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Can They do that?

Posted by lcw1947 (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 27, 07 at 8:09

Hello, I have a question and want to know if the housing authorities can do this.

I moved into this Senior apartment last November. the door locks were old, sticky and pretty beat up. At any rate, I bought new door knobs locks etc. When I got copys of the keys made I sent one to the rental people.

A couple of days later, I get a phone call from a threatening, screaming boss lady of it. Telling me I had to change the locks back to what they had put on. That if I didn't do it immediately they would send out a locksmith and I'd have to pay to have them put back on. (Thank God I hadn't tossed it) After her screaming stopped long enough for her to take a breath, I asked her why? as I had done a good and honest thing to send them a copy.

Finally, she told me that they had a master key to fit all the locks in all the 186 units they took care of. My project only has twelve apartments and we are Senior or disabled. I said, oh, okay fine. and wondered why she hadn't said that to start with instead of all the screaming and yelling. and I said no problem, I'd do it when I got off the phone.

then she says we are going to check on you. I asked why was it that she was so untrusting? I'm a good tenet, fix stuff myself, pay my rent about two weeks early EVERY month. When my SSD goes into the bank I cut a rent check so I don't spend it.

Then I proceeded to tell her, that I was going out of town for a week, to NOT come that week that I was going to be gone, cause she was going to send someone out to change out the lock. Lo and behold, my neice and I went to the airport to go to Gulfport, Ms and our flight was cancelled. Not delayed but cancelled.

They refunded the ticket costs and we headed home. Now to get to the problem. My nerves got the best of me and I was in the bathroom, when I heard my door open, and someone says maintance, the bathroom door was open as I live alone. I said, what? he said maintaince.... I screamed, stay out. Why? says he? I'm on the pot, now get out...

I went out there and there he was putzing with the door lock. I said what are you doing here, I told her I was going to be gone this week, he said, why are you here, she said you'd be gone? I know it's not his fault, but is that legal? Can they come change your locks when your gone? He said, if the key was changed they would leave it with my Mom, who lives in the same building. But, my flight home wouldn't get me here till after midnight? I had told her not to do that... Is that legal?

I read tenat righs laws and it said landlords can only enter with out written notice if there is an emergency which this definately was not as they waited a week and a half to come... I'm still so scared in the pit of my stomach, to think they can come in when ever they choose to.

They did the same thing to another neighbor although she was out shopping and came home to find them changing her locks... She also pays her rent in a good and timely manner..

thank you..... I just guess I want to know if I can stop them from coming in when I'm not here... By the way, they did not change the lock, just sprayed something in it.. and he told me the lock wasn't new, but from a different complex...

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Can They do that?

Technically a tenant cannot lock a landlord out, but you remedied that by sending them a key. Problem was it was a primary lock that was changed. (I checked NY state law since you list that as your state with your user ID here. More below.)

As an aside, that master key deal has me puzzled. Call me ignorant, but if a single key opens all doors doesn't that mean your keys will work in other units' locks and vice versa?

Anyway, most states, at least mine, say if it's an emergency landlord can enter without notice. My state is vague regarding notice for non-emergencies. Laws just state landlord can enter with 'reasonable' notice. I usually give a day or two verbal. I don't go in when they are not home if it's at all possible. And never permit a contractor in without escort. If I have to call a plumber, I stay there with him till he's done and ready to leave, and tenants know this. (They know ahead of time the expected arrival time, and I call them at work and tell them when we're leaving and I'm locking up, and what work was done.) Also, in my state, when a landlord is locked out they have the right to immediately have the locks reversed/changed and obtain a key and tenant is liable for the cost.

Quotes below are from NY laws. See link to NY State Atty General regarding Landlord-Tenant rights and responsibilities. Your laws are specific about keys.



Tenants in multiple dwellings can install and maintain their own locks on their apartment entrance doors in addition to the lock supplied by the landlord. The lock may be no more than three inches in circumference, and tenants must provide their landlord with a duplicate key upon request.

The landlord must provide a peephole in the entrance door of each apartment. Landlords of multiple dwellings in New York City must also install a chain-door guard on the entrance door to each apartment, so as to permit partial opening of the door. (Multiple Dwelling Law 51-c; NYC Admin. Code 27-2043)

United States Postal regulations require landlords of buildings containing three or more apartments to provide secure mail boxes for each apartment unless the management has arranged to distribute the mail to each apartment. Landlords must keep the mail boxes and locks in good repair.

Since no mention is made above that a lease overrides the above law, then you would have been withing your right to install a lock as a secondary lock and provide a key. You just can't take away the landlord's primary lock, which in a roundabout way is what happened. (And before I get bashed, remember that although a key to the new primary replacement lock was provided, it still rendered their master key useless).

I'm still so scared in the pit of my stomach, to think they can come in when ever they choose to. They can't come in whenever they choose. If you have a lease and there are specified reasons they can enter listed, that will hold true, but your law still states they have to give reasonable notice and enter at reasonable times.



Tenants have the right to privacy within their apartments. A landlord, however, may enter a tenant's apartment with reasonable prior notice, and at a reasonable time: (a) to provide necessary or agreed upon repairs or services; or (b) in accordance with the lease; or (c) to show the apartment to prospective purchasers or tenants. In emergencies, such as fires, the landlord may enter the apartment without the tenant's consent. A landlord may not abuse this limited right of entry or use it to harass a tenant. A landlord may not interfere with the installation of cable television facilities. (Public Service Law 228) .


I just guess I want to know if I can stop them from coming in when I'm not here... One would think you can if it's not an emergency and you are available at times good for them, such as normal business hours. Avoid being difficult about entry, because they do have a business to run and expensive real estate to maintain. I had tenants who were outright obnoxious about permitting entry for repairs, to the point I asked them to leave. A tenant attempting to block access is not legal, the same as a landlord entering on a whim is not.

I'd suggest a polite but clear letter sent certified to your landlord/mgmt outlining what happened just as you have here (start to finish, including your bathroom privacy being invaded and now you are fearful, and the fact that they waited till they knew you'd be out of town, etc.). Advise them you are a good tenant, pay ahead of time, have no issue with them entering as long as you are provided notice ahead of time as NY law stipulates. Tell them you are very uncomfortable with anyone being in your apartment while you are away and/or unless it's an emergency as classified above (fire, flood, etc are typical emergencies). You're obviously dealing with a hot head so you could say something like "although I do regret the misunderstanding with the key. I have done some checking and am more familiar with NY State laws now. I respect the fact that you have the right to enter the property without notice if there is an emergency. However, for reasons relayed above about events that transpired, I am now frightened and concerned that access will be gained to my apartment without advance notice and/or when I am not home. Or worse, someone posing as maintenance could show up at my door unannounced. I am respectfully requesting that I be given advance notice of any future intent to enter my apartment as the law allows, so that I can anticipate the visit and it can be done at a time when I am home and expecting you."

That is not unreasonable and gives you written documentation/history of what's transpired. What if they habitually don't give notice and some guy posing as maintenance shows up with intent to commit crime? For their own protection they need to consider "what if" scenarios like that. Or that fact that the maintenance guy could be a thief on the side (which is why I don't like to enter when no one's home, don't want someone accusing me of anything). The key situation was a misunderstanding, and it's behind you now. But for the future, it's good to make sure everyone's clear about this and if they try to retaliate because you're trying to get them to follow your state's laws, that's only going to get them in more hot water. A good relationship boils down to both parties cooperating and communicating.

Good luck!

RE: Can They do that?

I would also be concerned with the fact that any number of people could have a copy of your key. Previous tenants, children/friends of previous tenants, etc. I find it remarkable that they wouldn't regularly change the locks between tenants, and that they'd freak out so when you did it yourself.

If I were you, I'd have a secondary deadbolt put in. Send them a key along w/ the above excerpt from the law stating that you're within your rights.

RE: Can They do that?

When we moved in here we signed an addendum stating if we wanted maintenance in our apt when we were gone. Other than an emergency, we stated we wish to always be home if they have work to be done.

Here it is treated as your "home", not their home. I understand in an emergency they have the right to enter, that is the way it should be anyplace. But when we are gone, I don't want anyone in here. Just like in a private home, if you hire someone to do work, you make sure you are home. It is just common sense now days.

RE: Can They do that?

Thank you for your quick and speedy responces. You misunderstand. My key will NOT work in my neighbors door nor theirs in mine. I'm speaking of a master key to work dead bolt locks. They have a master key that will work in everyones door, which I find hard to believe. I know I've seen it on tv where the 'guy' has a key to a door to let authority figures in. Yes I also agree that yes, I do want them to enter if there is an emergecy.

No this was not an emergency. this was about ten or fourteen days after I had spoken to her on the phone. So it was clearly not an emergency. As it happens, I do know this maintaince man have seen and talked to him over the months.

The prior tenat has been telling one of the ladies that she intends to come to vist this summer, and I simply didn't want her wandering in and out of my place weather I was at home or not. She's not a bad person, simply unpleasant to have around. she's a lurker, peeker and flat out nosy.

I have her apartment now. I know sometimes it is hard to not see who or what is going on out front, I'm in a back apartment with no side window. So, hense, the lurking. she would literally pounce on anyone who happened to open a window or step outside. I lived here before in another building for a year. So I know her also.

About the housing people. I also have that list of laws right on my desk top. And your right, I spoke with a neighbor about it and had told her they treat us as rats in a cage. They have told one lady she is NEVER to call them again, regardless of the reason.

they never return your calls. I NEVER call them unless it matters. sighs, there isn't much we can do about it. Again, thank you

RE: Can They do that?

The master lock system means that each tenent has a different lock and the landlord has ONE KEY that fit all of them. No one tenent's key will fit another. It is a system desiged to work together. The locks CAN be changed with another from the system after each tenent moves. Lots of apartments have this system in place and so do many businesses so that the boss has access to all areas, but employees are limited to their own work areas. Most leases specify that you cannot change the locks out to your own OR add a secondary lock when they use this system. If it was not stated in the lease, then it was a misunderstanding, and the manager should have handled it more professionally when she spoke to you.

RE: Can They do that?

lcw1947: I'd urge you not to throw in the towel. I'm curious, who are "they" that are so uncooperative? The screaming woman, is that management hired by owners or actual owners? The screaming is absolutely inappropriate. If the woman can't handle her job and is that stressed, she needs to look for a new one. If the screaming and bullying behavior is normal, she should be fired.

I'm very sorry, I was running on very little sleep when I answered your post yesterday. After rereading it with a more alert mind, I have zeroed in more on the catching you in the bathroom situation and frankly, it's becoming more and more disturbing. You don't have to tolerate this. A maintenance man walks in unannounced and you're in a private situation whereby your clothing is not all covering you and there is no closed door between he and you. Yet when you request that he leave, his actions are essentially refusal, because once you pull yourself together you find him messing with the lock!?! For cryin' out loud! This is your home. Stand your ground! The fact that they waited till they knew you'd be out of town is questionable - they were essentially locking you out. And no key should be given to anyone except the person whose name is on the lease. They can't really claim they were locked out because you gave them a key, however, if they wanted to stand on that master key claim, they should have acted swiftly to reverse the lock, in case there were a real emergency arise. If they attempt to claim it as emergency entrance that doesn't wash because an emergency is responded to immediately, not nearly two weeks later. They have rules they have to follow as well and it appears they are playing fast and loose with some of them. What matters most is that you were not given notice and as a result were caught off guard in a revealing situation where you weren't fully dressed and the man refused to leave. (I imagine my niece in your stead, who is 22 and just got her first apartment, and wondered where the chips would fall if it were she who were caught off guard in her bathroom with the door open and the man did not honor her request to leave. I suspect her mother the attorney would be all over that one.)

Those laws you have right in front of you were written for you. Use them. You do NOT have to forfeit your right to privacy or live in fear of being caught in a compromising situation in your own home.

RE: Can They do that?

yes they can do just about everything they did. I do not agree with them waiting untill you were suposed to be gone to change the locks and leaving the keys with your mother with out aranging that with you before hand, that is just messy and not professional at all.

Mastering locks is very comman in businesses and in rental housing. I have a two unit rental, one unit is my resiednce as well. when I bought the house every exterier door had a different key. this ment I had to have a key each for my own front and back doors and the same for the unit I rented out. carrying around all those keys and having to dig up different keys everytime I needed to do maintance work or to let in a contractor. I talked to a locksmith and they actually recomended me to have a master key to make it a bit easier for me. how it works is the lock is set up to work with 2 different keys by the locksmith. one key in the system is the master that only the landlord and/or the maintance person will have. the other set of different keys to the locks on your place are just to open your doors and not those of other apartments in your complex, other apartments are keyed to work with the master and a unique key for each apartment. the only keys in a system like this that are the same is the master key which you as a tenant will never have access to. this is just so that the owner and the complex's staff can enter to fix things or respond to an emergency with out waisting time looking for a key in the key box for each unit they need to enter.

RE: Can They do that?

Hello again,

The she is managment hired by the owner. Believe it or not, the actual owner is a lawyer but will not EVER take anyones calls. His sec. says that take it up with managment. So we try. He only owns the twelve apartments in this complex not all of the 170 something that she has to manage. However, I might also state that her husband is the 'handyman' although they do have a contractor that comes also, whom does not speak English..

The sarcastic, yelling is the norm with her. When I was applying for this apartment, I had called and asked her a question about something on the papers and she simply said that I didn't need to know that. hummm..... well I'm computer savy so I looked it up. And yes, she was right, it didn't apply to me.

I will also add that these are Hud subsidzed apartments. Based on my income, I pay the highest rent in the complex and have the smallest apartment. It was the only one available. And I really like it. It was built in the 70's and the stove and plumbing, and many things are original equipment. The last tenet truely destroyed this apartment to the point they even had to replace the sub floors... and they put in laminate wood floors very cheap, but I keep them looking nice. By cheap I mean, you can fold bend and break a piece of it with your hands and not hard to do. In the South, I put in laminate floors that you couldn't put a nail thru and had to predrill to put in screws to hold the registers down.. So I do know what I'm talking about.

About the locks, I do understand what the master is. And no they didn't replace it with one of those. The funny part is, I did put the original lock back on and the handyman had a bad time to open it. I had to show him the trick. She was (management) just being miserable.

I lived in this complex before in a different apartment. And left because of management. However, my mother who is 85 lives here also and I needed to be near her. I will be 60 in July. And I truely want to keep a low profile here and not rock the boat for my mothers sake. Because I intend to stay here and 'deal' with what ever happens until such a time as my mother is no longer here. then I will no doubt leave. you know the old adage, trick me once shame on you, trick me twice, shame on me. I knew what management were like and came back in spite of it.

Now I do have another question/request: I have searched and searched actually for months on the internet and cannot find how they figure our rents? My income is the same now as it was three years ago, with the exception of the increase (cost of living) in my SSD which Medicare takes as that increases. and my rent has tripled from then to now? Granted I did not have very much medical expences last year, this year I've had more. I still can't figure out how they determine the rent...

again, thank you for your input

RE: Can They do that?

Well Linda, as someone who is also taking care of their senior mom, I can totally empathize. She and I are younger than you and your mom, but that doesn't matter, it's still very hard at the end of the day sometimes, isn't it?

I have an appointment soon, so don't have lots of time to look at HUD info. But they do break it down by state. I see NY has SCRIE, or Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption. But you have to be 62 and live in NYC, or some areas of Nassau and Westchester Counties. Don't know if that applies to you but even if it did would be a few years away. Not for your mom, though, if the locale is right.

I know you don't want to make waves, but what if all 12 of you sent a letter to the lawyer and include incidents that have occurred with Management? Would that be something you could pull together? I mean, these people (mgmt) sound pretty bad and if the owner is a lawyer and gets a group letter signed by all or nearly all of his tenants, he just can't ignore the fact that something is wrong.

Again, I don't know that much about HUD. But triple rent increase in 3 years is pretty huge. I have 3 houses to take care of and in our County the taxes on property have nearly tripled in recent years. It's crippling everyone, owners and renters. I have had to finally raise rents with new tenants on each property, nearly $150 per month to offset tax increase. But that amounts in total to about a 20% increase from 3 years ago when the tax fiasco started. Without that whopping increase, I would be doing probably $25 increase max per year. This is an extraordinary situation in my County and has been all over the news for several years. Everyone knows about it. Seniors with mortgages paid off decades ago have had to take out new home loans just to pay taxes. Other families have lost their homes. So unless you have some bizarre circumstance like that going on, it's hard to fathom rent tripling in 3 years. What the market is doing in your area in general? I mean, through local papers, craig's list, etc., what are similar units elsewhere going for? Is that in line with what's going on, or is your building an exception?

RE: Can They do that?

All this business about master keys has me wondering. Shouldn't any bldg that uses such a system keep a few extra locks sitting around, so when a tenant moves out they can switch out the lock to that door??

It's just absolutely remarkable to me that you can have an unlimited number of unknown people with keys to your apt. and there's nothing you can do about it. Why the heck bother locking it? The idea that a nosy former tenant (or a former tenant's sex-offender son, or crack-addict niece, etc) could just unlock your door w/ their key and walk in is very disturbing.

And please no one say "they're not allowed to make copies." Please. People aren't allowed to take Vicodin w/o a prescription, either, but yet they can and do. Just because a key says 'do not copy' on it doesn't mean no one will make a copy. This doesn't sound like the kind of place that would have those expensive locks that literally can't be copied.

RE: Can They do that?

Housenewbie, while I can't speak for the particular managment in question in this thread, landlords DO have extra locks "sitting around" and change them when tenants move. They are suppose to do this but that is not to say that they all follow through with this procedure.

RE: Can They do that?

I have to say that I do have more income then most of the tenets here. Although, sometimes it can be daunting. My rent is actually what it is for most places around here. Not in my project, though. In other places towns and city's around. I do realize the medicals play a large part in how it is figured. My first year here I had had a biopsy done. So that right there is the zinger for the lowered rent that year. None the less I am on a fixed income and I am very fortunate that I am able to live with in it. I do have to say that I do like it here. Ocassionally I go to the meal site. They really do serve great meals. I am not yet 60 and had gone as a guest of my mothers a couple of times. They came up to me and said, that I am friendly and the others liked me and that I am welcome to come as often as I like even though I won't be sixty till next month.

My neighbors are pretty good people, I like to visit with them. There are a couple here on flat out Welfare, a couple near my age and several over 80. All the units are full. Since the prior tenet (in my apartment) has been placed in a nursing home, the noise complaints have stopped. He had a lot of machines, knocking and banging away 24/7.. they were his life support stuff. And him and his wife were stinkers in that they enjoyed making the neighbor sharing bedroom wall uneasy.. that has all stopped. I actually dreaded to share a wall with her because of her complaints but she says she can't hear me at all. I am pretty quiet except when my feline has the mid night crazy's...

The lawyer that owns the place I just found out is 70 years old, the place is up for sale, in fact someone was here last week looking it over. Many are hopeful they will buy it and I (sad to say) feel that sometimes it's better the devil you know then one you don't.. And no, most of my neighbors are too fearful of them to sign anything that might get them in trouble with managment. No one here EVER calls unless it's a dire need. Even up to changing a light bulb, which I feel they should take care of themselves or a family member. I take care of my own stuff as much as I can. I even bought a screen door with hardware, etc. because I didn't want to ask them for one. When they take them off 'to fix' now they don't bring it back. so many of the units don't have them any more. The screens have not been replaced as they are ruined and I got two of my own. I have three windows in my place and one of them is bolted shut as it kept falling out. sighs...

Still, it's nice to have the major things looked after. My rent includes my heat, garbage pick up, water, plowing, shoveling (he's another whole story). I pay power and phone and cable as each of us do. My children are comfortable having me here as one is in Michigan and the other in Mississippi. and I like living in town. So I guess I can take it when they piss me off. I'm still mad about him coming in like that. I think next time he will ring the door bell. If he doesn't, then I will make reports. he was as shocked as I was. I do understand that his time is limited. Only he and the private contractors to take care of all they are reponsible for.

I expect they have a lot of differing personalities to deal with on a daily basis. I know they are extremely varied here in this little twelve unit place. I think I'm trying to see it from their perspective, although they were totally wrong in this instance as I did as they said immediately as they said it.

I do feel bad for the handy man (her husband) he is from some scandinavian country and has very strong accent but does speak English. He didn't know she had five kids until AFTER he married her.. omg.. I'm just rambling here. and I do like him, he is a likeable cuss...

RE: Can They do that?

Master-keyed locks are common on multi-unit apartment buildings. See the link below for one company that sells them. Basically there is a master key which opens all the locks, but the tenant key only works on that one lock. This allows a manager or maintenance person to carry only one key, instead of 186 different ones. If doofus tenants are allowed to start putting in their own locks, the system breaks down pretty quickly.

These kinds of locks are also available with high security cylinders, like Abloy or Medeco, where the tenant cannot make copies of the keys.

The usual practice is to keep several extra locks, so that when one tenant moves out, one of the backup locks is installed. Then the existing lock is put into the backup pool for future use in another apartment perhaps a year or two later.

If you ask politely, most reputable owners will change your deadbolt, perhaps for a fee.

Here is a link that might be useful: Landlordlocks

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