The Best Locks for Rental Property Safety

Deciding on the right locks to secure rental properties requires balancing tenant needs with management oversight. This guide reviews locks options from traditional deadbolts to smart locks to assist landlords in choosing options offering both protection and convenient access.

By
Nichole Stohler
|
Last Updated
February 5, 2024
The Best Locks for Rental Property Safety

Prepping units for new tenants? It's decision time: what rental property locks provide the right blend of security and convenience?  Old school metal keys are tried and true but lack technological capabilities. Electronic locks offer convenience and ease but disrupt tenant access if the technology fails.

As a landlord, you want to provide security and convenience for your tenants. With the range of lock options available today, it can be challenging to determine the best choice.

We'll compare popular lock types for rental properties and look at factors like security, convenience, and contingencies. You’ll get the information needed to decide what works best across your properties.

The best locks provide safety for tenants and reliable protection for your investment. Read on to discover the best lock options to provide security, value, and reassurance for both landlords and renters.

Lock options: Traditional and smart landlord locks

As a property manager, what type of lock offers the capabilities you need to effectively oversee your units? When choosing between traditional and smart access control, your management style should be your foremost consideration in your decision.

Traditional door locks

With traditional landlord locks, a separate physical cylinder needs to be installed alongside the tenant's existing deadbolt. This allows property managers to have emergency access to the unit using a special key that only they possess.

However, naturally, to lock and unlock the door, the landlord will have to visit the unit in-person, which can sometimes prove to be a headache. You also run the risk of copied keys and changed locks without the owner's knowledge.

Smart door locks

Smart landlord locks unlock doors remotely through WiFi using a smartphone app instead of physical keys. In addition, authorized property staff can view real-time notifications when someone enters the property.

Only verified managers with provisioned virtual credentials can access the system, which is protected by advanced encryption. This actively prevents unauthorized unlocking or monitoring.

Traditional door locks for rental properties

Let's take a closer look at traditional lock systems that use physical keys. This door lock type has spring latches, deadbolts, and keyed knob locks for exterior doors. These door locks are familiar, straightforward, widely used, and offer certain benefits for rental properties.

Benefits of traditional lock systems

The main advantages of traditional keyed locks include:

  • Proven reliability: They've been used successfully for decades.
  • Familiar operation: Most people understand how to use keyed locks.
  • Widely available: There are many models and styles to choose from.
  • Inexpensive to purchase: Basic locks are affordable.

Key considerations for traditional lock selection

When selecting traditional door locks, major factors to consider are:

  • Level of security: Deadbolts provide more security than simple spring latches.
  • Exterior vs. interior doors: Exterior doors require higher security than interior doors.
  • Quality and durability: Higher quality locks last longer, so avoid cheaply made locks.
  • Number of keys: Consider how many you need to provide to tenants. Key management is far easier when you're only handling a couple rentals.

Comparing some of the best traditional locks

For reliability, security, and overall value, the top three traditional lock options to consider for your property are:

1. Defender Security U 10827: Best overall

The Defender Security U 10827 earns top marks as the best overall traditional keyed deadbolt. This robust lock leverages a pry-proof 1-inch throw steel bolt, heavy-duty metal guarding, and a drill-resistant front plate for formidable protection.

Installation takes just minutes with the included instructions and screws. Two nickel silver keys provide adequate spares for tenants while resisting wear over decades of use, thanks to the defect-deterring polished brass casing.

With robust construction shielding exterior access points, responsive customer service, and a warranty fully backing both mechanical and finish flaws, the U 10827 stops intruders in their tracks without eating up your budget. To fortify rental properties without newfangled gadgetry, Defender Security builds the best barriers.

2. Kwikset 980: Best deadbolt

The Kwikset 980 makes rekeying rentals a total breeze while still packing heavyweight defense. SmartKey tech gives landlords power to customize access on demand: simply insert any Kwikset key to reset the cylinder with a fresh configuration. This eliminates the need for disruptive and costly locksmith calls when there's tenant turnover.

Beneath the convenient overhaul-ready exterior lie formidable security layers to stop break-ins. A 1-inch deadbolt throw, plus robust drill and tamper resistance, keeps belongings safe inside.

Balancing owner oversight perks and security for tenants, the feature-packed Kwikset 980 proves you don't need to sacrifice convenience or strength when picking traditional safeguards.

3. Schlage B81626: Best for interior doors

The Schlage B81626 is a straightforward mechanical lock well-suited for interior doors. It features an easy push button operation so tenants can quickly lock their door for privacy when needed. From inside, unlocking is as simple as turning the button.

 Constructed from durable steel, this traditional lock is built to withstand daily use. It has an angled latch bolt designed to stop forced entry by blocking the catch. The levers conveniently switch between left and right side door mountings.

For landlords who want basic, affordable protection for interior doors without complicated technology, the B81626 works well. Furthermore, Schlage has formed a reputation for offering decent quality locks that last. This one gets the job done, keeping each room secure inside a rental unit.

Factors to consider for traditional lock selection

When evaluating traditional door locks, keep a few things in mind to verify that the models selected meet your property's needs. Focus on aspects like simplicity of installation, durability against heavy use, and accessibility for tenants with physical limitations. Consider factors such as:

1. Ease of installation

Look for locks designed for retrofit installations that don't require new drilling or modifications to the door. Quick installations with basic tools are ideal for rentals, especially when dealing with a large number of rental units.

2. Number of keys needed

Managing large numbers of distributed keys can become chaotic. Develop formal check in/check out procedures, listing each key copy and its assigned tenant for accountability. Store additional copies together on sequentially numbered key hooks inside a central lock box or cabinet. Finally, implement processes for destroying and replacing keys when tenants vacate units.

3. Keying options

Opt for locks that offer rekeying flexibility using master key systems where one traditional key opens multiple locks. This system allows for streamlined access to units for maintenance while allowing for tenant privacy and security.

4. Durability

Be sure to select durable exterior-grade locks rated for full weather and temperature resistance. Units exposed to salt air, humidity, intense sun, and extreme cold must withstand corrosion, frost, and pitting from the elements while maintaining integrity and function.

5. Finish

Keys can scratch even the most durable finishes over time. Choose locks that provide touch-up finish kits with clear-coating pens or paint sticks to repair nicks and maintain aesthetics without replacing entire units at the first sign of wear.

6. Accessibility

Consider accessibility features like lever handles and easy key insertion that accommodate tenants with mobility limitations or disabilities. Aspects to evaluate include low larger flat key formats that are easy to grip and lever handles that are easy to maneuver.

Smart locks for rental properties

Smart locks are convenient because they don't require physical keys. Plus, these door locks have built-in WiFi and/or Bluetooth, so you can control them remotely via a smartphone app.

Advantages of smart lock in rental properties

Compared to traditional locks, smart locks offer landlords and tenants unique benefits:

For tenants:

  • Keyless door lock entry: Tenants can unlock doors easily using a code or smartphone using keyless entry without having to worry about losing keys or making copies.
  • Easy shared access: Smart locks allow tenants to provide time-restricted guest codes or cleaning codes instead of leaving a spare key under mats.
  • Custom schedules: Tenants can set the smart lock to be locked during certain times for greater security. This automated scheduling removes the worry of forgetting to lock doors.
  • Alerts: Tenants receive alerts when someone uses codes, unlocks doors, or when batteries run low.

For landlords:

  • Remote monitoring: Landlords can check smart lock activity, like locking or unlocking, remotely through an app.
  • No rekeying: When tenants changeover, landlords can easily add and delete access codes remotely instead of rekeying locks repeatedly.
  • Renter history: Smart lock logs provide detailed audit trails showing who entered the property and when. This improves accountability.
  • Automation: These door locks can integrate with other smart home devices like Google Assistant for added convenience.

Key features to look for in smart locks

The most important features to evaluate when selecting the best smart locks include:

1. WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity

The lock should have both WiFi and Bluetooth to enable control via a smartphone app within range or remotely over the internet to allow for full functionality.

2. Remote access and management

Make sure the lock has the ability to monitor lock activity, lock or unlock the door, and manage user access codes remotely through an app.

3. Detailed activity tracking

The lock should log a comprehensive audit trail showing the dates, times, users, and type of access for each door opening. Reviewing this history improves accountability.

4. Flexible installation

Look for battery-powered, hardwired, or hybrid power options to suit your situation.

5. Compatibility

If you're looking to set up the door lock with smart home integration, verify compatibility with your Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa.

6. Advanced encryption

Protect information security with door locks that encrypt all data and activity logs end-to-end.

7. Durability

Opt for tamper-resistant, weatherproof locks built from stainless steel and reinforced polymers to prevent damage from climate and tenant abuse.

Top smart locks for rental properties

Here are our top picks for the best smart locks to use in your property:

1. LOCKSTAR Smart Door Lock: Best overall

For full-featured access control at a fair price, the LOCKSTAR Smart Lock is our top pick. This versatile lock delivers robust connectivity, security, and convenience.

 Bluetooth and WiFi support provide complete local and remote access via your smartphone, whether you're inside your rental property or half a world away. Retrofitting takes just 15 minutes by installing directly over your existing deadbolt.

This door lock has military-grade encryption to protect virtual keys and activities from hacking risks. The LOCKSTAR keeps tenants safe with tamper-proofing that triggers alarms upon physical attacks. A long-lasting battery minimizes headaches from frequent recharging.

For wide-ranging functionality with the core features renters and rental owners need, LOCKSTAR strikes an ideal balance as our best overall smart lock.

2. Wyze Smart Lock: Best budget option

The Wyze Smart Lock punches way above its ultra-affordable price point. This WiFi-enabled lock delivers robust access control similar to far more expensive brands. 

 While lacking some bells and whistles, Wyze nails the core capabilities landlords need. You get complete remote management for creating virtual keys, controlling guest codes, and monitoring entries via the app.

Useful features like auto-lock/unlock, a daily rolling access code, and Google Assistant integration increase convenience. The Wyze lock also offers enhanced security with activity notifications and end-to-end encryption of data.

 For budget-focused property managers, the Wyze Smart Lock provides all the must-have basics at a fraction of the price. It's a value-packed way to step into high-tech access control.

3. August Smart Lock: Best upgrade pick

At the high end, the August Smart Lock delivers best-in-class features for those looking for a technology upgrade. It provides unlimited virtual guest keys, auto-unlock August DoorSense, and remote auto-lock/unlock. 

You get unlimited virtual keys to distribute via app and auto door sensors enabling hands-free unlocking. Landlords can control access settings, review detailed audit logs, and integrate smart home automation through August's intuitive mobile interface.

Despite the higher price tag, the August Smart Lock's polished performance and resilience, backed by strong consumer ratings, make it a sound upgrade pick for owners seeking long-term set-it-and-forget-it convenience across their rental property portfolios.

Factors to consider for smart lock selection

While features attract attention, smart locks depend greatly on practical elements behind the scenes. Before installing smart locks, landlords should evaluate critical factors such as reliability, support, and functionality during real-world conditions. Specific considerations include:

Door compatibility

Confirm that the lock physically fits your existing doors properly. Check that it handles your door thickness, size, frame, and single or double doors. Improper fit can hinder security.

Power options

While battery-powered smart locks simplify installation, frequently replacing batteries becomes tedious over time. Assess expected battery life against property usage patterns, and if it makes sense, hard-wiring might be a better fit to consider.

Operation if WiFi or power fails

Never risk locking out tenants during power or internet failures; select smart locks able to default to a locked state if disconnected. Manual options like external Bluetooth unlocking, keypad overrides, or hidden physical key backups guarantee access if there's a technology failure.

Tech support

Check reviews and test customer service yourself to confirm that the company provides responsive phone, email, and chat support in case of problems with the lock or installation. A lack of tech help can be frustrating.

Weather resistance

Confirm that the lock can withstand all weather use and temperature extremes in your location. Locks weakened by weather conditions become a security risk.

Best door lock for rental property

Securing rental properties provides many lock options to balance tenant needs and landlord management. Traditional deadbolts offer proven physical security, while smart locks provide advanced access control and conveniences through mobile connectivity.

When selecting door locks, weigh tenant desire for ease-of-use against landlord requirements for access oversight. Consider costs, installation challenges, reliability factors, and contingency operations if power or connectivity is lost.

Both traditional deadbolts and smart locks have merits depending on your needs. Keep in mind, though, that as smart lock technology continues maturing, capabilities and affordability will likely keep improving. 

Ultimately, the "best" lock system depends on use case priorities. Evaluating all alternatives against property requirements will help you determine the most suitable locks for your situation. An openness to explore both options will allow you to make the most informed choice.

Best door locks for rental property FAQs

Do local laws and regulations require specific locks in rental properties?

Laws regarding locks in rental properties vary by state and city. Check with your local housing authority to verify that the locks you install meet all legal requirements for fire codes, emergency access, and security standards.

Can I install locks myself, or should I hire a professional locksmith?

It's best to hire a professional locksmith to assure proper installation, alignment, and functionality, especially for high-security locks or smart lock systems.

How can I stay updated on the latest advancements and trends in lock technology for rental properties?

You can stay updated on locks by following industry publications and rental property blogs. Also consider attending trade shows or networking with other landlords to learn lock best practices.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of NicsGuide.com, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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