Locked Out of Your Apartment? What to Do and How to Prevent it
Imagine you’re walking up to your apartment and you reach into your bag or pocket. Your heart drops – you left your key inside your apartment. Maybe you can picture where you left it on the coffee table or perhaps you dropped it while you were out. Luckily, even in the worst-case scenario, you have ways you can get back into your apartment. And there are a few steps you can take to make it less likely that you’ll get locked out of your apartment again.
What to do if you’re locked out of your apartment
If you find yourself locked out of your apartment, there are a bunch of different ways you can get yourself back in. Some of the options won’t cost you anything, and some will. Depending on the time of day and your comfort level, there are a number of things you can try, from calling your leasing office to calling a locksmith.
A lot will depend on whether you have a basement, first-floor apartment, or outdoor-entry apartment or if you live in an indoor, higher-floor unit, or secured-entry apartment building. For example, if you live in a basement apartment, you’ll probably have an easier time locating any open windows or doors compared to an apartment on the fifth floor.
1) Call the leasing office, property manager, or landlord
Your leasing office almost always keeps a spare key to each apartment in case of a maintenance emergency. So, if you’re locked out during your building’s normal business hours, you can always stop by your leasing office or call your landlord to help you get back into your apartment.
If you’re locked out after business hours, and you live in a smaller apartment complex where you know the landlord personally, you can try calling their phone number to see if they can let you back in. Or, if you live in an apartment complex, you can call your emergency maintenance number.
“If you find yourself locked out of your apartment or rental home, first check to see if you left any of your other doors or windows open,” advises Cothron’s Security Professionals. “If you don’t find any openings, call your property management and see if they have an extra key to let you in. If your property manager can’t help you, call your local locksmith and ask for a price upfront. They should be able to give you a hard quote or at least an accurate price range.”
Using the resources in your apartment complex is often the simplest and quickest way to get your apartment unlocked. Sometimes, your apartment building will charge you to unlock your apartment, usually a fee of less than $100. Or, if it is your first time being locked out of your apartment, they may not charge you at all.
Make sure to read your lease or rental agreement when you first move into your apartment. That way you’ll know what your options are and how much those options may cost you if you’re locked out of your apartment.
2) Look for another way in
Living on a ground floor, basement or garden apartment can have its perks – especially if you’re trying to get into your apartment. You may be able to find another way into your apartment without going through the front door. If it’s easily accessible, check to see if you left any back doors or a side door unlocked. You can also use a fire escape or outdoor staircase to access your back door. If none of your doors are accessible, check your windows. See if there is an unlocked window or if you can pop out a screen to slide it open and enter.
Boston, MA, based locksmiths, Prostar Locksmith Team reiterates, “If your apartment is on the ground floor, check for another safe and accessible entrance into your unit that may be unlocked, such as a window or patio door. If there are no other entries, call your landlord or property management company. Landlords will typically unlock your door with an extra key or master key as a courtesy if it’s during business hours.”
When looking for another way into your apartment, be aware that people may think you’re trying to break in, particularly if your neighbors don’t know you very well. Be prepared to explain yourself if a neighbor approaches, and try to be quiet so you don’t attract attention or wake up the neighbors during quiet hours.
Also, while it’s rare, some apartment buildings may have security systems that could be tripped by someone entering the building through a window. If that’s the case, it may be best to call your property manager instead of trying to get in yourself.
3) Contact your roommate (if you have one)
Another way to get into your apartment is to call your roommate, partner, pet sitter, or someone else who has a key to your apartment. If you have a roommate, getting back into your apartment may be as easy as knocking on the door to have them let you in, or calling them if they don’t seem to be home. You can also ask if your roommate hid a spare key somewhere outside your apartment.
If your roommate isn’t around or you live alone, you can call anyone who has a spare key to let you in.
4) Call a locksmith
Calling a locksmith is usually your final option for a few reasons. First, you’ll have to pay the locksmith. And second, if you don’t choose a reputable and professional locksmith, they could possibly cause unnecessary damage to your lock while trying to get you in. Then, not only would you have to pay for the locksmith to unlock your door, but you may also have to pay the maintenance team to replace or repair your lock.
Safety Locksmith Brickell, a Miami, FL, based locksmith advises, “The first thing I recommend is checking all the doors and windows to the house, maybe one of them is open. In the case that everything is locked, call a professional locksmith. Don’t try to open the lock yourself because you can damage the lock mechanism by mistake and create a bigger problem. Always ask the locksmith for their insurance, company location, and business card. That shows you that you have a professional and you’ll be treated by a trusted locksmith.”
In 2021, the average costs for locksmiths were between $30-$185, with the average cost being $129. Keep in mind that locksmiths will likely cost more in areas where the cost of living is higher.
Many locksmiths can also help if your apartment complex or unit has an electronic lock or keyless entry. Make sure that the locksmith you call offers the services you need. Nothing would be more annoying than calling a locksmith, only to have them show up and not be able to help.
Security professionals AAA Control, LLC provide the insight that “In most cases, a door can be opened without any damage to the lock so you won’t have to replace it, however, in some cases it’s necessary to drill or damage the lock to open the door. Unfortunately, in that case, you will need to install a new lock. If you have other locks that match the same key, the new lock will have to be rekeyed to match as well. If you lost your only key and don’t have any spares, it’s possible to make a key once the door is unlocked, usually for an extra charge.”
Tips to keep you from getting locked out again
For those of you who accidentally lock yourself out of your apartment more often than you’d like to admit, it may be worth investing in some changes to your apartment so that you aren’t constantly calling someone to let you in.
Professional security guard services, Ranger Guard & Investigations comments, “The best security is preparation. You don’t want to be scrambling around for a locksmith when you’re tired and desperate. Find a reputable locksmith when you first move to an area, so in an emergency, you know who to call.”
Here are three other tips to keep you from getting locked out:
1) Store a spare apartment key
One of the simplest things you can do to prevent yourself from getting locked out is to hide a spare key. When you store a set of spare keys, get creative. Try to avoid simply sliding a key under your doormat or “hiding” a key above your doorframe or under a lone rock. Instead, hide your key in an inconspicuous birdhouse, lamp, or secure lock box.
However, these methods will only help you if you live in an outdoor-entry apartment. If you live in a secured-entry apartment where your “front door” faces a secured indoor hallway, you’ll also need to find a way to get into your building, not just your apartment. Some buildings may have a designated key fob to you’ll need to access the complex. Or, if you’re lucky you may be able to use a call box to buzz yourself into the building.
2) Give a spare key to a trusted person
Your best bet, regardless of the type of apartment you live in is to give a spare set of keys to someone you trust and can get a hold of easily. Whether it’s a friend or family member who lives in the area, or even a neighbor that you trust, make sure it’s someone who lives nearby. You can get a set of keys from your landlord, or you may be able to create a copy of your key yourself.
While you may have to pay a small fee to get an extra key and/or key fob from your property manager, it will probably be worth it in the long run if you don’t have to pay your landlord or local locksmith every time you’re locked out.
Keep in mind that some apartment buildings may not allow you to create a copy of your key yourself. You may find a section in the lease about not creating copies of keys. This is to prevent unknown people from having access to the building and keep extra keys from floating around. So, check with your lease and your landlord first if you plan to make a copy of your key yourself. Otherwise, just get the spare set from your landlord.
3) Consider a smart lock or keyless entry
More and more lock options are popping up that don’t require a key. So, even if you lose your key, you’re all good.
Smart locks can be unlocked in a variety of different ways, so you can find one that works best for your needs. Some locks can be unlocked through an app, or they will unlock over a Bluetooth connection if your phone is nearby. You can even unlock your door using your fingerprint, face recognition, and voice commands. Most smart locks also come with a physical key, just in case you need it.
Another great thing about smart locks is that you can add, schedule, and delete eKeys, which means you don’t have to be around to unlock your door if, say, your pet sitter needs to get in. And, you can monitor who is going in and out of your apartment.
If you frequently find yourself locked out of your apartment, a keyless entry option could easily solve your problems.
Getting locked out of your apartment can be frustrating and inconvenient. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to prevent yourself from being locked out such as getting a smart lock or giving an extra key to a trusted friend. And if you ever are locked out, you can always look for another way in, contact your landlord, or call up a professional locksmith.
Originally published by Redfin