Stupid House-sitting Mistake
December 10, 2004 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Stupid House-sitting mistake: I've locked myself out of my friends' house that I'm looking after for the next two weeks. I think I've exhausted all avenues of possible help and am planning on going in through a window tonight. Is there anything I can do today to prepare or any precautions I need to take, in regards to safety, lawfulness, property damage, etc.? (MI)

I feel horrible about this, as I can't help but think that I've let these people down, but there's no point in beating myself up about it til I'm back inside the house. The couple and their family are abroad and/or unreachable, and none of their friends in town have any information that can help. Calls to the locksmith, alarm company, and non-emergency police have been fruitless, as I need written proof that I can access their house, which I do not have. There are pets inside the house, as well as ALL my ID, cash, and keys. I'm going to go in through a back window tonight, but is there anything I'm overlooking today? What should I expect if the cops are called? I'm planning on explaining the situation to the neighbors before I do anything, but who knows if they'll believe me.
posted by lychee to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Always go feet first. Trust me.
posted by adampsyche at 10:08 AM on December 10, 2004

Maybe you could call the police just to say "Look, here's the deal... I'm not robbing the house, I promise..." Explain your relationship to your friend, describe the keychain, or do anything else to prove to them that you do indeed have permission. Perhaps your friend left you some instructions inside and you could describe them. Or maybe you remember the alarm code.

It's a longshot, and it may not work, but it would probably be better than having a cop pull a gun on you as you're climbing through a window.

Also, rather than going into a back window at night, can you go into a visible window during the day? I think the less suspicious you are the better off you'll be.
posted by bondcliff at 10:14 AM on December 10, 2004

Explain it to the cops, and have them escort you in.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:20 AM on December 10, 2004

It won't help you this time, but I always try to have the person I'm housesitting for introduce me to at least one neighbor ahead of time. And yeah, try to avoid doing anything that might look suspicious--let everyone know what you're doing, and be visible. Hopefully the neighbors are at least aware that your friends are out of town and that there is a housesitter. If so, try asking for their help when you explain the situation to them. It'll be much less suspicious if they're with you when you go in.
posted by Acetylene at 10:21 AM on December 10, 2004

try another locksmith
posted by reverendX at 10:42 AM on December 10, 2004

But if you tell the cops and they can't help you without proof, won't they also then stop you from going into the house? These pets need to eat, guys!
posted by onlyconnect at 10:43 AM on December 10, 2004

I have no idea what the right answer is, but I like the 'have the cops escort you in' answer. I would think that you would almost certainly be arrested for burglary if you get caught in the middle of breaking and entering. I imagine that the "Dude, I'm house-sitting, etc." excuse wouldn't fly.

If the family gave you the code the alarm panel, and if your ID and stuff is inside, it seems to me that you might be able to convince the police to let you in, given that you'll be giving them your name and ID, can disable the alarm panel, etc. etc.
posted by josh at 10:45 AM on December 10, 2004

I can't think of a worse way to do this than breaking in a back window at night. Have the cops and a locksmith meet you at the front door during daylight hours. Believe me, the police don't want to go through the hassle of arresting you anymore than you want to be arrested. But if a neighbor dimes you out on your nocturnal adventure, arrested you will be.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:55 AM on December 10, 2004

Did you ask neighbors if any of them have a key?
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 10:55 AM on December 10, 2004

Definitely do call the police. Barring that, break in, but don't wear stripes or a mask.
posted by mds35 at 10:55 AM on December 10, 2004

You can probably find an "ametuer locksmith" on craigslist or maybe the Lockpicking 101 forums. Tell them you have your driver's license/ID inside the house, and you should be able to find someone to help.
posted by rajbot at 11:02 AM on December 10, 2004

Here's a wacky idea. Can't you call your friends on their vacation and ask them if someone else has a key? Or if they can call/fax/email a locksmith or call/fax/email the police to grant approval? Did they leave you any emergency numbers?
posted by judith at 11:02 AM on December 10, 2004

Are you sure you can't just break in the front door? If there's not a deadbolt, you should be able to get in with some sort of card -- New York State drivers' licenses are ideal, as are many library cards. It's also marginally less suspicious since someone has to be fairly close to notice you're not just fumbling with a key.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:22 AM on December 10, 2004

I agree with the "try another locksmith" idea; I once had a neighbor catsit for me, and the key I gave her didn't work - she was able to have the locks changed without written permission. For the record, I totally sympathize with the "hide your mistake" strategy of sneaking in.
posted by deliriouscool at 11:24 AM on December 10, 2004

I would suggest not telling the locksmith you are housesitting. The few times I've locked myself out of my own house - they asked very very few questions. I think I had to show them my ID that was locked in my house when they were done. I'm sure you could satisfy their comfort level with what ever documentation/knowledge of alarm codes you have inside the house. You can also do this without having to re-key.
posted by Wolfie at 11:34 AM on December 10, 2004

I would suggest not telling the locksmith you are housesitting.

We didn't tell the locksmith that we were using someone else's apartment and he let us in with no questions. When you walk to your own wallet (and the keys) inside to pay him or her, it's pretty obvious that you "belong" there.

Note: after making an effort to pick the lock (mostly for show, I think), he just took a large screwdriver, pressed it against a metal seam on the handle, hit it hard and the entire center of the lock broke out. He then replaced the entire lock. You might want to check around the net to find out if the lock in question is susceptible to such a procedure and save yourself some cash.
posted by probablysteve at 11:57 AM on December 10, 2004

Given that you know the alarm code and (this is the kicker) your wallet with ID are in the home, I expect that you can enlist the aid of the police department. Have them escort you in, show them that you know the code and then show them your ID. I expect that you'll be in good shape.

After all, if you can't convince them before the fact, how are you going to convince them after the fact, should you get "caught"?
posted by waldo at 12:00 PM on December 10, 2004

Of course the locksmith won't help you. "Please let me into my friend's house." He's concerned with his own liability. He's right. Ditto for the alarm company.

Your ID doesn't prove anything. It doesn't prove you have the owners' consent. It doesn't even prove you were in the house.

What kind of neighborhood is it? In my neighborhood, I'd assume the owner had locked himself out. If I'd seen the car before, that would help. But don't tell the neighbors. First rule: Look like you belong.

If the police are called, consider that you may be arrested. Your friends won't press charges, but you may spend a night in jail and the arrest may stay on your record. That should give you pause.
posted by cribcage at 12:28 PM on December 10, 2004

I've broken into many apartments and homes for reasons similar to what you are describing (seriously). If the window is already open, it's not a problem, esp. if the window is not facing the neighbor's bedroom window. If the windows are all locked, and if you can't jiggle a lock loose, this complicates matters. I would not break anything. In this case, I would go to extraordinary measures to locate your friends abroad.

If the window or door of your choice is unlocked, open it. Don't make any quick or jerky movements. Just open the window, slide in, get your business done pronto, and exit smoothly. It helps to park down the street so if you are spotted by Mrs. Davis next door, she won't be jotting your license number down from her living room window.

The pets will extra love you for your brazen disregard of human law in favor of their hunger pangs.
posted by Il Furioso at 12:48 PM on December 10, 2004

The locksmiths I have called never asked me any questions. I just said I had my ID inside. You are going to end up replacing the lock.
posted by xammerboy at 12:56 PM on December 10, 2004

Sorry, but it seems like you are worrying about this way too much.

Just go in through the window.
Chances are no one will see you do it, and no one will call the cops.

If someone does call the cops, just explain it to them like you explained it to us, show your ID, show them the note your friend left, and 99 out of a 100 times, they'll say OK, and you can go on your merry way.

If you happen to live in a city with idiot cops and/or you are black and housesitting in a white neighborhood, then yeah, you can be a little nervous, but I wouldn't worry about it until that happens.
posted by madajb at 1:35 PM on December 10, 2004

Response by poster: Sounds like the smartest solution, if not the most honest, is to get a locksmith. The police really didn't sound at all helpful when we called--didn't really care what my story was. There is no way to contact the couple, believe me, we tried.

The window will be my last resort.
posted by lychee at 1:37 PM on December 10, 2004

You are going to end up replacing the lock.

What? Any locksmith worth a dime is going to pick a deadbolt, not drill it. With even a modicum of training, you can open a 5 or 6 tumbler in 30 seconds.

I think the neighbors are your weakest link. B&E is pretty easy on most homes, but an alarmed house is going to bring the cops. If the windows use the standard latch, they can be openned with a thin, stiff metal blade (heck, a putty knife would work). Just slide it in between where the top and bottom window meet, then swipe it to unlatch the lock. This doesn't really help you, though. If the place is alarmed, it's going to take you more time to open the window and crawl through it, then get to the alarm control and enter in the right code.

Plus, if neighbors see you crawling in through a window, they will call the police.

First, I'd try and exhaust all locksmithing posibilities.

Second, I'd go over to the neighbors home, knock on their door, explain the situation, explain that there are animals inside, be sure to use NAMES and SPECIFICS so they won't be suspicious (i.e., "I'm house-sitting next door, and got locked out" is no good, but, "I'm house sitting for the Andersons next door, I've locked myself out, and John and Mary are on vacation in Madacascar" is better). Ask if they have a key (they probably don't, but psychologically they're more willing to believe you're NOT a robber if you ask them for a key, rather than telling them "I'm just going to be over here trying to break in, but don't worry!" I don't know why this is, but it is.)

If they balk, you'll have call the police. On preview: it looks like the police aren't going to be of any use. If the locksmith route doesn't work, just break a window with a thick towel (a small window that you can reach your hand in, not a large window that you can crawl through), be as quick as you can and enter in the code. Buy your friend a new window. Good luck.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:43 PM on December 10, 2004

I like Civil's approach, but I would add caution for the pets inside if you break a window. I'm imagining dogs hearing you coming, and waiting right under the door with the window you're about to break, sending glass showering down on them. You certainly don't need THAT. If this is likely, maybe head it off by rattling the doorknob at a different entrance first, then quickly moving to the breakable window.

Or if it's fish & parakeets, nevermind.

But let us know what happens!
posted by Tubes at 2:39 PM on December 10, 2004

Yes, please do let us know; this is one of those cliffhanger threads that we always ask for 'follow-up ponies' for in the grey...
posted by moonbird at 4:32 PM on December 10, 2004

Response by poster: I am posting from inside the house. I repeat, I AM POSTING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE.

My parents drove up because I'm not as independent as I'd like to think I am (and because I don't have a car), and we met the locksmith tonight. I fudged the truth a bit, and there were no problems.

The cats, poor things, had finished off their food and water, but they don't seem too famished. The house is fine, and while I'm still a bit shaken up, I'll survive. (Aside, as has been pointed out, I worry too much and will continue to worry until the couple comes back.)

I want to thank you all. If it weren't for AskMe, I'd probably be stuck in some bedroom window all night long.
posted by lychee at 9:43 PM on December 10, 2004

Don't forget your keys on the way out.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:11 PM on December 10, 2004 [1 favorite]

Don't forget your keys on the way out.

You win... that made chocolate milk bubble out my nose.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:42 AM on December 11, 2004

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