Tip #41

Remove Self-Locking Door Knobs to Prevent Lockouts

Written on April 16, 2014 by , updated on July 21, 2020

remove-self-locking-knobs2If your rental property has self-locking door knobs, your tenants WILL get locked out.

After getting locked out, the first person they call is you, the landlord.

I get it, we’ve all locked ourselves out at one time or another. Please don’t think that your tenants are going to be the stellar exception.

When they accidentally lock themselves out, they will expect you to come rushing over with a key.

What do you mean “Self-Locking”?

I mean, any door knob or latch that automatically locks behind you, causing immense frustration that ripples through the fabric of time and space.

These are also known as a “keyed privacy locks”, and they are quite common.

The intent is to allow the door to lock behind you without having to use your keys.

They are supposed to save you time. However, I think they cause more trouble than they are worth.

Best Case Scenario

  1. You are available and don’t mind the inconvenience of driving over to your rental property to unlock the door, and;
  2. They never do it again.

Worst Case Scenario

  1. Tenants hire a locksmith who damages your door hardware beyond repair, or;
  2. They break a window to get in, and;
  3. They expect you to pay for it because it was “your lock” that locked them out, and;
  4. They continue to use the self-locking mechanism and it happens again, and again, and again.

A True Story


My tenant, finding an alternate way in.

Years ago, my tenant locked himself out of their rental while I was in Phuket on my honeymoon.

He knew I wasn’t available, so he just called a locksmith. When the locksmith arrived, my tenant was told that there was no way to pick the lock, and in order to get in, they would have to bore (drill) out the core – thus essentially destroying the expensive mortis lock.

Luckily for me, my tenant decided to take a different approach. He climbed an exterior gas pipe to a second floor window (which he apparently always kept unlocked). Then, cut through the mesh screen and climbed in through the window.

I’m glad he didn’t damage my lock, but he did injure his arm and destroyed a window screen.

The moral of the story is that self-locking door knobs will only lead to bad situations for you and your tenants.

The Solution

"Lock-out" proof handleset

“Lock-out” proof handleset

Swap out all your keyed privacy door knob locks with deadbolts. Configure the door hardware so that it is impossible for the door to lock behind someone without keys.

My favorite solution is to install a entry door handleset on every exterior door. These handle and deadbolt combos require a key to be used to lock the door from the outside – making them “lock-out” proof.

You can save some money by installing a closet knob as the main handle and keeping your existing deadbolt.

If you want to go the extra-mile, invest in Kwikset’s Smartkey locks for all the exterior doors. These locks make re-keying a property quick, easy, and inexpensive. They come in handy when a tenant loses a key or you are forced to re-key a unit between tenancies (like in Texas).

Read More: Re-key the Locks Between Tenants with Kwikset SmartKey

How it Works - Kwikset SmartKey

photo credit: Armchair Caver via cc
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