The Apartment Manager’s Guide to Smart Locks

By February 28, 2019 March 8th, 2019 Internet of Things
Multifamily property manager's guide to smart locks

On a cold, clear day in December 2018, hundreds of Kansas City residents set out to explore downtown’s most iconic apartment buildings.

The Downtown Dazzle Urban Homes Tour featured 19 properties. Visitors wanted to see the future of downtown living. In many cases, that future included smart locks.

The Grand and ARTerra Kansas City, MO

In Kansas City, MO, The Grand and ARTerra are two new apartment communities that feature smart locks.

Renters love smart apartments, and smart locks are one of the most popular amenities. Entrata found that keyless entry was the second most desired smart home amenity for renters, right behind security cameras.  

When it comes to smart locks, multifamily buildings have different needs and requirements than single family homes. How do you know what to look for?

We created this handy guide to help you navigate the ever-changing smart lock ecosystem and choose the right lock for your community.

Smart Locks for Multifamily: The Bare Necessities

There are dozens of smart locks on the market today, but most devices are designed for single-family homes.

Why does this matter? In a multifamily building, smart locks have two equally important users: The property manager and the resident. Devices built for single family homes aren’t designed to cater to both.

Times are changing, though. As we saw at CES 2019, more technology companies than ever are intentionally trying to serve the multifamily market.

Smart locks for multifamily buildings should meet a few fundamental requirements: the bare necessities. Make sure your smart lock checks these boxes:

  1. Multiple, customizable user permissions
  2. Temporary digital keys
  3. Integration with access control system
  4. Fire Code Rating
Make sure your smart lock meets the bare necessities for multifamily use. Source: Disney

Make sure your smart lock meets the bare necessities for multifamily use. Source: Disney

1. Multiple, customizable user permission levels

Smart locks built for single-family homes have limited and unchangeable permission levels. Multifamily properties need smart locks with multiple, flexible permission levels to unleash their full potential

Unlike single-family homes, multifamily buildings need at least three different permission levels for their smart locks: The landlord or management staff, the resident, and third party service vendors. Management is a little different at each property, so customizable permission levels are a must.

2. Temporary digital keys

Residents often want to give people access to their unit while they are away: house cleaners, dog walkers, maintenance people, and visiting friends or family.

Some smart locks allow users to create temporary digital keys, a code that expires after a certain amount of time or after a set amount of uses. Codes can be numerical (punched in on the lock’s keypad) or shared via mobile phone and used over Bluetooth.

Residents love the convenience of temporary digital keys and the peace of mind that comes with knowing who has entered their apartment and when. For property managers, e-keys make maintenance calls easier. Instead of picking up a physical key from the maintenance office, staff can remotely access units to fulfill work orders, saving time and money for the property.

Temporary digital keys also prove the need for multiple permission levels. Single family smart locks might allow residents to create keys, but it’s critical (and the law) for property managers to have access to units as well.

3. Integration With Access Control System

Temporary digital keys are not very helpful if the dog walker a resident orders can’t get into the building. That’s why property managers need to choose a smart lock that integrates with their access control system.

Some smart lock companies, like Schlage, have built integrations with dozens of access control systems like Brivo and Vanderbilt. For a more turnkey solution, many properties are turning to smart apartment management platforms that connect smart locks and access control, as well as with thermostats, HVAC systems, property management tools, and more.

4. Fire Code Rating

Multifamily properties are held to a different safety standards than single family homes, especially for fire safety. Smart locks must meet the same fire safety requirements as other building materials. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

Building materials used in multifamily construction– including walls, doors, and locks– must receive a fire resistance rating from an objective research group like Underwriters Labratory (UL). Fire resistance rating is defined by how long a material can survive against direct flames.

In California, for example, most interior walls have a fire-resistance rating of one or two hours. The door assemblies (including the locks) on those walls must be 60-90 minutes.

Many smart locks, even those regularly used in multifamily properties, do not meet the fire safety requirements in most states. This is not only a safety issue, but a regulatory concern depending on your state building code. Make sure the smart lock you choose meets your area’s fire code.

Top Smart Locks for Multifamily

After reviewing dozens of smart locks on the market, only two met all the requirements we outlined above: Latch and the Schlage Smart Control lock.

Schlage Smart Control and Latch Smart Lock

Two locks that meet the requirements for multifamily properties are the Schlage Smart Control (left) and Latch access control system (right).

Latch

Latch is a newcomer to the lock world. Founded in 2014, Latch offers an entire access control system for multifamily buildings, including smart locks for units and exterior doors. Latch locks start at $299 for just the deadbolt and $399 for the single lock setup.

Schlage

Schlage, on the other hand, has been building locks for 90 years. The Smart Control lock is specifically designed for multifamily properties, giving both residents and property managers the control they need.

Schlage works with dozens of access control companies, along with smart apartment management platforms like Homebase, to give property managers more choice. Properties can mix and match Schlage locks as needed to fit their needs.

The Schlage Smart Control lock is priced by order, but developers can choose from hundreds of design combinations and features.

Smart locks open up a world of opportunities for your community (pun intended). Whichever smart lock you choose, make sure it meets the needs of both your residents and your staff. As more multifamily smart locks hit the market, refer back to this checklist to ensure they meet the bare necessities for your community.

Bryan Larson

Author Bryan Larson

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