What to Do if Tenant Won't Give You Duplicate Key
Tenants can install and maintain their own locks on their apartment entrance doors in addition to the lock supplied by the owner. The lock may be no more than three inches in circumference, and tenants must provide owners with a duplicate key upon request. Any lease provision requiring a tenant to pay additional rent or other charges for the installation of an additional lock is void as against public policy and unenforceable (Multiple Dwelling Law § 51-c).
If your tenant installs a lock, it’s important that you ask for and get this duplicate key. Otherwise, it will be difficult to get into the apartment in an emergency. For example, you may need to get into the apartment when the tenant isn’t home, to fix a leaky pipe, or even when the tenant is home but is hurt or ill and needs help. So if the tenant won’t give you a duplicate key after you request it, act quickly to convince the tenant to give it to you.
Eviction Is Last Resort
If a tenant refuses to give you a duplicate key, you can, as a last resort, seek the tenant’s eviction. If your lease has the right language, the tenant’s refusal to give you a duplicate key will be a substantial lease violation, entitling you to evict the tenant.
Get Tenant’s Compliance
Before you spend time and money suing to evict a tenant, try to get the tenant to give you a duplicate key voluntarily.
Step #1: Check lease. If a tenant refuses to voluntarily give you a duplicate key after asking for it, he may be violating a common lease clause that requires the tenant to comply with all city, state, and federal laws and regulations. Because the Multiple Dwelling Law requires tenants to give you a duplicate key to locks they install when you ask for it, a tenant who refuses to do so is violating this law and therefore the lease clause.
Step #2: Give oral warning. Although you’ve already asked the tenant to give you the duplicate key, ask again. Remind the tenant that you need the duplicate key for emergencies and that he’s violating state law by refusing to give it to you.
Step #3: Send letter. If, despite your oral warning, the tenant continues to refuse to give you a duplicate key, send the tenant a polite, but firm letter asking for it. We’ve provided a Model Letter: Formally Inform Tenant of Requirement to Provide Duplicate Key, below. This letter:
- Tells the tenant he’s violating Section 51-c of the Multiple Dwelling Law;
- Tells the tenant he’s violating his lease and points out the lease clause he’s violating;
- Mentions an alternative tamper-proof evident method for the tenant to give you a key that may provide the tenant assurances that the key will be used only in an emergency situation; and
- Makes it clear that if the tenant doesn’t give you a duplicate key to his lock, he risks being the target of an eviction lawsuit.
See The Model Tools For This Article
|Formally Inform Tenant of Requirement to Provide Duplicate Key