For centuries, physical locks have been the first line of defense for our properties, keeping them safe from break-ins and unauthorized access. But beyond that, they are a way to assign and revoke access to our rental properties.
Like most aspects of properties today, locks have also undergone a major revolution. Now we have smart door locks, which are basically automated versions of their traditional counterparts. This means you can operate them remotely or electronically through apps, cards, and fobs, among other ways.
The other upside is that a smart door lock will smoothen the transition process between renters, where they can streamline changing the lock and create operational efficiency.
Unfortunately, you will probably not experience all these benefits unless you select the right smart door lock for your property. In this brief guide, we’ll be looking at how you can achieve just that.
Step 1: Evaluate Your Property Conditions
Smart door locks come in many different variations, each with its own unique control capabilities and set of access methods. This enables them to fit into different environments and conditions and to meet specific preferences.
For example, some models are keyless; others are not. There are those that use a numeric touchscreen. Others can use voice authorization or even a biometric touchpad. You will also encounter those that don’t require network connectivity because they are pre-programmed with as many unique codes as possible to last a lifetime.
At the same time, there are smart door locks that pack more functionality and require some type of connection (it could be cellular, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, or Wi-Fi) to operate. Therefore, the type of connectivity available and supported by your property and the distance from your office will partly determine the kind of lock you are able to choose. Note that the lock’s radius of signal reception also varies.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if your property has lots of tenants or is a vacation rental, it would be better to invest in a commercial-grade smart lock. Basically, you should seek a lock that is less likely to suffer from wear and tear, has remote accessibility, can integrate with other online services to issue access codes. Furthermore, convenient design features such as a keypad—which only requires you to change the access codes when old tenants vacate and new ones arrive—would be a great option.
For the sake of tenant preferences, it would be best as a landlord to look for a lock that balances well between style and function.
Step 2: Understand the Different Types of Smart Door Locks
At the most basic level, smart door locks come in two variations. There’s the one that works with your existing deadbolt. Examples include the August Smart Lock, Danalock, Kwikset Kevo Convert, and others. Installing these add-on devices is quite straightforward. In fact, you only require a screwdriver.
The deadbolt hardware remains intact. You only retrofit it with a layer of connectivity and thereafter configure the smart lock to connect with your wireless communication platform.
The other type of smart door lock totally replaces the existing deadbolt. Examples of such locks include Schlage Sense Bluetooth Deadbolt, Yale Touchscreen Deadbolt, Kwikset Kevo, and more.
Unlike the first type, this variety requires more effort and time to install. Usually, there’s a manual included with the package that will guide you on what to do, and most manufacturers offer installation videos online.
Both types of locks can typically be operated with the help of a dedicated app. Some can be synched with a smart-home hub, like Samsung SmartThings, Wink, or Amazon Echo Plus—and then linked to other devices or a centralized app, which can control everything.
Now, understanding all these factors will help you to determine whether a given lock is going to be compatible with your existing lock framework or not. You will also realize that some smart locks are designed to work with standard lock frames while others require special configuration to fit lock frames that fall outside the standard. In particular, doors with multi-point locks—such as those used throughout much of Europe—will have very specific fitting requirements.
If you get stuck, seek the help of a professional locksmith or systems integrator familiar with these setups.
Step 3: Consider Smart Home Product Compatibility
Some smart home locks, particularly those that utilize Z-wave, Zigbee, and other similar wireless communication protocols may come without a dedicated app. So, unless you link them to a compatible smart home hub, like Amazon Echo Plus, Samsung SmartThings, or Wink, it won’t be possible to operate them via a smart home system console or your smartphone. This implies that in order to install such locks in your property, you have to make sure that the aforementioned system exists or if you are willing to install one.
Step 4: Does the Lock Meet Safety Standards?
So, you’ve evaluated your property’s conditions, spared some time to learn about the different types of smart door locks, and checked your property’s compatibility. Great! But before you place your order, check to ensure that the locks you intend to buy meet the required safety standards.
Of course, smart locks are a good move for security reasons, but the other significant benefit is that with such a lock, you can also negotiate with your insurance company to lower your premiums.
So, first, find out if the smart door lock meets the standards set by organizations like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or European ones like European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), European Committee for Standardization (CEN), and European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI.)
Does the lock have a UL fire rating, which denotes that the smart lock meets fire safety standards? How about the deadbolt grading? The level of security you require for your property should guide you in determining the appropriate grading.
Also, watch out for things like a built-in alarm that activates when someone tampers with the lock, auto-lock functions, and so on.
Remember to also select a manufacturer with a legacy of producing secure and high-longevity products. Ensure their smart locks are the type that perform well on all fronts, ranging from reliability and durability to strength and weather resistance. It also pays to find out if they have a generous warranty as well.
Whether you are dealing with new construction, an ongoing renovation, or a post-break-in measure, the steps we’ve discussed will help streamline your process of finding the right smart door lock for your rental property.
As we have demonstrated, smart locks come in many different varieties, just like their physical counterparts. Only after you’ve assessed your rental environment and conditions will you be able to have a solid basis for determining which lock is going to fit well into your property.
Putting into action the rest of the steps will ensure you finally end up with an option that delivers all the benefits a landlord could ever ask for while delighting tenants.
Eric Worral has owned and managed rentals for over 9 years. Currently, he’s the Marketing Director at RentPrep.com, a tenant screening & credit check service for landlords and property managers. He’s also the co-host of the “RentPrep for Landlords” podcast where he shares tips and insights on managing rental properties.