key in lock

How to Get Your Roommate to Lock the Door

key in lock

Doesn’t everyone lock the front door? Seems not, but here are researched things you can do:

  1. Is it a matter of culture clash? Discuss and find a solution.
  2. Help forgetful roommates lock the door with unitization.
  3. Change to a keyless solution like a smart lock.
  4. Install an alarm system.

At first glance, this seems like a no-brainer. Everyone needs to lock the door (including your roommate) when they leave home, right?

And yet, as I researched this, I found that the situation had more layers than one might think.

So let’s get started with proven solutions for either working on your roommate or changing the situation.

Work on your roommate

Often roommates have set ideas about why they don’t need to lock the door.  They are the most common thoughts built up from past experiences, ideals or not looking at the situation properly.

This what they are and how to end their misconceptions.


1. Clarify cultural traditions

In some cultures and traditions, an unlocked door is a matter of principle: being a free people in a free land.

Other people say that an unlocked door gives them a feeling of ease and freedom.

They also say that locking a door doesn’t help security since someone who wants to can just break in.

So, when the people are inside the house, they never lock their doors. When they go out, they may or may not.

Does your roommate agree with one of the opinions above?

If so, the most effective idea is to explain your point of view and try to reach a compromise.

You can explain how your tradition is to lock the door and that it makes you feel safer.

But it’s not just your ‘feeling’: the facts back you up.

Jim Doherty, a police office for more than 20 years, explains that a locked door is more effective than any other crime prevention tool.

He says that when a car is stolen, most often it was unlocked; same story for the majority of burglarized homes and apartments.

It is true that locks do not stop most professional criminals, but the thing is that most thieves are not skilled professionals.

For this thieving group, a locked door is a big enough barrier. They will just go and find somewhere with an unlocked door.

Does your roommate come from a small town or out of town place with very low crime where everyone knows each other and now they’re your roommate in the city? If so, they may not understand the crime rates of an urban city and how things are different. You may need to explain this to them and show them examples of how other people in the city are behaving.

2. Explain the possible damage

damaged door open

Your roommate may only be thinking about the value of what an intruder could take. The most common reason for you or your roommate locking a home front door is to prevent an intruder from entering your home.

Intruders tend to do damage to the homes they enter or break into during their search for things to take.

They can force open locked boxes, pull out and throw down drawers, rip clothes, swipe things off of shelves, and take up tiles or floorboards.

So, it’s not just the objects stolen. It is also cleaning up and repairing your home after a break in.

Not having to spend the time, energy, and money on putting your home back together again would be a good reason for your roommate to lock the door.

3. Identify insurance issues

Do you and/or your roommate have renter’s insurance?

Explain to your roommate that the insurance will not pay out for damages if you are negligent.

For example, if your home is burgled and your roommate left the door unlocked, that would be counted as negligence. So, the insurance won’t pay out.

Check out the small print on your renter’s insurance policy. If an unlocked door counts as negligence, you need to make this clear to your roommate.

It is best to show them this part of the insurance terms and conditions, so they believe you and stop any debate on the subject.

4. Manage your roommate’s memory

memory reminder on finger

Many people just forget to lock the door. The data shows that as many as 6 out of 10 people have returned to a property to find out that they had forgotten to lock the door when they left.

So, maybe your roommate not locking the door is plain forgetfulness.

A natural memory technique could help

The strategy is called ‘unitization’.

Simply put, unitization is making a unit (a fused or linked package so to speak) between three components: an object, an area where it is needed, and an action.

For example: A person always forgets to take their umbrella on rainy days. The advice is to imagine the umbrella blocking the doorway so that you cannot close the door.

In that way, every time the person starts to leave the house, the memory of the umbrella will be triggered, and the person will remember to take it.

Your roommate can use unitization to remember to lock the door.

Suggestion for your roommate

Your roommate can set up in their imagination the following unit: when they go out the door, the house key begins to beep in a loud, shrill tone.

The only way to stop this sound is by locking the door.

Once this unit is practiced, it will be triggered every time they leave the door, reminding them to lock the door.

Change the situation

1. Locks that lock automatically when the door is closed


You may not want to pay for this, so get your landlord to pay for it and get it installed although you and your roommate may need to contribute to the cost.

Your landlord has a vested interest in the fact that your roommate is not locking the door. After all, it’s your landlord’s property after all, and they don’t want to see it damaged by a break in.

One automatic lock option is a ‘latch’.

There are two kinds of latches: latchbolts and deadlatches.

Basically, both types work by having an angled, spring-loaded bolt. Once the door is pulled shut, the bolt springs into position, locking the door without a key.

Today, many latch locks offer dual unlocking options: via a key (as usual) or via a keypad.

You can get an idea of how these latch locks look on this website.

Another option is one of the new smart locks.


As I was researching, I came across the Sesame lock system (as in “Open Sesame” from the Aladdin story).

I am not recommending it. I am just giving it as an example of the keyless locking options that are available today.

The Sesame system is what is known as a smart lock, and it is opened and closed using your mobile phone.

Simply put, the Sesame product fits over the existing lock on the inside of the door. The company says that their product suits most locks in use today.

To open the door you say, “Open Sesame” (of course!).

You can tell the system which people have access and which don’t. You also can get notifications if unauthorized people attempt to enter.

The system is battery operated, but there is a wifi option which increases the battery life.

On the CandyHouse website (the company which manufactures the Sesame system), you can see a video of how it works.

More Smart Locks

Sesame is only one of the many smart lock options.

Here are some links to get you started:

PC Magazine

2. Brainstorm like a burglar


A group of Amsterdam researchers wanted to find out more about how experienced, residential burglars operate.

They set up an experiment with a mock burglary with a virtual neighborhood.

There were 161 participants:  56 experienced incarcerated burglars, 50 other offenders, and 55 nonoffenders.

As they predicted, the researchers found that the experienced, residential burglars had a more common methodology.

Here are some points of information:

I. Burglars are most interested in small, expensive items which are light to carry. They like gold, jewels, and other things which they can put into their pockets easily (so as not to draw attention to themselves while on the street).

They will spend a lot of time looking for these things, including opening locked boxes, often creating damage.

II. Experienced thieves have learned that the second floor (the bedroom floor) usually has more ‘goodies’. Attics and first floors (entrance floors) usually are not so ‘productive. So, they will spend the most time on the bedroom floor and in the bedrooms themselves.

III. Wanting ‘value for time spent’, experienced burglars check out their victims ahead of time.

They pay attention to the home (outside appearance, size, location, etc.), the type of car driven, how the person is dressed and accessorized, etc.

All these details help them decide whether or not it is worth it to burgle your home.

Here are some tips based on the above:


If you don’t need them often, consider keeping valuables in a bank safe deposit box.

Bank safe deposit boxes are private, secure containers. You rent them from your local bank.

Each bank has its own specifications, but in general, you can keep jewelry, documents, small heirlooms, photos, and works of art in a safe deposit box.

You access your box during bank business hours. According to security regulations, a bank employee must accompany you and be present when you open your box.

Once you and the employee sign the signature cards as proof, you will be able to go through your box alone in a viewing room.

You will need to bring your key to open your box although the bank will have a copy in case of emergency.

Rental costs vary.

Note: Your safe deposit box contents are not insured by the bank, but you can get a private insurance company to insure them.

For valuables which you do need daily or often, keep them in ‘unpopular’ places on the first floor (entrance floor) or in the attic.


Does your home look like a ‘rich’ person’s home? Consider toning it down.

Do you regularly accessorize with expensive items which a burglar might find attractive? Think about modifications.

For example, can you have an old pair of ‘outside for the car’ shoes and take your chic footwear for the day in a backpack or briefcase?

What about having less smart outerwear (raincoat, jacket, coat) for your day-to-day, leaving your finer items for when you go out?

Can you cover up expensive jewelry and watches while you are nearby your home?

Just to be clear: I am the first person to defend your right to dress, accessorize, and decorate your home as you like.

However, every decision has consequences, and it is recommended to keep that in mind.

3. Tailor a solution with technology

alarm technology

Like the Amsterdam study I spoke about earlier, researchers at the University of North Carolina also investigated the thinking and motivation of convicted offenders.

They asked 400 of them questions about burglary and found that alarm systems are an effective deterrent (preventative).

Roughly 50 percent of those interviewed said that finding an alarm system would cause them to stop their burglary.

About ⅓ (31 percent) said it would make them think twice. Sometimes they would continue, sometimes not.

Just 13 percent said that an alarm system would have no effect on them whatsoever.

Buying an alarm system

Alarm systems come in all shapes and sizes. There are many factors to consider when choosing the best one for your needs.

So, it would not make sense for me to try to recommend any system or any installer.

However, there are some tips to help your investigation.

Tip #1: Compare professional installation vs D-I-Y

If you, your roommate who is not locking the door, and/or your landlord are handy, you may be able to install a “good enough” alarm system.

This could both suit your needs and save you a significant amount of money.

However, there are advantages to working with professionals, especially if things break or are faulty.

Read more about the pros and cons here.

Tip #2: Only buy the components you need

Many alarm systems today are actually smart home hubs. They can control your thermostats and lights. They are able to monitor carbon dioxide levels and trigger smoke or fire alarms. There are even components that can detect water leaks.

Do you need these?

It is easy to get swept up into the technology. Keep in mind, though, that your budget will get ’swept up’ too.

Many homes can have enough protection with just contact sensors. These are the sensors on doors and windows which are activated when they are opened or tampered with.

After all, remember why you began this in the first place: your roommate was not locking the door.

Tip #3: Get out the magnifying glass, and read the fine print.

If you do choose a professional alarm service, make sure to read and understand everything.

Pay attention to things like…

  • How long do you need to stay with this service?
  • Is there a fee for termination?
  • If your home is burgled, what will they cover (and what won’t they cover)?
  • In case you are not satisfied after installation, can you get a refund? Will it be ALL the money you paid?

4. Yield and lock it yourself

I had a male roommate who would lock the front door but not lock the garden window door (if it was open) nor close and lock any of the windows.

His explanations were either that he forgot, or that he was in a rush to leave and just didn’t have the time.

After countless times of asking and discussing, I finally decided to do it myself.

As I left the house, I closed and locked every window and door that was open. My theory was that if my roommate had to open the door or window himself (and recently), he would be more likely to close and lock it.

My idea worked. Only rarely did my roommate leave a door or window unlocked.

Was it fair? Perhaps not, but the doors and windows got locked, and that was the point, right?

A final note

In the event that you and your roommate are sharing a dorm room, you would want to get your RA (resident assistant) involved.

Since the university is the ‘landlord’ of your school home, this would be the go-to person.

Writer: Lisa Aharon

lisa ahron writer


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