Can My Landlord Put Locks in My House That I Can’t Open?

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Can My Landlord Put Locks in My Apartment That I Can’t Open?

Q: I'm renting a condo in a tall Manhattan building. The bedrooms and one of the closets are equipped with bolt locks that can only be locked or unlocked from the outside with a key. The landlord will not give us any keys to the locks. This seems to be a serious safety issue, especially if there are children living in the home. Are these types of locks allowed on bedroom doors? If so, is the landlord obliged to provide us with a key for each lock? She also suggested that if we want to remove these locks, we have to pay for them.

A: A bedroom door cannot have a lock that requires a key as it would violate the city's building code. It is also illegal to block a fire escape or fire escape. So if one of the bedrooms has a fire escape, those locks are also against fire regulations.

It is absurd that the landlord would refuse to give you the keys, but the locks shouldn't actually be there. A child could surely lock the latch and be trapped in a room alone (this actually happened to my son when he was a toddler – it took us almost an hour to explain how to turn the lock.)

"The landlord should remove locks that require keys on bedroom doors and cannot incriminate the tenant," said David A. Kaminsky, a Manhattan real estate attorney.

Request the landlord in writing to change the locks in order to comply with city regulations. Point out to her that if she doesn't, you will have a handyman or locksmith remove the locks and replace them with new, unlocked door handles. Snap photos of the locks, keep receipts for labor and supplies, and deduct the cost from your rent.

I can't imagine why the landlord put a lock on the closet door. However, you can put less pressure on them to remove them provided the cabinet doesn't have a window that could be used as an escape route in the event of a fire. If you cannot use the closet because it is locked, you may be able to ask for a rent reduction because part of the apartment is unusable, said Mr. Kaminsky.

You may also want to make the apartment aware of the situation as the apartment may have rules on door locks. Call the manager, explain the situation and voice your fire safety concerns.

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