Roommate leaving the door open; what to do?
March 20, 2014 6:51 PM   Subscribe

My roommate has, for the 3rd time, left the front door of our apartment locked but not closed. It is visibly open, and the door can be opened by pushing. He insists he didn't do this. How to handle this?

I am looking for solutions to handle this with the roommate. After the 2nd time it happened, we set up a policy of always bolting the door, and this worked for a couple months. Tonight it happened again. Each time he thought he closed the door, but was the last person to leave and admits he was in a rush. Twice I have come home alone, and am worried for my safety (especially as a woman, if a stranger was inside...). Tonight I called him and he said he didn't think he did it, and didn't sound like he thought it was a big deal. I haven't called the police because our apartment building has a set of main doors, so the vast majority of people in the building are residents, guests, management, and utilities. There are upwards of 70 units in the building, and it is easy for strangers to follow someone in (though it is rare).

Although roomie insists he closed the door fully, I am sure it was him. This only started happening when he moved in (I lived alone for a year prior). If management comes into the apartment when we aren't home, they are required to leave a prominent note.

Roomie is best friend, and I want to handle this diplomatically. He is moving out in a few months, but I don't want this to happen again. (For those who are wondering, he is the roomie in previous questions. Our original arrangement was for the academic year only. We don't have a hard move-out date, it'll be when he finds a place and depend if I'm leaving town for a summer internship or not.) I am concerned for my personal safety and the security of my belongings and pet. Obviously bolting the door isn't adequate. What solution do I have to ensure our door gets bolted?
posted by Chaussette Fantoche to Human Relations (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Buy one of those automatic door closer things at Home Depot.
posted by spilon at 6:55 PM on March 20 [6 favorites]

I can't modify the door like that per the lease.
posted by Chaussette Fantoche at 6:58 PM on March 20

Ask your super to change the doorknob to a non-locking one so the only option for locking the door is the deadbolt? I'm sure you can come up with some plausible reason for it.
posted by supercres at 7:01 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]

He needs to double check the door. This is a basic responsibility of living in a home with other people. You need to say that exact thing to him. His behavior is not acceptable and puts you and your possessions at risk.
posted by sockermom at 7:04 PM on March 20 [26 favorites]

Roomie needs to pay for what roomie's carelessness is costing you.

It's hard to quantify in money, but I'd suggest he needs to pay for a massage or whatever you prefer so that you can relax after the jolt of stress that happens when you come home to an unlocked door.

He owes you for the two prior times as well.

His leaving the door open currently costs you (psychologically) far more than it costs him. Finding a reasonable way to shift the cost to him (where it belongs) should motivate him to doublecheck in the future.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:05 PM on March 20

Honestly, I would flat out yell at him and put the fear of God into him. This is not okay. You could get raped, attacked, killed, or robbed the second someone notices your wide open door. You guys have been incredibly lucky so far that nothing has happened. I have the impression that you do NOT live out so far in a rural area that that sort of shit is okay. Go look up the robbery statistics in your town. Hell, post them on the door with a note saying REMEMBER TO LOCK ME if you have to. This is too serious to be nicey-nice and gentle about. Nobody else but you and him is coming in there and you aren't forgetting it, so him claiming someone else did it is bullshit. (Landlords know better.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:10 PM on March 20 [22 favorites]

In the building I manage, on turns, we remove the locking knobs and leave only a deadbolt. This is mostly to prevent people from locking themselves out, but it would be beneficial for you too. Just ask your landlord/maintenance guy/super if this is do-able.
posted by vespabelle at 7:13 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]

You can rig a closing mechanism without making modifications to the door (I've done it myself) using an over-the-door towel hook to attach a bungee cord to the door. Anchor the other end of the cord to a the wall above the door - there'll just be a single screw hole to patch after he moves out.
posted by halogen at 7:17 PM on March 20 [7 favorites]

Some tech solution like the above is the way to go, if he's your bff and leaving soon. Because if he's inattentive plus not really bothered about your concern (e.g. thinks it's paranoid), it will happen again. It's just going to. If you make a big (or any) deal about it, he might make a show of an effort for a bit, and then maybe, not even consciously, do it more often, because then he might be just a little bit resentful on top of inattentive and not on board with reasonable concern.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:18 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I've had exterior doors with slightly misaligned locks that would swing open again after appearing to close completely. Your roommate may really believe that he closed the door thoroughly.

One low-conflict initial step might be to look at the lock together and rectify any poor fitting (sanding holes larger, tweaking screw placement, etc.) to make sure that the door closes easily and securely on the very first swing.
posted by Bardolph at 7:21 PM on March 20 [10 favorites]

This guy? Would not be optimistic about a talk, also, would work proactively to help him firm up that move-out date.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:37 PM on March 20

This guy? If you found a technique that worked to get him to respect your cleanliness standards, then use that same technique to get him to respect your safety standards. Or else what cotton dress sock said about firming up the move-out date.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:49 PM on March 20

Look around for a door entry alarm/chime (like many commercial businesses use). You can attach it to the door and frame with double-sided tape for clean removal later. Find one that will continue making noise until the door is shut and that also has a volume control.
posted by Th!nk at 7:49 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]

I can't modify the door like that per the lease.

Yeah, you can. There are a gazillion devices to do that and the only mark would be a couple of screw holes you could fill in in a moment - if anyone would even notice them.

I realise you don't want to do this, and you should have to do this, but if your concern is having a door that is reliably locked, this is a no-brainer.
posted by smoke at 7:56 PM on March 20 [7 favorites]

IMO training is unlikely to work at least in the short term. You can buy hinge mounted automatic door closers that merely replace a door hinge pin. Installation is as simple as tapping out a hinge pin and then replacing it with the closer. Reverse on move out leaving not even a screw hole behind.

Alternatively you could go with an automatic closer hinge though installation requires time with a screw driver.
posted by Mitheral at 9:55 PM on March 20 [7 favorites]

Here is the conversation.

"This door thing is a big problem for me. I can't live with someone who can't check to make sure the door is closed. What do we need to do to get you into a new place quickly?"

Dude can't close a door. He goes.
posted by 26.2 at 10:07 PM on March 20 [7 favorites]

Is the door fucked up at all? Is it hung completely straight?

I only ask because the back door at my work(which is a normal, house type steel door) if hurridly closed, not even slammed, just like carelessly let go will latch... then unlatch a couple seconds later and fall back open.

They may be yanking it and letting it coast, not pulling it shut and verifying it clicked. They may just hear the click and go "cool, ok" as they walk away.

I wrote out a long response about how i'd fake-rob the place, and hide all the good stuff from his room, mixed in with some good stuff from the common areas, in a box in the kitchen as if the "tweakers" who robbed the place just got spooked/spaced out and ran off without it(something that's actually happened to me, and a friend). But that's a bit into the range of kooky revenge shit.

I might seriously do that though, i'm completely burned out on living with dumb roommates who do things like this even when they're good friends of mine.
posted by emptythought at 10:51 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]

> For what it's worth, I've had exterior doors with slightly misaligned locks that would swing open again after appearing to close completely. Your roommate may really believe that he closed the door thoroughly.

Seconded. Assume that he's not being careless, that he's closing the door in good faith and believes that it's closed. Tell him that you believe him when you say that he's closing the door all the way, but nevertheless, the door is not actually latching closed when he leaves. Blame the door.

And then don't just tell him to be more careful -- figure out the easiest way to test that the door is truly latched (giving it a test push after closing it?) and tell him specifically to do that.
posted by desuetude at 11:20 PM on March 20

The Ontario Fire Code requires self-closing devices on residential suite doors in apartment buildings which does not quite help if you're not in Ontario, but perhaps it might help frame a conversation about one with the landlord? But a few screw holes would not constitute a lease-violating 'modification' here -- call your local landlord-tenant advice folk?
posted by kmennie at 1:11 AM on March 21

He doesn't believe he has done this. Film it. Show him.
posted by devnull at 1:18 AM on March 21

I can't modify the door like that per the lease.

Did you ask your landlord? He would probably be okay with that. He might even install it for you if you buy it.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:26 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]

Why can't you install a door closer? These things mount with just a handful of screws. You do more damage to the walls hanging pictures than you do installing this door closer.

This could be installed in 20 minutes. You landlord will never know you installed it, and if he did know, he would probably like it. And, if he does not like it, remove it. Like I said, the only damage caused by installing this is a few screw holes, which can be easily caulked and painted.
posted by Flood at 4:21 AM on March 21

For what it's worth, I've had exterior doors with slightly misaligned locks that would swing open again after appearing to close completely. Your roommate may really believe that he closed the door thoroughly.

Our door is actually the opposite -- it latches before it's fully closed. But, it sticks a bit so it needs to get pulled closed. If you just let it swing shut behind you and don't pull it, it sticks without closing all the way -- which is exactly what he's doing.

I've ordered a door alarm thing off Amazon, with an on-off switch so I can turn it on for the days I leave before him. Hopefully it's not too loud that the neighbors get annoyed! I considered a door hinge pin but I'm not sure it would work because the door is in a corner, and because extra force is needed to close the door (it seems like most of those are interior doors?), but it's a possibility if the alarm doesn't get the job done. Since this is only happening on days he's in a rush, jolting his attention with the alarm should do the trick.
posted by Chaussette Fantoche at 5:47 AM on March 21

A former neighbour had this problem with her roomie (unfortunately it was the main external door to the building that he would leave open, in a slightly dodgy area, leaving our bikes exposed to any passers by who might want to nick them. A big notice on the door saying "please make sure the door is double locked" worked surprisingly well. My neighbour's roomie was both mentally ill and also perma-stoned at that point, and the notice still worked. If your roomie is just a bit forgetful, a slight memory jog on the way out might be enough?
posted by tinkletown at 7:05 AM on March 21 [3 favorites]

My freshman college roommate was from a small town and initially forgetful about locking our door. I told her in no uncertain terms that if anything happened to my stuff because she didn't lock the door that I was holding her personally responsible and she would have to replace my things (especially my brand new laptop) immediately. She straightened up quickly after that.
posted by radioamy at 7:15 AM on March 21 [3 favorites]

The Ontario Fire Code requires self-closing devices on residential suite doors in apartment buildings which does not quite help if you're not in Ontario, but perhaps it might help frame a conversation about one with the landlord

If your apartment opens onto a corridor. The corridor has a fire-rating and door closers need to be installed on the (also fire-rated) doors to maintain that rating by keeping the doors closed. If your apartment door opens to the exterior of the building there's no need for a closer.
posted by LionIndex at 7:46 AM on March 21

This is the conversation you need to have:

"This situation is untenable. May 1st seems like a good day to move out. Which one of us is moving?"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:38 AM on March 21 [2 favorites]

i don't understand how you can not remember to fucking pull the door shut behind you. this is something you should have been doing your whole life. if i understand, it's not that he's not locking the door, it's that he's not even CLOSING it. what the bloody fuck. can you print out a sign, tape it to the inside of the door so he sees it as he's walking out? it should say something like, "MAKE SURE YOU PULL THE DOOR SHUT AS YOU LEAVE. YOU NEED TO HEAR IT CLOSE."
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:39 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]

You and your roommate clearly need to stop living together. Judging by your AskMe questions, he's the biggest problem in your life. Over half of your questions are about him. You've got 99 problems, and he's 56 of them.
posted by salvia at 3:56 PM on March 23 [3 favorites]

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