Was my landlord out of line to pass my key to another tenant?
July 18, 2004 1:15 PM   Subscribe

TenantFilter: So I gave permission for the building manager to let a contractor into my apartment to do some fix up work. Not only does she not let him in personally, which is what I thought I okayed, but she leaves the key to another tenant to pass on to the contractor when he shows up. Am I overreacting in thinking that was way out of line? How do I go about responding to something like this?

As it turns out, I was home when the contractor showed up. I only found out about this because the guy holding my key told me. Incidentally, this guy really creeps me out. He's like 50 and hangs around all day on the stoop (I don't think he works) with his shirt open. Also, the first time I met him it was like 11 in the morning and he was drunk. Not that that's particularly relevant, it just adds a little flavour.

So I'm thinking at the least I'll confront the building manager and make it very clear that this will not happen again. At most, and I might be overreacting, I'd like to get my lock changed.
posted by ODiV to Law & Government (10 answers total)
fyi, changing your lock is quick + cheap, assuming it's a cylinder lock. you can just swap out the cylinder for a new one (if you're at all competent with a screwdriver, it's pretty obvious once you start opening it up).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:23 PM on July 18, 2004

Changing your lock is a good idea to keep the creepy neighbor out right now, but the larger problem is definitely the landlord's attitude. You've almost certainly got an obligation to give him a copy of the new key if you do that, if he's given it away once, he'll give it away again if you don't say something.

IANAL, but I would definitely look into ways that you could broach this with him as a liability on his end of things--not as a threat to him, but as a way to frame things in his own self-interest. (Like, could his insurance policy be liable for any theft or damage that occurred?)

What exactly he's liable for is probably very different depending on your country, state/province, and town, so you should definitely consult with someone knowledgeable in your area. Nevertheless, I've always found self-interest to be the most reliable and effective leverage with landlords.
posted by LairBob at 2:20 PM on July 18, 2004

[Oops..."her" end of things. All jerky landlords aren't automatically greasy old guys in tanktop undershirts, I guess.]
posted by LairBob at 2:22 PM on July 18, 2004

What does your lease say? If it doesn't cover this situation, I'd say you are SOL.

Next time, leave your key with the contractor or arrange to be home.
posted by mischief at 2:44 PM on July 18, 2004

You've almost certainly got an obligation to give him a copy of the new key if you do that...

...but, you know, it just might slip your mind. "Oh my gosh, it slipped my mind!" you'll exclaim breathelessly, "I'm so sorry. Say, why were you trying to get into my place, anyway, if you don't mind my asking?"
posted by five fresh fish at 2:50 PM on July 18, 2004

Being a resident manager myself, it sounds like the building manager is not properly doing his job. Under no circumstances would I give a tenant's key to another tenant (they've asked me for them before - to turn off an alarm clock). I even strongly discourage them from voluntarily giving their key to other tenants (duh - they could steal from you!).

andrew cooke is correct: changing a cylinder deadbolt is easier than making a sandwich. You should definitely get the lock changed, but if you choose to do it yourself (a locksmith will want top dollar to do it, and your landlord will probably charge you a fee on top of that), save the old cylinder, since the landlord will want that back. As for withholding the key once the lock is changed, I would strongly recommend against it. Should you be away from your place and they need to enter to perform emergency repairs (think plumbing or gas leaks), and you've got a new lock they didn't know about, they'll kick your door in and charge you for a new one, then sue your ass into the ground for all the damages they were unable to prevent.

Real estate - especially rentals - is a very slimy game.
posted by rocketman at 4:20 PM on July 18, 2004

If your landlord happens to be a realtor you can turn him into your state's real estate commission.
posted by konolia at 5:45 PM on July 18, 2004

Speaking as a former manager:

1) Hell yes, that's over the line.

2) Submit a written request for a lock change. In the letter, note the urgency of this matter. It's about maintaining the security of the unit. It's for your personal security, for the protection of your property and theirs, to keep their property insurance and your rental insurance, etc. There is probably a "repair and deduct" provision in local law (if in doubt, check with your local landlord-tenant mediation agency or legal aid); set a reasonable interval for them to do the fix. 48 hours is plenty, in my opinion (changing that cylinder is 3-5 minute procedure for anyone who's done it before, and even a person who can't find the right end of a screwdriver can get a locksmith to come out within a day). If they don't take care of it on their own, use Repair and Deduct. The cheapest way is just to buy a new lockset from the hardware store for $12-20. For a first-timer, you might need 20-30 minutes to do the swap. Whatever happens, keep the situation as friendly as possible, though. You're going to want a good reference...

3) Find a new apartment, pronto. Anyone who is so irresponsible will not only give the key away again but is surely compromising your safety in other ways you just don't know about yet. Don't stick around to get the complete list.

4) If you're that creeped out by the neighbor, it might not hurt to check in with the local police. Pressing charges isn't required. Unless you're in a high crime area where they're too swamped with serious cases, they're usually happy to lend help with situations like this. For instance, an officer may volunteer to come out and talk to the manager if you feel she's not getting it.

If the manager is not the owner, consider whether to let the owner also know about this incident. (AFTER you've moved.) Supervising contractors and minimizing liability are essential job functions for a manager; this woman is bailing out on her responsibility to the landlord and his/her tenants.

Mischief, if the lease is silent on a topic, that does not mean one is SOL. There is usually a considerably body of landlord-tenant law that applies as well. Even if the contract says you're SOL, don't believe it without getting expert confirmation. A lot of leases are riddled with b.s. provisions that cannot be enforced.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:32 PM on July 18, 2004

I looked at your profile to see your location. Since its before 6am and I'm a USian, I'm not sure what province you're showing. NT? Northwest Territory?

Such things may have one legal perspective, and an entirely different social one, on a local level. The creepy guy may be perfectly reliable. What seems totally the wrong sort of person in one place can be just the right one in a very different environment. Standards of custom and behavior (when to get drunk) are very different from one place to another.

I appreciate how you feel, I'm certain I would feel exactly the same, only moreso. But then, I'd not choose to allow anyone in my place in my abscence.

As for the manager: It may be perfectly legal and reasonable for the manager to delegate this task to a person of his choosing. Perhaps Mr. Creepy has been living there for decades and is known to be perfectly honest.
posted by Goofyy at 10:25 PM on July 18, 2004

But then, I'd not choose to allow anyone in my place in my abscence.

Even though OViD describes it as "permission", there may not have been a choice. Usually a landlord has right of entry for certain activities (e.g. upkeep, repairs, showing to prospective new tenants), as long as reasonable advance notice is given to the tenant (or there's an emergency, such as a broken pipe). So the manager probably has the right to let the contractor in, whether OViD was there or not. But it was she who needed to do that. The point of giving notice is so that the tenant knows who will be in their home, and when, and that it's for a legitimate reason. Not much use when in reality there's an unmentioned third party who could enter whenever the mood strikes. The manager should have told OViD what was up. Or better yet, scheduled the appointment when she could be there herself.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:11 AM on July 19, 2004

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