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How Master Keying Works in Apartment Blocks: Is It Safe?

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If you're one of the 36% of Australians who believe their home is likely to be burgled in the next year, and you live in an apartment building, understanding who owns a master key, and why, is reassuring. You might think of a master key as a key that can open all of the doors in a building, but it's actually a little more complicated than that.

Master key set-ups can involve a number of keys and master keys, each capable of opening a different combination of locks. This increases security and convenience in apartment blocks, ensuring that everyone can get to where they need to be, without having access to areas they shouldn't. Here's an example of a common apartment building set-up with a clear explanation of how each key works and why.

Tenant's key

This key will open the main door to the building, and the door to your apartment. It may also be used for any communal areas that exist in the building or for getting into a shared outdoor space. Naturally, the key cannot open any of the other apartments in the building, keeping all tenants safe and secure. For maximum security, this key should be kept safe and not attached to anything which could give away your address—this way, even if you lose the key, there's no chance of it being used to break into your apartment.

Building manager's key

The building manager will have a master key which opens the main door of the apartment block, as well as all of the apartments. This is a safety feature—if there's ever an accident or incident inside a locked apartment, the building manager can enter or give access to emergency services. The master key can also be used to carry out repairs in your apartment when you're not at home. This key should never be used without your permission, except in an emergency situation—check your tenancy agreement for full details.

Worker's key

Most apartment buildings need regular maintenance, and this is usually carried out by external contractors—cleaners, plumbers, and electricians, for example. For ongoing work, workers will need their own keys to the building. This allows tools and materials to be carried in and out without any doors being propped open, which poses a security risk. Workers will be given a custom-made master key, allowing them access to the building and the areas where they will be working. Access will never be given to individual apartments without the permission of the tenant, and keys can be designed to open only one lock. For example, a worker's key could open your apartment door, but not the deadbolt, meaning that you'd never be surprised by a worker entering while you're at home.