Apartment sublet service provider's mandatory change to smart locks raises safety concerns

Zhang Long
Apartment sublet service provider Ziroom in Hangzhou asked tenants to change their locks to smart locks in the beginning of July. But many feel the locks are not safe.
Zhang Long
Apartment sublet service provider's mandatory change to smart locks raises safety concerns

Many residents do not trust smart locks and are resisting orders to change over.

A woman surnamed Wang received a message from her apartment renting service provider Ziroom in Hangzhou in early July, saying that all apartments they own or sublet will have the locks changed to smart locks from the beginning of August.

The new smart lock can be opened with tenant's mobile phone's blue tooth function or designated apps. It will also have real-name registration with the local public safety bureau and the bureau of housing for easier management of housing and the floating population.

Many tenants who have used Ziroom's services to find an apartment have received the same message.

But the forced change has raised much concern, including questions about privacy.

Wang contacted Ziroom and voiced her concerns but the company said it was a new requirement by the local government, not by the company.

She was told she may not get her deposit back if she refused.

When Wang posted the lock situation online, she got hundreds of replies from people who face the same dilemma.

Some have already agreed to change to the smart lock. One of them is Zhang Li.

Zhang changed the lock in June and the apartment owner told Zhang that all three locks in the apartment must be changed.

Then Zhang got a notice from the landlord, which was issued by the Hangzhou Bureau of Housing in April. It explained the introduction of the locks was meant to manage the city's sublet market, tally the total number of rental apartments and better manage the floating population in the city.

The Hangzhou Bureau of Housing issued a statement on July 21, saying it's not mandatory for tenants to change their locks.

The smart locks were co-introduced by the Bureau of Housing and the local public safety bureau to strengthen the management of public safety.

Tenants' details will not be made public but only stored in the government's local network.

Tenant worry about safety, privacy

The smart lock was introduced by the government, and the apartment owners and tenants have to register on an app called Changzutong and put in their info such as the lease contract, tenants' names, ID card number, and mobile phone number.

The tenants will only get access to open the lock after registration. Ever since Zhang changed her locks to smart ones, she worries all the time what might happen if her phone battery was flat.

Even though there is a combination that Zhang could use to open the door, it can only be used up to three times.

Zhang has to remind herself from time to time to change the combination when she has used the old combination twice.

Also, she worries that if she loses her phone someone could use it to get into her home.

An infringement of the tenants' privacy?

A lawyer surnamed Chen with the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing said the mandatory change to smart locks is an infringement of tenants' privacy, whether the lock is installed by the apartment owner, a third party sublet service provider or the government.

If the tenant doesn't want to change the lock, he or she can refuse to install it without breaching the lease .

The smart lock is meant to protect the safety of the tenant. If the smart locks' data is stored with third party service providers, it's obviously illegal and violates a tenant's privacy, the lawyer said.

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