Still Using Lock Boxes for Your Airbnb? It’s Time to Rethink


An increasingly common sight on Melbourne’s city streets is rows upon rows of mysterious-looking locks, often dangling from public infrastructure near apartment buildings. Most of the time, these miniature safes contain keys or key cards that give renters access to an apartment.

It seems harmless enough, right? But this key delivery method is causing enough of a problem that the City of Melbourne has recently banned lock boxes in public spaces. The city’s reason for this decision is that:

Lock boxes can impede access to services, cause damage to property, or obstruct genuine use of the structure.

– City of Melbourne

There might be a little more going on than this, though. After all, with the short-term apartment rental business booming, more and more visitors to Melbourne elect to stay in rentals as opposed to hotels.

For some apartment owners, this has proved to be a sore point. One building manager told The Age that in the building he manages, holiday units left largely unattended (with lock boxes as the guest’s primary source of access) had been used for dubious drug deals and much more.

Left wholly unvetted, a clientele of the sort one doesn’t want staying in one’s apartment (or building, for that matter) are doing just that and fellow owners aren’t too happy about it.

That’s just one troubling aspect that lock boxes present. The “security” they offer is flimsy, to say the least, and they can easily be opened with an angle grinder. While it might seem unlikely that thieves will go to such lengths to break into a lock box, it does happen.

Or, if the would-be robbers don’t happen to have their power tools handy, they can find numerous tutorials online explaining how to break into key safes. A Google search offers 135,000,000 hits for “how to break into a lock box” many of these are highly sophisticated explainer videos.

The glory days of easy Airbnb self-check-in are over and owners need to find key exchange solutions that abide by the city’s laws, keep the neighbours happy, and provide adequate security.

While Melbourne is currently the only city in Australia to forbid key safes, it is only a matter of time before other Airbnb hotspots such as Sydney and Brisbane follow suit. Body corporations all over Australia are putting bans in place and it would be surprising if further state regulatory acts did not follow.

So, what are the alternatives to Airbnb lock boxes?

Greet every guest yourself

KeyNinja_Greet every guest-01In an ideal world, your job, children, and other responsibilities are flexible enough that you’re able to meet and greet every single guest to your short-term property rental.

But we don’t live in an ideal world and prior commitments and a busy schedule are the exact same factors that led to lock box use in the first place. While checking-in every guest by yourself is a solution, it isn’t a very elegant or practical one.

Recruit a friend

KeyNinja_Recruit friends-01Every now and again, asking friends or even the neighbours to help with a guest check-in is a viable key exchange plan. However, friends have similar commitments and time restraints and are not free to be at the beck and call of guests. Plus, if that friend is having an off day, they might be brusque with or even rude to the clients.

And unless your neighbours love the idea of strangers in the hallway, they will probably not be amenable to helping you operate your short-term holiday let.

Hide the keys in a public space

KeyNinja_Hiding keys in public area-01While some guests may be enamoured with the idea of going on a key treasure hunt in the nearby park, most will be put off by this. Imagine the negative reviews…

Hiding keys in fake plastic rocks or up a tree really only works if you have a private garden on the property, and even then you face a security issue.

Use proper Airbnb management services

KeyNinja_use proper airbnb services 1-01Using a dedicated key exchange service, such as us here at KeyNinja is the safest, most reliable, and personable way to make sure your guests gain access to the property.