Rental Tenant Lost Keys Responsibity

The tenant lost her keys, so who's responsible? The tenant or the landlord?

As a property manager of a leading Philadelphia property management company, I want to share a story that highlights the balance between professional responsibility and personal compassion in the realm of property management. This story revolves around an incident where a tenant locked herself out of her unit because she misplaced her keys. It's a common scenario that many landlords and property management companies face, but how we handle these situations can significantly impact our relationship with our tenants and ultimately, our reputation in the rental property market.

A Saturday Morning Dilemma

On a Saturday morning, which I typically reserve for family time, I found myself driving to a unit to assist a tenant who had lost her keys. She had access to the unit but couldn't enter without her keys. This scenario raises an important question: Is someone who owns a rental property obligated to respond every time a tenant loses a key or encounters a similar issue?

The Professional vs. Personal Decision

Professionally speaking, the responsibility of managing such issues might not necessarily fall on the shoulders of the real estate investor or property management company. There are solutions available, such as hiring a locksmith, which the tenant could utilize at their expense. Our lease agreements even stipulate that tenants should use our preferred locksmith, with the cost subsequently charged to them.

However, personally, I choose to unlock doors for tenants in distress. This isn't a professional obligation but a personal choice driven by a desire to help someone out of a bind. This decision isn't about the cost associated with hiring a locksmith or the inconvenience of spending my Saturday otherwise. It's about making a tenant's bad day a little better.

Implementing a Lockbox System

To mitigate situations like these, we typically install lockboxes on properties, allowing tenants to access a spare key in emergencies. Unfortunately, in this case, the tenant lost both her key and the lockbox key, which complicates matters and leans more towards the tenant bearing the responsibility and cost of resolving the issue.

Striking a Balance

Helping a tenant in this scenario is reflective of our company's ethos. While it's crucial to have policies and procedures in place for such incidents, showing compassion and willingness to go the extra mile can significantly enhance tenant satisfaction and loyalty. However, it's also important to set boundaries to prevent habitual reliance on such personal services, which could set an unsustainable precedent.

The Takeaway

As a Philadelphia property management company, our approach to situations like these is guided by both our professional policies and our personal values. Deciding to assist a tenant personally is a testament to our commitment to providing exceptional service, even when it's not strictly required. It's about finding the right balance between being a responsible property manager and a compassionate human being.

For fellow landlords and property managers, the decision on how to handle similar situations will vary based on your own policies, values, and circumstances. What's important is to remember that every action we take not only affects our relationship with our tenants but also shapes the perception of our company in the competitive rental property market of Philadelphia.


Joe White

Joe White is a Philadelphia Property Manager and Real Estate Broker. He is the owner of Grow Property Management and has been involved in the management, sales and purchases of Philadelphia area rental investment properties since 2008. He is an author and works as a real estate investment consultant and construction manager.

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