Q. I just rented a studio in a small building on the Lower East Side, and I changed the locks right after I moved in.  My super insists that I give him an extra key in case of "emergencies."

Do I have to?  He's kind of a sketchy character, and as a single woman living alone, I just don't feel comfortable with it.

A. The city's multiple dwelling law requires you to provide a duplicate key to your landlord if asked, says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz.

Your lease probably requires the same thing, notes Stuart Saft, a real estate lawyer at Dewey & LeBoeuf.  But if you're that uncomfortable with the super, says Saft, "An alternative might be to leave the key with the management office."

To reduce your creepy super's temptation to make unauthorized, unjustified field trips into your apartment, property manager Paul Gottsegen of Halstead Management suggests putting your key in an Envelock, a tamper-resistant envelope which displays signs of any tampering. 

Another option is to give your key to a trusted neighbor.

Or you could refuse to hand over your key altogether. While your landlord probably won't take action against you, you may have to pay for the costs of emergency access to your apartment, says real estate broker and asset manager Roberta Axelrod of Time Equities

Figure $400 for the cost of a locksmith to break open your door, plus possible damage to your door of up to $1,200, says Gottsegen.

"Most importantly though, not providing easy access delays first-responders from responding to real emergencies," says Gottsegen.  "One of our superintendents just saved someone's life by breaking into an apartment that had left no emergency key."

To investigate a leak into the apartment below, says Gottsegen, the super jimmied the locks on the upstairs apartment: "Once inside, he found a woman unconscious in the bathtub with the water already up to her chin."


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