What’s the Problem?
Although the task of pulling keys seems easy enough, where the keys end up in their day to day travels can boggle you more than you think. It’s an everyday routine that goes along with doing apartment maintenance. But how seriously are we taking the liability that comes with accurate and correct key control? Every day is not the same but it is probably very familiar with yesterday. And your day probably goes a little something like this:
- You arrive at work and assess the work order situation. You have 3 work orders for 3 different apartments. Without hesitation, you pull those keys.
- A vendor comes in to the office and gets a key for an occupied apartment to paint an accent wall. You give them the keys.
- The office then pulls a key to go and walk a unit for move in inspection walk before the new resident arrives. They take the keys.
That’s a lot of activity in and out of the key box before noon and there is still half the day to go. And although we are in the zone with what we have to do, it can slip our mind just how important it is to keep track of the keys. Whether they are thrown in a cup on the golf cart or put in our pocket or even handed off to someone else the bottom line is that whoever pulls the key owns it until it is put back in the correct place in the key box. So, with that in mind-are you comfortable not putting the key back yourself?
One continuous problem that seems to hinder the industry still is keys being thrown on a desk or even put on top or somewhere near the key box-not in it. No matter what position on the property you hold, it should be everyone’s main focus to make sure keys are handled with extreme care. If you stop for a second and think about it, we hold the keys to several hundred homes. If you were to put yourself in the residents shoes and mindset, think about your neighbor that you know real well and trust with the key to your home. No worries, right? Now think about the guy that lives near you that you really don’t know that well other than a wave in and out of work with a key to your place. Do you trust him with your key?
Regardless of how you rationalize the whole key control process, the liability of having keys out in the open and available for anyone who may walk by and grab it off of a desk or the golf cart can rock the apartment community. Once, when I was in charge of a property, we unfortunately walked in on a murder scene. We had to go check on someone who had not been heard from for several days. We had to unlock the door to get in. The first steps the police took were to eliminate the staff as suspects. Because we kept documentation of who checked the key out last and the date the locks were changed prior to her moving in, it eliminated several people very quickly. This is a situation that could happen at any time in the apartment industry. This is why it is important to always stay mindful of how much responsibility we hold when handling keys.
Although properties cannot always afford automatic key control systems, we can still manage our keys efficiently. Management companies nationwide have done a great job with background checks and are usually very careful of who is hired. If you took the entry to apartment equation out of it, we may not even need the background check. There are a few simple steps that can be taken to make sure keys are NEVER an issue at your property. Check with your management company’s policy and procedures first and adhere to their guidelines.
- Documentation- Whenever a key is checked out, have a binder set up right by the key box for staff and vendors to sign keys in and out. This avoids any confusion as to who as the keys to what apartment. Also keep a log of whenever a lock is changed or re-keyed. You can down load a free lock control log in our preventative maintenance section of mymaintenanceshop.com. Automatic key control systems keeps track for you.
- Create a vendor system- By now, a lot of the apartment community population is on a vendor system. A vendor system is where a bunch of locks are keyed alike and are put on the apartment during the turn and showing process. When turnover vendors come in, it is a good idea to take their drivers license to assure each they will return the key. By keeping vacant apartments on vendor locks until move in, it also helps office staff when they show an apartment not have to carry around a bunch of keys.
- PUT IT BACK!-There is no doubt that everyone is busy. It can even seem like too busy even to put the key back in the box. But the worst mistake we can make is to leave it to where it can end up lost or even stolen.
- Locked at all times- Every key box should have a lock on the box that only staff has the key to. It’s also a good idea to have the log book locked up as well in a separate place so it cannot be read by anyone but staff.
- Minimize your keys-Try getting the keys you have for property operation down to a minimum amount. For example, you could probably get away 95% of the time with only 2 keys. This will give you 1 key for everything all staff has access to-office, closet doors, pumps rooms, shops, etc. and then 1 vendor key for all vacant apartments being turned or shown. Although Schneider was the “original gangster” of maintenance, it doesn’t make us look any more important for everyone to hear us coming!