Can my landlord put locks in my apartment that I cannot open?

Q: I am renting a condo in a tall building in Manhattan. The bedrooms and one of the closets have deadbolt locks which can only be lock...


Q: I am renting a condo in a tall building in Manhattan. The bedrooms and one of the closets have deadbolt locks which can only be locked or unlocked with a key from the outside. The owner will not give us the keys to the locks. This appears to be a serious safety issue, especially if there are children living in the apartment. Are these types of locks allowed on bedroom doors? If so, is the owner required to provide us with a key for each lock? She also suggested that if we want these locks removed, we will have to pay for it.

A: A bedroom door cannot have a lock that requires a key to use it, as this would be a violation of the city’s building code. Additionally, it is illegal to obstruct a fire escape or fire exit, so if any of the rooms have an fire escape, these locks also violate fire rules.

It’s absurd that the owner refuses to give you the keys, but really, the locks shouldn’t be there at all. A kid could definitely lock the deadbolt and get stuck alone in a room (which happened to my son when he was a toddler – it took us almost an hour to teach him how to turn the lock.)


“The landlord must remove the locks that require keys on the bedroom doors and cannot charge the tenant,” said David A. Kaminsky, a real estate attorney in Manhattan.

Give the landlord a written notice demanding that she change the locks to comply with city rules. Tell her that if she doesn’t, you’ll hire a handyman or locksmith to remove the locks and replace them with new keyless door handles. Take photographs of the locks, keep receipts for labor and materials, and deduct the cost from your rent.

I can’t imagine why the owner added a lock to the closet door. However, you might have less pressure to get it removed, assuming the closet doesn’t have a window that could be used as an escape route in the event of a fire. If you can’t use the closet because it’s locked, you may be able to request a rent reduction because part of the apartment is unusable, according to Kaminsky.

You may also want to alert the condo of the situation, as the condo may have rules on door locks. Call the managing agent and explain the situation, expressing your concerns about fire safety.

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, register here. Follow us on twitter: @nytrealestate.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Can my landlord put locks in my apartment that I cannot open?
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