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Which “Master” Key System is best?

Master Key vs Key Box System - Which system is right for you?


A question I am often asked: Which system is the best for property managers to track and control key access to rental units. There are many ways to manage keys to properties. Some property managers like having large boxes of keys to house every property, others think less is more.

Two of the most popular methods of key management are The Master Key System, and the Box Set System. Let’s take a look into each one.


Master Key Chart

The Master Key System - This system gives the property manager the ability to have one key that operates all the doors in all units, while still allowing each unit to have its own unique key that only operates that unit. A master key chart is developed based on the number of units managed so that every unit will have an assigned key number that is unique to them. With thousands of combinations available, there is very little chance of more than one person at a time having the same key. This system has been around for decades and is often used in commercial buildings, multi unit apartment complexes, schools, hospitals, and more.




Key Box Set System

Key Box System - This system utilizes a boxed set of keys for controlled access. Typically anywhere from 12-24 different keys are made, and should be numbered for tracking purposes. They are put in a box that is separated by compartments. As units are rekeyed, they are assigned a number from the box and that key combination is the one that is used to rekey the locks. The next unit to get rekeyed gets the next key in rotation. When the rotation is complete, you simply go back to the first one and start all over again. This is often used with investors with less than 24 units, so that each property has its own unique key.

Every system has pros and cons.


To help you decide which one is better for you, we have illustrated the pros and cons of each for you.


Master Key System


Ease of use

Only 1-2 keys needed to access all doors of all units. Very convenient for property managers to keep on your key chain

Diversity

Works on most keyways, except Kwikset Smart keys.

Safety

With over 3000 combinations available, the likelihood of anyone having access to other units with a key are slim to none, giving peace of mind to both tenant and property manager.

Record Keeping

A master key chart is kept to record each new rekey assigned to a specific unit. Because each unit is assigned a specific key, it is easy to control.

Liability (tenant access)

Unique for each unit making it very unlikely for tenants to gain access to other units.

Liability (Property Manager access)

Stolen or lost keys can lead to unwanted access


To summarize, Master Key Systems are widely used by many large office buildings, apartment communities, schools etc, and provide safe and well documented methods of key control. Very easy for property managers as they only need to carry 1-2 keys. However, if your units utilize a large number of Kwikset Smart keys, then you would either have to change out those locks, or forfeit some of the benefits of this system.


Key Box System


Ease of use

With 12-24 different keys, only two options make sense. Either carry around the box of keys, or a large key ring with all the keys

Diversity

Work on most keyway types. Easy to use

Safety

With 24 keys constantly in rotation, the more units you have the greater the risk of someone getting access to another unit. If you manage 600 units, then each tenant has access to 25 units. Works great for managing less than 24 units

Record Keeping

Manually record each number assigned to every unit. This works well with less than 24 units, but with large numbers of properties, it is labor intensive since it requires cross reference checking to make sure you do not repeat a key number in rotation with a property nearby that you are managing.

Liability (tenant access)

If managing multiple units near each other, ie apartment complexes with more than 24 units, chances are very high tenants can have access to other units. If managing large number of houses, extra care must be used to prevent accidentally using same key number in rotation of rentals nearby.

Liability (Property Manager access)

Stolen or lost keys can lead to unwanted access


To summarize, Box Key Systems are great for managing smaller numbers of units (under 25), and can handle most locks without modification. However, it is not quite as convenient for property managers as they must carry a large ring of keys, and recording key assignments is rather cumbersome since you need to map out properties for distance. Risk is high for unwanted tenant access if you manage large numbers of properties, especially multi unit complexes over 25 units.


So which system do we recommend? The answer is simple. Choose the one that most safeguards your properties based upon the number of units managed, location, and type of locks you prefer.

Need help deciding? At Home Keys Locksmiths can provide either or both systems for you. We take the time to analyze your specific needs, and make recommendations that are best for your particular situation.


We hope this article was helpful. Please visit us at www.AtHomeKeys.com for more helpful tips and education regarding lock safety. Coming up next; Kwikset Smart locks, a smart investment, or trendy gimmick?



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