Landlord relations concerning apartment locks
March 24, 2010 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm paranoid about security and want to add a strong door lock and interior deadbolt when I move in. What should I expect (or how should I handle) the landlord-relations part of this?

I'd like to change to a stronger entrance door lock as well as add an interior deadbolt I can draw from the inside and a chain, and I have a couple questions:

1. In your experience, what would the average landlord response to a request to add a new lock and a deadbolt/chain be:
- sure, I'll pay for it if it isn't already there
- sure, but you pay for it
- no, and I'm suspicious that you're barricading yourself in to make drugs or something (?)
- no, because it'll ruin the wall/door

2. In the case of the deadbolt, a landlord might be less happy because this prevents him from entry. Would a locksmith generally add an interior deadbolt without a landlord's agreement, or is this required? (I know adding a deadbolt without the landlord's agreement would violate a "no changes to the apartment without approval" in some leases.)

3. Some of my paranoia comes from a past landlord not changing the locks before I moved in, and a past tenant still had a working key to the place (=problems). In your experience, how okay are landlords with requests to replace keys/locks? Is this generally done anyway when people move out? If I offer to pay for this, will a landlord be okay with it (and what is the range of cost)?

There are other questions about types of locks and other ways of improving apartment security on this site, so I'm not interested in those areas--just in smoothing this with my landlord. I'll be on the east coast of the U.S., if that makes any difference (Maryland).
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There are laws, at least in some parts of Maryland (specifically Takoma Park, p. 6&7) which require a landlord to re-key any locks between tenants. Additionally, they require that any locks installed by tenants be accessible to the landlord as well.

You may want to look into your particular city by-laws as they may apply the same types of laws.
posted by Hiker at 9:06 AM on March 24, 2010

You can get a door wedge for the interior, or a simple 2x4 notched on one end that you can angle and slide under the door handle down to the floor.

There is a greater risk of kicking, so I'd recommend one of these.
posted by iamabot at 9:08 AM on March 24, 2010

As an aside, citing Takoma Park law is somewhat dicey. They're known for some atypical legislation.
posted by electroboy at 9:20 AM on March 24, 2010

You want one of these. Better than a deadbolt IMO and you don't have to deal with laws or landlords and it's portable to any other door or home.
posted by luvmywife at 9:25 AM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Jammer door brace linked by luvmywife. I have one and used it across a couple apartments, and definitely made me feel safer in one where my door was the very first in the complex near the entrance (every other night someone would be jiggling the doorknob).

The only downside was I once leaned it against a white wall, and it fell down, scraping off some of its black rubber. Blegh. Other than that, though, it does no damage.

And on the plus side, I figure if someone breaks the window, I could grab it and use it as a weapon... ;)
posted by Ky at 9:31 AM on March 24, 2010

Slightly separate from the "no changes to the apartment without landlord approval" issue, my lease has a clause specifically forbidding additional locks. You might check your lease for similar wording -- that may give you some indication of how understanding your landlord is likely to be.

Based on anecdata from landlords I've had, I think your intuition that they may not be happy with deadbolts is probably accurate, but they will probably at least be open to the question of changing the main door lock, probably on your dime, as long as they still have keys to the place.
posted by dorque at 9:41 AM on March 24, 2010

As a postscript to the Jammer door brace, the 2 negative reviews on Amazon may give you pause--there are many brands and models and I wasn't necessarily pusing that particular brand, so if you do choose the door-bar route, do the research. Also, the key is getting the right angle. Impossible to defeat if the angle is correct.
posted by luvmywife at 9:44 AM on March 24, 2010

My landlord wouldn't care as long as I gave them a key and paid for it. In fact, when we moved in there were three different keys to get into the apartment, so we rekeyed everything ourselves. Then again, they're slumlords and probably wouldn't have noticed if they didn't have the correct key for my unit!
posted by radioamy at 9:52 AM on March 24, 2010

i'm a landlord, and i'd be okay with it assuming the installation was done by an actual pro (so it doesn't look sucky), and i would want you to pay at least half of it since it's your request (assuming the apartment has regular security locks). and, of course, i get a key.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:19 AM on March 24, 2010

oh, as for replacing the locks... yeah. i'd be okay with it. i'm a live-in landlord in a two family house, so i'm actually thinking of changing the exterior locks instead of the interior ones, since the previous tenant (well, whoever ended up with his belongings after he died) would have both exterior and interior keys. (and you can't get to the interior locks without using the exterior keys)
posted by rmd1023 at 10:22 AM on March 24, 2010

There is nothing paranoid about changing existing locks.

1. In your experience, what would the average landlord response to a request to add a new lock and a deadbolt/chain be:

I have added a deadbolt or changed an existing lock in every (NYC) apartment I have leased. No one landlord has cared and I told them my intentions upon signing the lease, and in each case I have paid for the change.

2. In the case of the deadbolt, a landlord might be less happy because this prevents him from entry.

In most cases, I left the doorknob lock as is and changed the deadbolt. That way if they need access I can just leave the deadbolt unlocked during the day and they can used their existing keys.

Would a locksmith generally add an interior deadbolt without a landlord's agreement, or is this required?

No locksmith has ever asked any questions.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:27 AM on March 24, 2010

As a landlord, I would not mind if you, personally, paid to change the locks and gave me keys. I would probably request to be there when the locksmith did the work. Many deadbolts have room for an exterior key, and I would require this kind of deadbolt. (If I saw a different kind, I would require you to replace it at your cost. If you ever did anything that made me unable to enter in an emergency, I would charge you to replace everything that needed replacing when I broke in to enter, like the door, maybe the jamb. I would not break in to enter except in an emergency.)
posted by jeather at 10:34 AM on March 24, 2010

I'm a landlord.

1 is "sure, if you pay for it" -- the landlord should have no objection as long as they are provided with a key, which could be needed in the event of an emergency. It is generally expected that the landlord will ultimately have access and preventing this is often a lease violation which could put you at risk of eviction.

2 is "depends on the locksmith". There are plenty of places which will copy DO NOT COPY keys, for example, and many would consider you the customer and any lease-landlord issues your problem. As a landlord, I sure wouldn't appreciate you locking me out if I had to get in.

On the other hand having a kickbar or other defense when you are in the apartment is perfectly reasonable in a higher-crime area. Note that most doors can easily be kicked through, or the jambs split, by a determined male adult (in my experience -- unfortunately I have some -- this is in domestic violence cases rather than burglary, though), and reinforcing plates on door and jamb are much more effective than a bolt and chain. Not as attractive, though.

3 is that we rekey as a matter of course. It's perfectly reasonable to request this.

As a point of negotiation I would not mention up front that you're willing to pay for it. Hold that in your pocket if you can't get it for free. Due to the recession this is a renter's market and you have more power than you normally would -- the landlord probably doesn't want an empty apartment. Use that leverage.
posted by dhartung at 11:02 AM on March 24, 2010

Talk to the local police about crime in your area; it's nice to know if it's really dangerous or not. They may be willing to come over and advise you on good security.

Explain to Landlord that you've had problems with people entering your home with old keys, and ask for the key to be changed, and ask for a deadbolt. It's not unreasonable to ask Landlord to share the cost, but most landlords won't say No if you pay, because it's a reasonable request. Make sure the work is done competently. Landlord may want to do it for that reason. Landlord gets a the keys to any locks.
posted by theora55 at 11:30 AM on March 24, 2010

Also keep in mind that door chains are next to useless for actually keeping people out. A swift kick will defeat most door chains.
posted by electroboy at 11:54 AM on March 24, 2010

« Older Help me come home with as little trouble as...   |   I think the optometrist gave me a bad eyeglasses... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.