Getting a duplicate of a key that says "do not duplicate"
November 18, 2023 10:09 PM   Subscribe

I want my daughter to have keys to get into our apartment in case of emergency. How to accomplish this when one of the keys is imprinted with "do not duplicate"?

It takes two keys to get into our apartment. One is for our personal front door, and the other opens the front door of the building. The building key says "do not duplicate". Currently my spouse and I each have a set of keys to both doors, but no spares.

Do key cutters take an iron-clad vow not to duplicate keys that say not to? Are there places that are willing to ignore this? Can we get in trouble for asking? Please give me the scoop on the possibly shady side of key-cuttery.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could see if there is a key copy kiosk in your area.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:14 PM on November 18 [10 favorites]

In my experience with office keys stamped with do not duplicate, the key cutter didn't even blink and made the keys even though it was a uncommon blank. No questions were asked and this was at a very reputable hardware store.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:16 PM on November 18 [41 favorites]

So it depends on what type of key it is. There really isn't any reason why a normal key won't be copied, there's nothing to be nervous about if it's a normal key. Most shlage or kwikset keys are very common and a locksmith will be more interested in matching the blanks than they would be in if someone had stamped do not copy on there. Part of the reason for this is that there are higher end security systems that people have to pay into to actually have copy control over the key. If it's a medeco or a high end schlage it might be protected. That's to say that there's a requirement, I think it's a contract, that doesn't allow a locksmith to just copy and distribute those keys (there might also be a tech aspect as well, where a locksmith in a given area has a unique pattern or something so you can only go to that shop, it really depends).

That's not to say all medeco keys are protected, so it would be worth taking the key into a locksmith regardless and asking. It really depends on the type of key and the contract that the shop has with your landlord. 95% of the time it's not going to matter at all, but if it is a higher security key it's going to be more of a hassle and probably more expensive too sadly.
posted by Carillon at 10:19 PM on November 18 [4 favorites]

Does your building have a strata organization or condo board? For restricted keys you typically have to go through them. I've never had a problem doing it this way - they just want to keep track of how many keys are out there. I'm in Sydney.
posted by lulu68 at 10:43 PM on November 18 [8 favorites]

I’ve duplicated such keys at kiosks without any issues. The one time it didn’t have the right blank, the keys got mailed to me. Easy.
posted by tubedogg at 11:09 PM on November 18 [2 favorites]

"Do not duplicate" on keys is an administrative note for the people who own the keys. It has no legal force.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:00 AM on November 19 [20 favorites]

I was once part of a volunteer organization where we had keys to our own building - that is, owned by us - which said "do not duplicate". We, the organization, decided we needed more keys and got them duplicated at the hardware store.

If this were a condo I'd say to talk to the board, but landlords are unpredictable and maybe they'd, like, start scrutinizing you or try to gouge you $500 or something.
posted by Frowner at 3:57 AM on November 19 [3 favorites]

At a previous apartment building, I got an additional entry key just by asking. I can't remember if there was an additional deposit required, but it was clearly a routine request.

Otherwise, I'd just plan a day and sequentially go to as many locksmith/key making kiosks/hardware stores as it takes until either someone makes the key or you get a clear explanation of why it would be impossible.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:16 AM on November 19

The landlord, coop board or condo board, or more likely the management company employed by one of the foregoing, should provide extra keys on request. They will likely cost between 25 and 50 bucks apiece, depending on what sort of key it is. Having a few spare building keys for, e.g., an occasional house guest, a housekeeper, a pet sitter, an emergency contact, etc. is completely reasonable and I don’t see how such a request could be denied.

I have extra building keys for my condo, and I had extra building keys for my previous rental (for which I was reimbursed when I moved out).

That’s the route I’d try first. It could create an uncomfortable situation if it were revealed that you had violated policy and duplicated the key yourself. I also think it’s reasonable for a building to keep track of how many building keys are floating around in the wild, because those numbers can start to get so high that it becomes necessary to rekey the doors for security purposes. My building is transitioning to electronic key gizmos because it’s possible to deauthorize individual devices, which is a lot easier and less expensive than rekeying.

Only if you’re refused a reasonable number of spare building keys would I think it’s okay to duplicate them yourself.
posted by slkinsey at 5:29 AM on November 19 [2 favorites]

Check your lease or condo documentation. If it says anything about keys, abide by that and ask the board or super how you van get another key. If not, follow the go-right-ahead advice above.
posted by beagle at 5:29 AM on November 19 [3 favorites]

Nth-ing that plenty of key-cutting and hardware places will not bat an eye at a “do not copy” stamp on a key.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:13 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

In the past I have covered up the proscription with a bit of masking tape labeled with a made-up room number, but I guess from the comments above I didn't have to.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:25 AM on November 19 [4 favorites]

The house key, for the single family house I own, no HOA, passed to me from the previous owner, says "do not duplicate." Makes me chuckle. I've copied mine at kiosks and in person.
posted by rouftop at 7:51 AM on November 19 [3 favorites]

It may depend on which country you're in, but you don't tell us that.

Our apartment complex in London, UK, had keys for the common parts that could not be duplicated by local key cutters (I tried). We had to request a duplicate from the managing company, and pay them for it. Because, presumably, they want to keep track of how many keys are in circulation for getting into the building.
posted by fabius at 8:12 AM on November 19

Have you just tried to duplicate it? Give it to the key person at the hardware store. Use the self-service kiosk. If it's actually prohibited, it will be extremely difficult to do.
posted by emelenjr at 8:31 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

Yeah just put a piece of tape on it with a word like "front", rub some dirt on it so it looks old, and take it to a hardware store. I wouldn't go to the landlord or condo board first before trying that.
posted by mediareport at 8:40 AM on November 19

I've had "do not duplicate" keys duplicated with no comment on multiple occasions. Nobody cares.
posted by HotToddy at 10:45 AM on November 19 [2 favorites]

Not a lot of small businesses are going to let the words "do not duplicate" on a key stop them from selling you a duplicate.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:04 AM on November 19 [2 favorites]

When I went to the hardware store, there was even a bunch of blanks on the wall that said “Do not duplicate.”
posted by Melismata at 12:38 PM on November 19 [2 favorites]

You take it to a key making place. If that place refuses to make it, you take it to a different place.

I have only once in my life had someone refuse to duplicate a key that said "do not duplicate" -- most don't give a shit.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:40 PM on November 19

There are some key systems that use unique blanks that are not readily available to places like kiosks or your local hardware - these are marked 'do not duplicate' or similar and can't be duplicated except by someone authorised by the maker of the lock and nobody else can purchase those specific blanks. There are also lots of key blanks marked as 'do not duplicate' but the blanks are readily available to anyone who wants to pay for them. The easiest way to find out which you have is to take it to a place that copies keys and ask them to make one. They'll quickly let you know if yours is one that is part of an actual restricted key system. If that's the case, you'll have to order one through the building management.

I would just take the key and ask for a copy at wherever is convenient and see what happens. Using an abundance of caution, I probably wouldn't take it somewhere close to your building (eg on the same block) just in case they know someone like the building supervisor and tell on you, but that seems highly unlikely anyway.
posted by dg at 7:52 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]

I have an apartment key which *does not* have a label 'Do Not Duplicate' - but the key-kiosks in the area (2 different hardware chains and another store) were not able to make a copy.

One of the people managing the key-kiosk at one of the hardware stores said it was a type of key used for apartments, and landlords had requested the key-kiosks companies to prohibit copies.

I took it to a locksmith who didn't have a problem making a copy.
posted by rochrobbb at 4:48 AM on November 20 [1 favorite]

My local key-making store wouldn't copy mine but gave me the name of a place that would.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:04 AM on November 20

Late to this, but my French teacher in high school once told us that when she was young she was given a key to something temporarily, and she just put tape over the "DO NOT DUPLICATE" and wrote "BACK DOOR" on the tape.

Sounds like she didn't even need to do that...
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:48 AM on November 27

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