If you're currently running or preparing to purchase a multifamily rental property, you've got a big problem on your hands. Or, better put, your tenants have a big problem on their hands: the locks, knobs, handles, and pulls in your building and units, which can easily transmit the coronavirus and other infectious agents.
And that's not the only threat -- keyed locks and older door hardware can be vulnerable to thieves and intruders, too. And there's always the risk of tenants' keys getting lost and falling into the wrong hands.
Open the door to safety
These are all great reasons to upgrade your doorknobs, handles, and locks with safer and more technologically advanced replacements, according to experts.
"It's important for landlords and property investors to prioritize flexible security for their tenants and visitors," says Bradley Sweet, the Indianapolis-based commercial marketing leader for Allegion, a provider of security products and solutions.
"Multifamily property owners and managers are looking for more efficient and flexible access solutions that will provide their tenants with the high-quality security and health safety they need and the convenience they want," Sweet adds. "The right solutions can help your property differentiate itself from competitors' while creating an opportunity to increase rental income and efficiencies."
Smart locks: A high-tech solution
Jason Williams, president of the US Smart Residential Group for ASSA ABLOY (OTCMKTS: ASAZY), the parent company of Yale Home lock products, says upgrading to a smart lock is a relatively low-cost improvement that can introduce a lot of value and safety to an exterior entry or unit door.
"Completely keyless smart deadbolt locks offer features like automatic locking and unlocking using your smartphone, remote access management, tamper-proof locks, and no more lost keys," says Williams. "There are smart locks designed to replace your existing lock hardware as well as retrofit smart locks that work with your current deadbolt."
Some of these smart locks use Wi-Fi, while others are operated via Bluetooth technology.
"What's nice is that, with a smart lock, you can create or disable dozens of codes from your phone, so that you can give your tenants and vendors each a unique entry code," says Richard Schoech, owner of Door Locks Direct, a door hardware online retailer based in Tomball, Texas.
Keyless smart locks may be more expensive initially. "But think of the time and money you save because you don't have to change the locks with every new tenant because the previous renter lost their key or didn't return it," Schoech notes. "And you don't have to worry about late-night calls from tenants who are locked out."
Other steps you can take
Hands-free arm and foot pulls and foot-operated door openers are becoming more popular lately, ideal for corridors, laundry areas, and restrooms.
"Paddles are also increasingly attractive to potential renters, too, since the paddle's design allows renters and guests to avoid high-touch surfaces like a door handle," Williams says.
Some door hardware today is manufactured with an antimicrobial coating, marketed as, for example, Microban and SecuSan. This coating safeguards against the spread of bacteria and germs.
One quick fix: Consider replacing stainless steel and nickel door handles and knobs with brass.
"Brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, is naturally antimicrobial. Research shows that the coronavirus lives only up to four hours on brass handles versus two to three days on stainless steel handles," says Brian Davis, director of education for SparkRental, a rental property management resource based in Baltimore.
At the very least, make it more convenient for tenants to disinfect their hands.
"One of the easiest and cheapest solutions that landlords and property managers can implement is simply hanging a bottle of hand sanitizer next to the public door, on the inside so only residents can access it," Davis suggests.
When you consider that up to 80% of all infections are spread by hands, it's important to take measures like these to protect your tenants.