Can Apartment Keys Be Copied?

We have all been there.  Locked out with no spare key.  Life would be SO much easier if you just had another copy you could hide somewhere. 

If your key doesn’t say “Do Not Copy” or “Do Not Duplicate”, you can make a copy of your apartment key.

So, how do you prevent this problem from happening again?  Can you copy your apartment key and not get in trouble by your landlord for it?  Let’s go over the different kinds of keys that are used for apartments and how you can, or can’t, go about making copies for each of them. 

Do Not Copy and Do Not Duplicate Keys

First off, one of the misconceptions is that it is illegal to copy “Do Not Copy” or “Do Not Duplicate” keys if you aren’t the owner of the property.  This is one of the bigger myths of the locksmithing world.  

There are no laws saying that you cannot copy a key that has “Do Not Copy” or “Do Not Duplicate” on it.  The reason that these keys are made is that the owner, usually of some type of business or commercial property, doesn’t want a million keys floating out. 

Firstly, because they want some control over who has a key and who doesn’t, and secondly because the lock and key are usually a bit higher in quality, which means they are more expensive to the owner. 

Usually, the owner has these keys made for extra security on the physical side, and they also want to have a bit of control over who is making keys.  If someone ends up breaking into their property or place of business, they know that they have only given out so many keys and can have a better time at tracking down what happened.  

But long story short, the locksmith may or may not choose to make you a new key without the permission of the landlord if you just bring it in.  My family and I have used the same locksmith for over 30 years, and all I have to do is pick up the phone and they will get me a duplicate of any key on the property. 

And even though it isn’t ILLEGAL to duplicate one of our apartment keys, the locksmith will ALWAYS call me up if someone is trying to copy one of our keys without asking us first.  

They know that it costs money to re-key a lock, and so if we, as the landlord, can keep the number of keys we have down to a minimum, that saves everyone money, and keeps security as tight as it can be at the complex. 

Types Of Apartment Keys

Historically, there used to be just straight metal keys.  But now that technology has advanced, apartment complexes are installing more ways than just a physical key to access different parts of the complex. 

Metal Keys

The tried and true metal key.  This is what you are thinking of in your head when you think of “key”.  The key is cut by a locksmith or machine and has grooves and notches on it to fit the specific apartment or lock you are trying to access.  

Your apartment’s mailbox probably still has metal keys even if your apartment complex uses some type of smart-key system.  It is still a very good way to keep things safe and secure. 

If you lose your metal key, the first thing you want to do is call your landlord or manager.  They will be able to tell you how to get a replacement and how to get into your apartment building immediately.  Most times, apartments will have a process if you are locked out, typically by having the manager or maintenance guy come and unlock the door for you. 

At our apartment complex, we keep a spare key of every single one of our units in a storage system in our office.  That way if someone ever loses a key, we have a replacement ready to go for them immediately.   

Some landlords have complained that their tenants are losing keys all the time and it is a hassle and expense to make more of them.  The best solution for this is to make several duplicates every time you have to change the lock on the doors. This way you will have the backups made and ready to go at a moment’s notice.  

Additionally, the staff at the complex can always let you in with their Master Key, and many times, the key will be found shortly after in a couch cushion or under some papers.  

Some tenants want to make duplicates of their apartment key so either a family member or significant other can come in whenever they want, and some sort of key exchange doesn’t have to take place.  Depending on your landlord, they may or may not want you doing this.

They restrict the number of keys made for a reason and only want people in possession of keys that are actually signers on the lease.   

If you have a legitimate reason why you want to make another key to give someone who has access to your apartment, just ask your landlord.  Depending on your reason, they may just give you one for free, straight out of the office, and you won’t have to even go to the hassle of trying to get one made. 

Key Card

This type of card is similar to what most hotels use to allow their guests access.  Every card is programmed with a specific magnetic code that allows you access to both your building and your apartment.  

The newest versions of these just allow you to tap your card on the reader and it lets you in instead of having to scan it. 

Making duplicate copies of key cards is easy and cheap, and chances are, if you lose one, the manager isn’t going to give you too hard of a time about it, because these cards can be lost even easier than physical keys.  

The nice thing about these cards is that they can fit in your wallet just like a credit card.  So, if you need to get another one, usually just a quick phone call to the office and you can have another key in seconds. 

Keyless Entry

The newest type of entry for apartments.  With this system, you either punch a code in at your door or the front of the building or use your smartphone to grant you access. 

The nice thing about this type of keyed entry is that there is no key to lose, you can access your apartment whenever you want, and if somehow the key code gets changed or doesn’t work, your manager may be able to remotely unlock your room from wherever you are. 

Key Fob

This is somewhere between a Key Card and a physical Metal Key.  The Key Fobs all have unique codes that are built into each one and are usually small enough to fit on your keychain.  Sometimes they send an electronic signal that is strong enough to open the gate if your apartment complex has a barrier to entry. 

These keys are going to be some of the most expensive keys to replace as they are digital and usually not able to be replaced on the spot.  If you lose your key fob, make sure to talk to your landlord or manager right away about getting a replacement. 

Ask Your Landlord

When it comes down to it, just ask your landlord if you can make a key.  They have heard every reason, and most of the time is going to be fairly reasonable and understanding about if you want a duplicate key or two.  They are in the business of making their tenants happy and usually are pretty conducive to understanding the tenant’s request. 

What they don’t appreciate is if you try to go around their policy on the number of keys an apartment can have.  If you really need another key, just tell them why, if it is legitimate, they are going to get you another key. 

The same thing goes for if you lose or misplace your key.  I have never once had a tenant lose so many keys that I needed to charge them for a replacement fee.  Things happen, people lose keys. That’s just part of life.

More than likely, your apartment complex is going to be one step ahead of you and already have that replacement or copy you need.  So just ask!

Recommended for You:

Do Burglars Target Apartments?

Can I Paint My Apartment?

What If I Want To Sublet My Apartment?

John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

Recent Posts