Security is always on the minds of property managers. They don’t want their tenants to be burglarized, and they also want to protect their investment. One of the best ways to achieve
both of those goals is with a good set of locks. But what is the best way to secure a lock that someone had the key to for months or years? Anyone with extended access to a key could have had it duplicated. "Do Not Duplicate" stamps are not enough to deter this type of behavior. So do you have to replace all of the locks? It depends, but it is certainly not your only option. Instead of replacing the existing locks, you may be able to rekey them.
What is Rekeying?
Most door locks can be rekeyed. This process is cheaper than purchasing new lock hardware. Essentially what the rekeying process is doing is replacing the small internal parts of the lock
that make it work with a specific key. Almost all standard household locks use a basic pin tumbler system. With these locks, a key is inserted into the lock, and this will elevate pins within the plug (the rotating cylinder with the keyway in it). The length of each pin will correspond to a groove on the key so that it can be lifted up to a particular height. When these pins are removed and replaced with different size pins, the old key will no longer work. You will need a new key, which can be made from scratch or exist already.
When to Rekey
One of the most common instances where a property manager will choose to rekey their locks is
when a tenant moves out. If this is happening frequently, it may make very little sense to keep
investing in a brand new lock, especially if those locks are high-security. This task can be
completed simply by calling a residential locksmith. They will have all of the necessary tools and
training to rekey your lock or locks. You may also decide to do this yourself, and invest in a
rekey set at your local hardware store. If you have no training, this can be quite dangerous for
your lock, and it will limit your rekeying options.
When rekeying an existing lock it can be made to fit any key of the same brand or cylinder type.
That means that every lock in the house can be keyed alike if they are the same brand. This
may be important for a property owner who would like to cut down on the number of keys they
use. Each property can have every lock keyed alike. I would not recommend using the same
key for multiple properties. Of course, it is better to have a diversity of lock types on a single
property, but it is not always feasible.
When to Replace
The biggest sign that you need to replace your lock is when it is broken. It is true that
sometimes a lock’s pins can simply wear down, and just those parts can be replaced, but more
often than not it is better simply replace all of the hardware. Locks need to function. In order to
protect residents they need to lock, and in emergencies, they need to open. If the pins are worn
down in the lock, chances are that bigger problems are on the horizon. In any case, it is best to
replace the lock altogether.
Another reason to change your locks is after the residence has suffered a burglary. I would also
recommend replacing the locks and switching to a brand that uses a different key type. Any type
of extreme criminal activity should be met with a significant upgrade to the building's locks. In
cases of forced entry, it will be shown that the lock does not offer the proper security. Even in
the rare instance that the lock still works after being overcome, it should be replaced. Chances
are that it is damaged, so it is better to be on the safe side. Investing in higher security will also
raise your property value and is a great incentive to make renters aware of.
Now you understand the difference between rekeying and replacing a lock, and the instances
where one might be used more effectively over the other. You can always pay more money to
replace the entire lock, but be sure that you do in extreme circumstances. Simple events, such
as an average tenant moving out, can be solved with rekeying. Any burglaries or severely
malfunctioning locks are red flags for replacement. Be safe and spend smart!
Ralph Goodman is a professional writer and the resident expert on locks and security over at
the Lock Blog. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about keys, locks and safety. They
offer tips, advice and how-to’s for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.