Jeff Cobb

11/2/2017Read time: 3 minutes

Lost keys? What happens next?

Things to know about your apartment building!

You just lost your keys to your apartment and have heard stories of how friends had to pay large amounts of money to replace all the locks on the whole building. Will I have to pay that as well? I don’t have that kind of money and it sounds like a rip-off. What do I need to do?

First, learn your actual situation and some facts about what can be done.

Before we go further, I must mention the anxiety you might have that your keys are out there somewhere and could be used for bad purposes. You should always report your keys stolen or lost to the apartment management company and police, especially if you think your keys were stolen by someone or if your name and address were with the keys. To save your nerves you can quickly have your apartment door cylinder changed by a trusted Locksmith or do it yourself by removing the cylinder and replacing it with a new one. A new cylinder can cost as little as €12 at Bauhaus and if you have a spare key the process of removing and replacing the cylinder is simple. can be very helpful here in finding the quickest, fair priced locksmith for you.

Facts regarding lost keys

Did your lost key(s) fit many doors in the house/building (called common doors) and/or was it a special, ‘restricted keyway’? If yes, then it is a problem that needs to be dealt with at some point. Copy your neighbor’s key likely won’t work. A ‘restricted keyway’ means that the grooves on the key and lock are so special that only one locksmith in the city has the ability to copy it. These locks were made by a manufacturer to guard against too many copies of the keys getting out in circulation therefore controlling the keys and security to some greater degree. These registered keys are normally registered with the locksmith which means that the specific locksmith and the apartment management company know how many keys you were given and they were numbered in a particular series. When you move out, if you don’t return the same number of specially numbered keys that you were given upon signing the rental agreement, you will be responsible to pay for the cost of replacing/rekeying those locks and paying for new keys. You might say, “Yes, but the costs are so high – it seems like I’m getting ripped off!”, but remember that each key costs between 10€ and 25€, which can quickly add up when multiplied by say 25 apartments and 3 keys being given to each contracted tenant. Add to this the costs of rekeying or replacing all the common door locks and the price is high indeed. Also, remember they need to protect the other tenants from your lost key being found by someone who wants to break into the building. 

“But I heard about friends who had copies made when they lost theirs”, you might say. Yes, there are some keys that are not restricted and these can be copied at many places like the local shoe repair or building supply store. For example about 50% of buildings in Berlin have entry doors that are not restricted keys. This means if you lost your keys and your building is not secured with a restricted key system then getting a copy of the common doors should be no problem and when you move out it probably won’t cost you anything. There are also special/restricted keys which have been deregistered and no longer restricted. This means you might find it possible to get a copy at certain key shops where they “look the other way” and makes copies. This is rare but possible. In this case you most likely won’t have a problem when you move out.

Some have not reported the lost keys and have benefited the management company changing the locks to new keys anyway. This option leaves you and your neighbors less secure and is not recommended by us at WeLock. 

There is one other solution.

That is to buy an insurance that covers your apartment including just this particular lost key problem. This can cost as low as €20 per year up to €80 or more. Do make sure that this particular event is covered and know the details of what they cover and don’t cover when it comes to lost keys. Insurance language can be tricky. 

Losing a key happens all the time, but if you know beforehand what to do then you save yourself money and headaches. In summary, know what type of key you have (restricted, restricted and deregistered or regular key) and possibly purchase a good insurance that covers you. Do remember to always report it for your safety and the safety of others.  

Jeffrey Bryan Cobb


November 2017