Key safes have gained popularity as a means to conveniently share keys and provide access. But, in an era where data security and privacy are paramount, the use of such safes raise concerns. Florian Hoven, co-founder of KeyNest, looks at the drawbacks and costs associated with using key safes at scale
Having just returned from Housing 2023 in Manchester, and looking at my notebook, I see so many notes from intriguing conversations I’ve had there.
At my company’s stand, sometimes by the coffee station – I’ve listened to all types of pains but also hopes for the future of social housing organisations.
Representing KeyNest meant that of course, most of the conversations revolved around the operations side of the business, but soon I realised that every conversation – sooner or later- became a chat about personal experiences with key safes.
These little boxes are pretty much a standard tool of choice in most of the housing associations in the country.
Yet, while chatting to visitors at Housing 2023, I kept on hearing the same complaints, and couldn’t help but think – if key safes are such a pain to everyone, why are we still using them?
Rethinking property accessibility systems
Should you rethink the property accessibility system in your organisation? Well – it depends.
Key safes, also known as lockboxes, have gained popularity as a means to conveniently share keys and provide access in housing associations.
They are often hailed as the usual and cheapest option for managing keys.
And, let’s be real – so far, there’s no cheaper way to share property access (other than hiding the keys under the doormat).
It is crucial to explore the realities and unveil why this system may not be the best choice when using key safes in a larger organisation, at scale.
What may work for a single building that you don’t need to access so often, can be a completely different case with hundreds of properties.
Potential security threat for customers
I did a simple search online and found these articles right away:
- Pensioners burgled after council-fitted key safes outside sheltered homes
- Hampshire Police warning to residents who have key safes
- Warning as key safes are targeted by thieves
In an era where data security and privacy are paramount, key safes raise concerns. These devices typically store key codes or combinations, which, if compromised, can result in unauthorised access to properties.
If the key safes are installed on or near the tenanted building, and not just for the void period – it may cause a serious threat of burglary.
Housing associations must prioritise the protection of sensitive information and ensure robust security measures.
Who holds the key?
One of the main drawbacks of relying on key safes is the lack of accountability. When multiple individuals have access to a key safe, in most cases, it becomes challenging to track who used the key and when.
This can lead to potential mess, and keys being lost in the process. From what I’ve heard, in some cases, the process of changing a lock and cutting new keys for all customers costs more than a monthly operational budget for a property.
Did it ever happen to you too? Then read on.
Installation and de-installation of key safes
Maintaining a large number of key safes can be a labour-intensive and costly process. In general, most housing associations use key safes only for the void periods in properties.
It means the process requires a couple of visits from the contractor who would drill the safe onto a wall and then remove it by the end of the void period.
These little boxes are also quite prone to break (I’m looking at you, £10-ish boxes from Amazon).
The cumulative expenses associated with repairs, replacements, and ongoing maintenance can add up significantly, straining the (already stretched) financial resources of your housing association.
Furthermore, if access permissions change frequently, updating and redistributing physical keys can become a logistical nightmare.
This lack of flexibility hampers efficiency and may lead to delays in addressing tenant needs.
While key safes may appear to be a convenient and inexpensive solution for managing keys and granting access in a housing association, the drawbacks and costs associated with their use at scale cannot be overlooked.
I’m a firm believer in a statement that if we live in a world of AI drawing us whatever we want instantly, and humans almost getting to Mars, then using a simple, annoying and time-wasting solution in your organisation is not an excuse.
There are other options. Don’t miss out!
KeyNest is a Housing Digital Stakeholder that providers a secure and cost-effective way for social landlords to grant contractors and other service providers access to their void properties.
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