CATHERINE M. MATTHEWS (R), GRI
Broker-In Charge, Callahan Realty, Ltd.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Q. I had a tenant get locked out of their property and I told them to call a locksmith because I couldn’t make it to the rental to let them in with my key. She did call someone she found on the internet. She chose this company because they advertised significantly cheaper prices than other companies. When the locksmith arrived, he said something was wrong with the lock and they had to drill the lock off and replace it. They presented the tenant with a bill for over $300! The tenant said she really didn’t understand why that had to be done as the lock was working fine, she just locked her keys in the unit but she didn’t argue. Fortunately, the tenant offered to pay the bill because she felt it was her fault. What should we have done differently?
A. First, I would check to see that this company is actually licensed and a legitimate business. It is possible that they are scammers who will retain a key and come back later to rob the unit, letting a period of time go by so they aren’t top of mind as a suspect.
The state has an easy-to-use search engine to inquire about licensed individuals or companies (https://pvl.ehawaii.gov/pvlsearch/). It is a requirement to use licensed companies for plumbing and electrical work. For many other jobs, such as a locksmith, it is highly recommended. Licensed companies are registered with the State and most have passed some type of testing for their industry. Most industries have their own regulations and some even have funds to help if you are monetarily damaged by someone within that industry.
You want to beware of scammers. If someone is offering a significantly lower price than the competition, you should ask yourself why. Check to see if they have a license and whether the company has a legitimate address and phone number. You can actually do that by looking in the phone book or use a Search Engine, such as Google, to find a listing on the internet. You can often find reviews of the company as well. Red flags may include calling a business number and the person does not answer with the company name. Another red flag may be coming to perform work in a vehicle without a company name on it (depending on the industry). Ask for a business card prior to work being done, or ask for an estimate and/or invoice on preprinted letterhead.
In the instance of a locksmith, I would be very wary of someone who wanted to drill the lock off. Experienced locksmiths can open just about anything! We have many great legitimate locksmiths in our community. I have found that many will bend over backwards to help people in need; just be diligent in checking, even in an emergency situation.