Landlord changing building locks and I can't get the key
January 30, 2014 10:52 AM   Subscribe

[NYCFilter] My landlord slipped a memo under the door last night that on Friday afternoon he was changing the front door locks to the building and all tenants had a small window to pick up new keys from him or had to make alternative arrangements. I cannot make the small window (night school), the number he listed is incorrect, and despite a couple voicemails on the other number I have for him he hasn't returned my calls. What are my options on Friday if I cannot get into the apartment? What are my rights?

This isn't because I'm being evicted or have failed to pay rent. I guess we have a problem with the key being copied and they're upgrading the locks. The memo was slipped under my door last night (and every other door); I have till Friday afternoon to get the new keys. Tonight is the only window he's listed as being available, for one hour. Unfortunately I'm in night school and I'm not about to miss class as that would ensure a failing grade (it's a pretty strict graduate program).

I guess I'm wondering: What are my rights in this situation?

The memo contains a number to a random person that has nothing to do with the building (he got pretty pissed at me this morning for the early calls). The number I have on file for the landlord is forwarded to a different number, where I've left a couple voicemails with my contact information, but have gotten no response. I'm worried that I'm going to come home on Friday and be unable to enter my building.

Unfortunately I'm only somewhat friendly with neighbors so I don't really have anyone to call about this in the building to stand in for me. Even if I did, the memo explicitly states that I will need to show government photo ID for the leaseholder in order to obtain the keys.

Any advice would be appreciated.
posted by teabag to Law & Government (19 answers total)
I think you should just go get the key. It's more important to be able to get home than to make a stand, right? Are you going to miss a test? If not, come late, or leave early, but get the key.
posted by feste at 10:56 AM on January 30, 2014

To be clear: If I miss class, I will fail, and be out tuition, roughly $10k
posted by teabag at 10:58 AM on January 30, 2014

Have a friend do it. Copy your license, and on the sheet of copy paper, write that you're authorizing so-n-so to pick up your key and if they have questions to call you while friend is there (be ready to step out of class for a minute, and let your prof know in advance that this might happen if it's a small class). If they still won't turn it over, then just buzz all of the apartments and someone will likely let you in.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:59 AM on January 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

Knock on a neighbor's door -- someone who would recognize you and you know is a bit friendly. Tell them your situation, give them a note explaining with your signature on it ("I, teabag, hereby authorize teabagneighbor to accept my key for me. Signed, teabag"), and ask them to try the note when they pick up their key. If that doesn't work on whoever is giving out the keys, ask them to get a correct phone number when they go to pick it up.
posted by brainmouse at 11:00 AM on January 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do you have a friend who can go pick up a key for you, or at least hand-deliver a note to the landlord for you?

Does the landlord / management have an office anywhere you can visit at any other time?
posted by alms at 11:00 AM on January 30, 2014

The note you give to the neighbor doesn't have to be authorization to pick up your key. It could be a note stating that the landlord's contact information is incorrect and requesting that the landlord call your contact info so arrangements can be made.
posted by CathyG at 11:04 AM on January 30, 2014

I would send a friend or co-resident, with a photocopy of my photo ID, front and back, and a handwritten (very legibly!) note indicating that you have requested that they pick up the key on your behalf. It might not work, but it might. If it doesn't work, have them ask for an accurate contact number for you to try to get an extra key.

I would also probably have a back-up plan for a place to crash overnight if it doesn't, and you can't get buzzed in simply by hitting buzzers until someone who has ordered pizza lets you in.

From some experience, while it's in the best interests of your building owner to make this seem like the only possible option for picking up the key so that as many people as possible will do it during that time frame, it is not in their best interests to have a paying tenant be locked out of the building for any length of time, so there likely is some alternative that will be made available. When they rekeyed our building, they were spectacularly bitchy about how and when you had to get your key and that was the only way and blah blah blah, and then once they had 95% of the keys distributed, they were way more accommodating with the remaining 5%.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:05 AM on January 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you won't pick up the key, at least ask a neighbor in advance to buzz you in Friday after school/work.
posted by travelwithcats at 11:06 AM on January 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Where are you supposed to go to pick up the keys? Is it an office location or somewhere anyone who can help you is likely to be sitting at any particular time? Go there ASAP. If no one is there, leave a note.

Even if you do have relevant tenants' rights, they are not going to help you get in your building on Friday if you can't even get in touch with the landlord.
posted by rocketpup at 11:11 AM on January 30, 2014

The landlord will be in the "lobby" (we don't have a lobby); he does not live on site. I definitely have the ability to go see him today (now, before class) or tomorrow, but I can't schedule it! In the past he's been notoriously unhelpful.

Generally with these buildings they are controlled by a shell LLC (this is my experience in NYC) which is then controlled by the actual property manager. This is to obfuscate who actually owns what. After some serious googling and a couple disconnected numbers I got in touch with the management company, who confirmed that the mentioned number is incorrect and forwarded me to the building managers voicemail. So that's 4 different voicemails I've left for a callback. (3x landlord, 1x manager)

My cousin actually lives across the street and I've floated the photocopied ID/handwritten letter past her. She can do it. I'm worried it won't work but what choice do I have? I guess I'll leave a final voicemail for the landlord and fax over my ID and letter to my cousin.
posted by teabag at 11:27 AM on January 30, 2014

teabag: "Unfortunately I'm only somewhat friendly with neighbors so I don't really have anyone to call about this in the building to stand in for me."

A nodding acquaintance is a more-than-sufficient level of friendliness for this situation. Ask your neighbors for help!

As suggested above, ask someone to try to pick up your key for you with a photocopy of your licence and a note and/or get a number for you to use to arrange for pickup yourself. Also, make sure you've got someone who can let you in on Friday.

You may not be super-close to your neighbors in the grand scheme of things in your life, but for this particular circumstance you all have a very close connection -- you're the only ones in this boat together. They'll sympathize with you. Many of them are probably irritated as hell by this and wondering WTF will happen to people, like yourself, who have immovable conflicts.
posted by desuetude at 11:28 AM on January 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh definitely use the cousin. Do you have the same last name or look at all similar? That would probably make it even more likely to work. Have her go right at the beginning of the pickup window so that she can get contact info and call you if it doesn't work (I know the grad program is strict, but maybe you can take a "bathroom break" and return a phone call? or maybe your professor would even be understanding if you explained in advance?). At a minimum, she should be able to get correct contact info from the landlord so that you can arrange to get the keys on Friday.
posted by mskyle at 11:32 AM on January 30, 2014

NCY Tenant Law considers it unlawful eviction to change the lock without giving the tenant a key ( Unlawful Eviction Law). In your voicemail, mention that if you find the locks are changed before you get a key you will call the police to get into the building (they should help you get in, according to here). Carry a copy of your lease and ideally id with the address on it with you for the week.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:39 AM on January 30, 2014 [13 favorites]

Or just call the police/a tenants rights organisation now and ask them what they suggest. It is definitely illegal for them to leave you locked out.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:40 AM on January 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll warn the professor ahead of time that I may be getting a call during class concerning this. Thanks for the help, and thanks especially for the links to the relevant laws. Though they are not practical for getting me into the apartment on Friday should this letter scheme fail (to rocketpup's point), they will be useful down the road.

Thanks everyone! Stay warm.
posted by teabag at 11:47 AM on January 30, 2014

Seconding to make sure to carry a copy of your lease and ID on you during this time. The police can let you in.
posted by corb at 11:54 AM on January 30, 2014

So if anyone comes back to this, it may help them should they face something like this:

I forwarded the agents of KAOS links to my sister, a lawyer. She said: "get an email address and stop leaving voicemails. Get everything in writing." As soon as I started asking questions about email addresses at the management company they panicked and forwarded me up the food chain. Cousin has been given the green light and I have it in writing.

Just a heads up, when dealing with landlords, emails/written records scare the shit out of them.
posted by teabag at 11:55 AM on January 30, 2014 [38 favorites]

One more optional layer of security just to make sure you get in your building after class:
Knock on a neighbor's door today, someone who you think is at least visually familiar with you (you've seen each other in the hall), explain the situation and that you're going to have your cousin try to pick up the key on your behalf. Explain you think you'll be all set but just in case the landlord refuses to give the key to your cousin, will the neighbor be around during (timeframe) and willing to buzz you in?
posted by dahliachewswell at 2:29 PM on January 30, 2014

The phone issues seem like a flag to me. Are you sure this note was actually from your landlord?
posted by mahorn at 8:40 PM on February 1, 2014

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