Lost your key – what to do?


It often happens faster than you think: you lose your house key or lock yourself out. What should I do if I have lost a key? Where can I find a reputable locksmith? And who pays if I have lost the key?

You’re on the go and your mind is already on a meeting with a friend or at work. You pull the door shut behind you – and the key to your flat is still on the shelf in the hallway.

Forgetting your own key in the flat: annoying. But at least you know exactly where the key is. The damage is therefore manageable – even if a locksmith often costs a lot of money.

It is much worse if you can no longer find your key. According to the Federal Association of Consumer Centres, every year 800,000 German citizens report that they have lost their key. Here, in addition to the locksmith service, there may be further costs, for example for replacing the locking systems. Thus, in the case of such a loss, the costs can quickly become very high, as we show you in this article.

Help, the key is gone: This is how you should react

If you lose a key, you need to act fast. Especially if your key can be clearly assigned to your home – for example by an address plate on your key ring. An honest finder could return the key, but a thief could take advantage of the situation. There is therefore a risk of burglary. So think twice before attaching your address to your key ring. A clever anonymous alternative is a key tracker or finder that you attach to your key ring.

First of all, you should search all possible places thoroughly. If you don’t find your key there, ask the police or lost property office if someone has handed it in. If you can narrow down the location to some extent, it is also worth asking in cafés, shops and bars in the area.

The further procedure and the consequences of the loss depend on the type of key. If you have lost your entire bunch of keys, be sure to think about all the keys that have disappeared.

Loss of flat keys

If you are a tenant, inform your landlord or the property management in any case. This is even a must: „The tenant is legally obliged to inform his landlord of the loss or theft of the key,“ says Anja Franz, advisor at the Munich Tenants‘ Association. This is because the landlord always remains the owner of the key during the tenancy agreement. In addition, you should file a complaint with the police.

Before you have a replacement key made, you or your landlord must change all the locks concerned so that the lost or stolen key no longer fits. You may only have a replacement key made for your rented flat after you have obtained the landlord’s consent. If it is a security key, it is not possible to have it made anyway without the knowledge of the landlord or the property management.

Key lost for an apartment building

If you have lost the key to an apartment building, it may be necessary to replace not only your flat lock, but the entire locking system of the building. This can quickly lead to higher costs. You should report the loss of the rental key to the landlord as soon as possible. If the lost rental key leads to theft within the public areas of the building, the owner of the key, in this case you, may be liable.

Key lost for a family house

If you live alone in a house, you only need to change a few locks. If you are the owner, you can order the production of new front door keys immediately. In this case, it is also up to you which security level you want for your house – this also determines the price for the replacement. If you have rented the house, it is usually the landlord who decides how burglar-proof the new locks have to be. As a rule, the landlord also orders the replacement.

Lost keys: Who has to pay?

Who has to pay depends on who is responsible for the loss. If you are the tenant and have lost the key, you will initially bear the costs. It doesn’t matter whether you live in a single-family house or a block of flats – only the amount of the costs can vary here due to the number of locks.

Good to know: Sometimes it is not even necessary to change the locking system – for example, if there is no acute danger of the key being misused. „If the key falls into the Mediterranean while on holiday and definitely cannot be assigned, the question arises whether the landlord’s demand to change the locking system is justified at all,“ says Anja Franz from the Munich Tenants‘ Association. However, one must also be able to prove that the key got lost in this way.

Change door locks: What costs can I expect?

In any case, a lock replacement will be quite expensive for locking systems. Exactly how much the replacement costs depends on which security level is provided for the building. High-quality locking cylinders give you more security, but they also cost more to replace.

Key duplication – costs

The cost of a counterfeit key varies depending on the type of key. The key for a locking system can cost up to 1,000 euros. A flat or front door key, on the other hand, only costs between 7 and 20 euros. Security keys are more expensive and cost between 30 and 100 euros. Car keys cost between 50 and 600 euros, depending on the make of car.

Insurance companies usually treat chip cards, key cards and transponders like mechanical keys. The advantage here, however, is that they can often be deactivated remotely. The costs of a loss are therefore significantly lower.

Cover key loss via the insurance

Claims for damages due to the loss of someone else’s keys can be covered financially within the scope of a private liability policy. It makes particular sense to include the loss of keys if you are in possession of a master key. In any case, check carefully what is included in your tariff: Which keys are covered and which are not? When and under what circumstances is the loss of keys insured? The loss of keys should therefore be included in a private liability insurance policy. In a household insurance policy, on the other hand, you can have the costs of a locksmith insured.

Locked out – what to do?

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as in some crime stories to open the door yourself without a key. Hair clips, credit cards and wire hangers usually don’t help! Due to increased security precautions, these simple tricks do not help with modern locks. So if you have not left an emergency key with neighbours, friends or relatives, you probably have no choice but to call a locksmith. Because only a professional provider has the necessary equipment to open such doors without causing damage.

How to recognise a reputable locksmith

You can recognise a trustworthy provider by the fact that they will tell you on the phone what price you should expect and what the travel costs will be. You should become suspicious if the mechanic presents you with the bill before he has even opened the door.

It’s best to use the nearest locksmith – that way you can save on travel costs. You can find them either on the Internet or in your neighbour’s telephone book. But be careful: Some companies only pretend to have a local branch. Make sure that there really is an address and, if in doubt, ask the Chamber of Crafts or the consumer advice centre and check the company’s imprint.

Hiring a locksmith: What are the costs?

The prices for a locksmith differ depending on the day of the week and time of day. On weekdays and during the day, the average cost per door opening is between 69 and 151 euros. At night, on weekends and public holidays, it can quickly become expensive. On average, prices range from 100 to 250 euros per door opening. In addition, there may be costs for the journey or additional services such as changing the door lock.

However, not only the day of the week and the time of day have an influence on the costs for a locksmith, but also in which federal state you are located. Prices vary greatly between the federal states. For example, door openings are cheapest in Berlin, but most expensive in Rhineland-Palatinate.

Basically, it makes sense to take your time when deciding on a locksmith. This helps to distinguish reputable services from overpriced offers and is easy on the wallet.