Should I Talk to My Landlord Before I Change My Locks?

January 17, 2018

When moving into a new apartment, a number of Jay’s clients have come to him with the same question: “should I speak to my super before changing or replacing the locks?” This query is especially common in New York, where any number of safety concerns can prompt a city dweller to install a new lock on their door.

The only question, then, is whether they can legally do so without the express permission of their landlord or management company. Here’s the short answer: while tenants in New York do have to comply with some legal standards when it comes to securing their apartments, they’re generally allowed to replace or supplement locks without their landlord’s permission. If you’re considering replacing your own locks, read our guide to navigating this sometimes tricky terrain.

Know Your (Tenants’) Rights

All New York residents have access to the Tenants’ Rights Guide, a manual containing everything renters need to know about their rights and privileges under New York State law. In addition to the usual provisions such as guaranteed water and heating, it spells out tenants’ obligations whenever they change locks.

Under the state’s Multiple Dwelling Law, all multi-resident buildings constructed after January 1, 1968 must be outfitted with self-closing and self-locking doors at every entrance, as well as a two-way intercom system between each apartment and the building’s main entrance. These services can be provided in buildings constructed before this date at the tenants’ request, though the landlord has the right to charge tenants for the costs of installation.

While they can’t replace the lock provided by the landlord, tenants of a multi-resident building can install their own locks in addition to those provided without contacting the landlord. Any additional locks must have a circumference of three inches or less, and tenants are required to provide the landlord with a set of keys. Here’s the important part: it is illegal for your landlord to charge you for installing an additional lock, and he or she can’t replace any lock without your express permission.

Communication Is Key

While renters in New York can install additional locks without speaking to their landlord, they’re still expected to accommodate the landlord’s wishes to a certain extent. These laws vary from state to state, but it’s always a good idea to keep your landlord apprised of any changes you’ve made to your locks. A strong relationship with management can only work in your favor when it comes to keeping your apartment secure.

If you’re looking to install new locks or replace existing ones, we have some recommendations. Our popular Anti-Theft lock — a bump-resistant multilock or Medeco cylinder that can thwart any break-in attempt — is a perfect choice for buildings without a doorman. If you like the traditional NYC cylinder lock, you can upgrade to “the Classic,” complete with a jimmy-proof deadlock. If you’re interested in complete security, we offer what we like to call the James Bond lock, the Multi-Lock MT5+ Cylinder, which can’t be duplicated without a special card. If you need to provide a key to management or your dog walker, you can rest assured that no one can copy your key.

Regardless of your specific preferences, your friendly neighborhood locksmith will install a high-quality lock tailored to your needs. Call us today!

— The Lockbusters Team

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