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Is my landlord legally required to put locks on my windows?

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Question:

My landlord is refusing to put a lock on my window that leads out onto the fire escape. He considers it cosmetic, so says I have to pay for it myself. He also told me that none of the windows in the building lock. Do I have the legal right to windows that lock? What should I do?

Answer:

The law doesn't require your landlord to put a lock on your windows, and rather than wade into a dispute with your building owner, say our experts, your best bet is to simply do it yourself.

"It appears that there is no law in New York City that requires windows to be locked," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations. "However, the tenant can buy their own lock or window gate."

While Himmelstein points out that there's no need for locks on non-fire escape windows above the ground floor, when it comes to your fire escape, your best bet is to install a fire-department-approved window gate. (You can check out examples here and here.) Be sure to read up on the FDNY's guidelines here, the key point of which is that any gates or windows on a fire escape need to have a latch-operated lock, rather than something that requires a key or combination. "You can't put anything on the fire escape that might impede your egress in the event of a fire," Himmelstein explains.

While it might not seem fair to pay a few hundred dollars of your own money to get a gate installed, Himmelstein says, "Sometimes the best advice you can give is just practical. And in this case, there's not enough money in dispute that this is a battle I would choose to pick with the landlord."


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