POLL : Pick your poison

Our situation: Apartment in Latin-American capital, homestay with 3 separate rooms for rent. Currently my mother in law is managing the BnB on sight. Me and my hubby do all the online communication with guests.
Many ‘oldies’ on this forum will remember that we are the only hosts on this forum that rarely hand over a key to our guests. Normally there’s someone at home, but sometimes this requires some coordination between host and guests.

Last week we’ve had two different guests criticize this, one privately and one publicly :sweat:. The one who criticized us publicly was also the first to give us 4 stars :cry:.

The reasons why we don’t hand over keys is the following:

  • Keys that can’t easily be copied don’t exist where we are.
  • The old elevator door, with direct access to the apartment, doesn’t permit installing a card or code system.
  • Very strange things happen where we are, and it’s a real risk that if we start handing over a key to everyone, that sooner or later someone will book, copy the key and send over someone a few weeks later.

So in fact, handing over keys is a real security risk. But if we don’t give keys to guests, some (5%) of them feel that their liberty is limited. So no I’m seriously reconsidering our NO-key rule. Please help me decide.

What poison would you pick as a guest?

      1. I prefer to get a key so that I can come and go as I please, even if this means that a certain security risk may exist. A small security risk may exist for my stuff but also to me personally.
      1. I prefer the improved security, even if this means that my liberty is somewhat limited, meaning that I have to communicate sometimes with my host about when I will return.

0 voters

Thank you all !

I want a key and a room safe :slight_smile:


Most of the time it’s a case of knowing the guest will be gone for 1-2 hours, so that we can quickly go to the market. But even if we are in the market, worst case scenario we are only 15 minutes away. Since guests usually leave for the full day or half day, we are unlikely to run into trouble.

In the 4 star case, my mother in law had an emergency to attend to further away. I would have just given the guest a key, but she is generally very paranoid (she knows her country :wink:) and asked them to call. AND worse even, also once failed to be there on time after coordinating :scream:.

The problem is that if we explain this to guests, they will think we don’t trust in them :smirk:. Or at least that’s how I would feel. The few times I do explain this to guests, is the moment I know they will take it well, which usually coincides with the moment we are comfortable giving them a key :smiley::unamused:.

That is a really logical / practical solution :smiley: for stuff that can be stolen: Why didn’t I think of this myself?

Of course doesn’t solve the personal security issue :pensive:. Although this normally doesn’t happen in the ‘safe’ district we live in, but in other districts people get shot death for refusing to hand over their mobile phone.

This is a tough one, and there are no really great solutions.

Is sounds like you have a single key that goes to an elevator, and also to the door to your apartment? Would it be possible to keep the key to the elevator, but install a keypad lock on your apartment door? Not sure this would help or work in your situation, but it’s all I can think of. :slight_smile:

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Thanks for your input. The elevator door is direct access to the apartment. We do have a second door , but that one has glass in it. In theory we could reinforce that door and put an electronic system in it. It’s something to consider.

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The first time we gave a key (in our old place) the girl forgot to return it to us. The third time some guys also took it with them, but returned the key by mail.

One time a guest returned much earlier than he said he would. I arrived home and he was waiting by the door. I felt awful and apologized profusely, but he genuinely didn’t mind the short wait because he knew he had arrived early and hadn’t given any notice. I think some people do understand the security risk involved and do understand ‘we are not a hotel’.
The 4 star we got was from a first time user who without a doubt was expecting everything to be like in a hotel.

I stayed in an Airbnb once were I never go the keys and the person never locked the doors. I was very upset and had to take my belongings with me every time I left.

Can you put a lock box or keyless lock on the main door? I realize the elevator is an issue but for me if I could lock the door to my space, I would feel better.

You might want to put it somewhere in your listing too.

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Every room has a simple lock on it. About half of the guests lock their room when they leave the apartment. The elevator door also has a lock, so people can only enter the apartment if one of us opens the door.
We could consider having a keyless entry through the stairway door and give everyone a key to the building.

It is a little tricky, but with your current set-up I would stick to a ‘No keys policy’.

It is strictly a security measure for you, your family and your home and If properly explained in your listing and in the rules and one or the other mention in a review, It should weed out the majority of the ones that can’t do with it.

Whilst I am happy to see the ‘Polls’ are back, I don’t think you should give much heed to this one. The polled and not-polled guests will pick the key … I would too.

In my rooms I never had issues with giving a key to the guests and if they kept one, well then it travelled to other parts and I just got a copy when I ran low. That said we frequently slept with the back door open, but then my dogs would have …

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I voted ‘no key’, although both options seem nearly as viable as each other. Maybe you could make a big deal in your listing, about how you’ll be their own personal doorman


I would wait a little while to make your decision. Wait until you have stopped reeling from the review. The best people to poll would be past customers.


Do you communicate the key situation to guests before they book (or immediately after if you IB)? You could make a big to-do about it in your listing and house rules, but no one ever reads as you know! :grimacing:

For the moment we actually don’t communicate this with guests. My reasoning: I have stayed in small family hotels where I didn’t get the key to the front door either. And I didn’t know this beforehand either.
To tell you the truth, I’m scared of scaring people away :grimacing:.

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Do you mean send someone over to extort you?

I’m not sure which capitol you are in, but every small hotel I’ve stayed at in Latin America has buzzed me in rather than given me a key. Can you just explain to guests this is the norm in your city?

There are loads of wonderful stories about things that happen to people.
Our own stories are
A) getting our oven & induction cooktop stolen, by the people who delivered them, 10 minutes after delivery
B) inviting a 65yo SouthAfrican con artist to our home, she was very convincing in her story.

In the case of the key, it would just be copying the key and sending someone over to empty our apartment, or worst case scenario ‘dropping by’ to empty our apartment while we are at home and also emptying our pockets and guests pockets of course.

Thank you for confirming this to the big public. I was already thinking I was the only one to have stayed in such places. :rofl:

I can explain. The problem is that most hotels can guarantee that there is someone permanently present. Since we only rent out 3 rooms, we can’t pay for a security guard to be permanently present, and sometimes my mother in law does have to leave home for 1-2 hours.

I’ve heard stories! I have a family friend whose wife is Guatemalan, and the relatives who still live in Guatemala are extorted because they have an American in-law.

The place I’ve stayed were all pretty small with maybe 5-8 rooms. They seemed to be family run, with grandma cooking breakfast and one of the men serving as a driver (both for an extra fee). There was usually a family member around to buzz you in, even at night.

Is there someone you trust who can be on call while your MIL is out? A neighbor who’d like to make a little extra money?

Thank you for your efforts to help.

We have been thinking about this, but again we bump into the trust issue. We don’t have other family members in the capital, friends usually have work, with neighbors there’s the trust issue.

Now I’m interested in what happened!

I just sent you a private message.