5 Surprising New York City Rules About Locks You May Not Know

November 8, 2017

Before you lock up, make sure it’s lawful.

Installing a lock on your apartment door may seem like a no-brainer — but before you call up your favorite locksmith, it’s important to ensure that you’re abiding by the rules. From what types of locks are allowed, to where they may be placed, to what security measures landlords are required to provide, New York City has no shortage of regulations when it comes to securing your home.

Most people, though, are not aware of their rights and restrictions when it comes to locks. Read on for the most surprising rules about locking up in New York City:

1. Fire escapes and window gates cannot be locked with a key.

For your safety in the event of a fire or other emergency, fire escapes and window gates cannot be locked with a key. This doesn’t mean they can’t be locked at all, though: most windows and window gates come with a latch or other locking mechanism that can only be locked from the inside, but doesn’t require a key. These are easier to unlock, but will still keep your home secure from outside intruders.

2. Double cylinder locks are a big no-no.

While this isn’t the official phrasing in the fire code, double cylinder locks are both dangerous and illegal. A double cylinder lock requires a key to be opened from both the inside and outside, which could leave you trapped in your home during an emergency. If you have one installed, remove it yourself or contact your landlord to have it removed. Don’t fret — there are other types of locks you can use to secure your front door.

3. Push button locks can go anywhere in your apartment.

While city laws can get a little hazy when it comes to where you can install a key-entry lock in apartments, push button locks are fair game. Pop one on your bedroom door to keep out pesky roommates or anywhere else that needs protection, from your office to the bathroom.

4. Landlords must repair faulty locks or break-in-prone windows.

State law requires landlords to take basic safety precautions against foreseeable crimes, including break-ins. That means they must repair faulty locks or broken windows, and building entrances must be safe and secure. Self-closing and self-locking doors are a must, unless there is a doorman present in the building at all times. Having these basic safety standards in place is a requirement for all NYC apartment buildings, and can greatly reduce the chance of break-ins and burglaries.

5. If you install a second lock on your front door, it won’t come out of your security deposit.

A landlord must provide a basic lock on your front door, but they must also let you install a second lock — without deducting it from your security deposit or charging you any additional fees. If you do decide to install a second lock for your safety and security, it must be no larger than three inches in circumference and you are required to provide your landlord with a duplicate key.

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