However, it’s illegal in most every state for the tenant to change the locks (or rekey them) without landlord’s permission. If that ever happened, you could hire a locksmith to disassemble the lock, and rekey it, at the tenant’s expense.

      It’s no different than if they hired a locksmith without your knowledge and changed the locks.

      Honestly, most tenants won’t even notice the little pin hole, and wouldn’t even think to look. If a tenant want’s to change the locks against your will, they are going to do so regardless of the types of locks that you have installed.

  • Sandy Adams

    Whether it’s the law in your state or not, re-keying between tenants should be a standard practice and part of the turnover process. Removing the liability is well worth it.

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