What to Do When You Get Locked Out of Your House

by Team HomeServe
Man lifting edge of a door mat to pick up a key hidden underneath

There's nothing worse than returning to your home and searching frantically through your bag and pockets only to discover that you've forgotten your keys at the office or lost them somewhere while you were out. It's even worse if you find yourself locked out of your house in the rain or with small children in tow.

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While your first thought may be to break a window and crawl in that way, you might find yourself a little reluctant to do so in case a passerby thinks you’re trying to break in. Knowing how to get back into your house quickly if you forget your key can be a real lifesaver. Keep the following tips in mind the next time you find yourself locked out of the house.

How Do You Get Back in Your House If You're Locked Out?

There are a few ways to unlock a door without a key, but they're not particularly reliable. Modern house locks are designed to be secure and guard against unauthorized access. After all, you don't want a burglar to be able to jimmy your lock open and rob your home.

However, this security can work against you when you're locked out of the house, especially if you have a deadbolt that can only be opened using a key. Fortunately, there are a few things you can try to get back inside your house that don't involve touching the lock at all:

Call a Friend or Neighbor

It's a good idea to give a spare set of keys to a nearby friend or neighbor so that they can help you out if you're locked out of the house. It's also much safer than leaving a key in a hiding place outside your home, such as under the doormat or in a plant pot.

If you haven't given a spare key to a trusted person, this won't help you much. At least you know now to sort out a backup in case you get locked out again.

Look for an Open Window

While it's generally sensible to close and lock your windows to prevent intruders from entering the house while you’re away, it's worth checking for unlocked windows at this point. If you can see a ground floor window open, you may be able to climb inside your home and open the door from the inside. If the open window is on an upper floor, you could ask to borrow a ladder to gain access.

Even if you can't see a window that's obviously open, you might be in luck and find an unlocked window. Put your fingers around the window edges and see if you can pry them open.

Call the Landlord

If you rent, your landlord or rental agency will probably hold a spare key to your property. Many will be happy to help if you phone and explain that you're locked out of the house — though some may charge a fee if your key is truly lost. However, this tip might not be helpful if you're locked out in the dead of night or there's no one available to come let you in.

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closeup of locksmith hands using pick tools to open locked door -------------------------------------------

How Do I Unlock My House Door Without a Key?

If these tips don’t work, you'll need to find another way to gain access by trying to unlock the door. Your best bet might be to call a locksmith at this point, but you can also try these options:

Swipe a Credit Card

The least destructive (and cheapest) way to do this is to use a credit card. Any card you use needs to be made from strong, rigid plastic. Try sliding your card between the frame and the locking mechanism and give it a good wiggle while you press the handle. If you're lucky, the door will open. However, your chances of success are relatively slim, especially if you have a deadbolt lock. In that case, you'll probably need to try something a bit more drastic.

Dismantle the Lock

Your next port of call is to try dismantling the lock. Assuming that you're not a tradesperson with a set of tools to hand, you'll need to borrow some tools from a neighbor to take the lock apart. You may be able to unscrew the knob and remove the hinges with a screwdriver or a paperclip. Make sure that you put it back together correctly to keep potential intruders out.

Break Down the Door

If all else fails and there's no locksmith available, the last resort is to break down the door. You may also need to do this if you need to gain access in an emergency — like if you've locked yourself out while your young children are still inside the home. It's generally best to break the door instead of the window to avoid the hazard of broken glass, and breaking in at the back means that you're less likely to attract attention. Try kicking the area around the door handle as hard as you can to break the lock.

How Does a Locksmith Unlock a House Door?

Locksmiths carry special tools, such as a hook or half diamond, that they can use to pick your lock and get you back inside your house. If that doesn't work, they can drill out your existing lock and replace it with a new one. They can also help if your key breaks inside the lock, or if you're locked out of your car, garage or mailbox.