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Access Control for Holiday Cottages: Smart Lock or Key Safe?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When guests are on holiday they want as few things to worry about as possible and gaining access to your holiday home can be a challenge. Guests have to coordinate with property managers and other members of the holiday party when arriving or leaving the property. There is also the worry they could be locked out or lose keys

Getting keys to guests, cleaners or maintenance workers can also present a logistical challenge and an unnecessary hassle. While hiding keys under a plant pot might seem like a good idea, if your guests have to search for keys in the dark, it could lead to a negative first impression.

Furthermore, as a holiday let landlord, you can’t always be sure if keys have been copied by guests, contractors or have been lost.

If you are not on-site to meet your guests on arrival, then you need to have a foolproof and reliable way of ensuring guests can effortlessly access your holiday home. Here are some solutions…

Using a key safe box at your Airbnb or holiday cottage

Key lockbox

One of the most popular tried and tested ways to ensure guests get the keys no matter what time of day they arrive is a lockable key safe. Hosts simply leave the key inside, set a unique combination for the guests, and let them know the instructions for entering your holiday let.

ark Tamo™ Maximum Security Key Safe
A popular choice is the ark Tamo key safe which has been certified by independent security authorities as the world’s most secure push-button key safe.

Tips when using key safes

  • Locate your key safe discreetly, not next to the front door or somewhere a thief could easily hide while trying to break-in, but somewhere guests can easily find it such as by shrubbery.
  • Install CCTV that covers the key safe and security lights so guests can easily see the numbers if they arrive in the dark.
  • The key safe should be well secured to a wall or other solid surface.
  • Don’t leave the key in the key safe for more than 24 hours as your insurance is likely to exclude theft or attempted theft cover.
  • Change the code between lets – set it to the last 4 digits of the guest’s mobile or their year of birth so they don’t forget it.

Key safes and lock boxes do come with some risks

Although there are many benefits to using a key safe for your holiday cottage, they can create problems for owners.

They can be difficult to find
As key safes are often located in somewhat discreet locations for security reasons, guests may have difficulty finding them regardless of your instructions, especially in the dark. Searching for keys is a frustrating way to start a holiday.

They can be tricky to operate
Some guests encounter difficulties trying to line up the numbers to open a lockbox. They may also forget the code.

Security risks
Key safes are generally considered quite secure (if police-approved or secured by design), but some models will fail a physical attack. It’s your responsibility to use the best Key safe or lockbox to protect your holiday home.

If you don’t regularly change the code, you run the risk of guests sharing the code with others or returning to enter your property without your consent.

Human error
Your guests may forget to leave the key in the lockbox when they check out. That means your cleaner has to spend valuable time searching for your keys during tight changeovers.

Do key safes invalidate holiday home insurance?

This depends on your insurance provider, it’s always best to check with your insurer before you buy and install a key safe. Some insurers may require a key safe that meets particular security standards, is located in a discreet place, or stipulate that if the key is left in the key safe for more than 24 hours theft or attempted theft cover is excluded.

Some insurers require evidence of forced entry to approve a theft claim. However, what is defined as forced entry can become complicated when keys from a key safe are used to enter your holiday home. (Note: Schofields holiday letting insurance covers theft by non-forcible entry).

Smart locks for Airbnb holiday lets

Bluetooth smart locks

How do smart locks work?

One of the most seamless self-check-in options for holiday lets is the smart lock which replaces the traditional key with an electronic system. A smart lock operates through the property’s Wifi or Bluetooth and gives hosts the ability to send access codes to guests who use their smartphone or enter a code on a numerical keypad to unlock the door. The unique code expires once the guests have checked out.

Smart locks also allow property managers to remotely enable access codes to facilitate housekeeping and maintenance. Some smart locks also allow you to track when guests enter and exit your property, providing property managers with valuable insights and data for managing check-ins and check-outs.

A Smart lock is one of the main tools that owners can use to facilitate remote property management, automate check-in, save time and money. They offer convenience, security, and peace of mind for both guests and property managers. They also eliminate the risk of lost keys, guests accidentally getting locked out of the property and leaving doors unlocked.

Things to consider when buying a smart lock

Installation type
Depending on the type of smart lock you choose, it will either retrofit with your existing door handle and you will need to install the locking hardware, or you can replace the existing built-in lock.

Backup option
What is the backup option for unlocking the door if the guest’s phone battery dies, the app, batteries or wifi fails – a key or keypad?

Connection type
What kind of connection does it have? Smart locks may connect through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or a smart home hub using Z-Wave or Zigbee.

Fire law
Ensure any lock you choose for the front or back door conforms with fire regulations and is easy to unlock from the inside without the need for a key.

User friendly
A disadvantage of smart door locks is that not all guests are tech-savvy, so it’s essential to provide simple instructions before guests arrive to make for a frictionless experience.

Here are some smart locks to consider for your Airbnb or holiday let


To summarise

Whether you install a key safe or smart lock, it’s important to choose what works for you and your guests. They are a great way to ensure a seamless check-in and bring numerous other advantages to improve operational efficiency and security

Remember before you make any modifications to your holiday home, like installing a key safe or switching to smart locks, tell your insurance provider. This could mean a change to your premium or an endorsement being applied.


  • Rob Williamson |

    I thought insurance required a mortice lock – ?

    • Philip |

      You would have to check with the insurer.

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