The Shareholder Versus the Board Battling to Retain Duplicate Keys

When it comes to key security, most co-op shareholders and other tenants have no choice but to trust in their building manager. That's because New York state law requires tenants to provide landlords with duplicate keys, if requested. Whether that key goes into a locked box in the superintendent's office, hangs in an open cabinet next to the doorman or is placed in a high-tech key management system depends on building policy.

Upper East Side co-op shareholder Linda Stromberg learned this lesson the hard way over the past year, as she waged a losing battle with her co-op board to retain control over the keys to her apartment. While her case may not be typical, it points to the troubling problem of key security.

It's the Law

New York State's Multiple Dwelling Law, Section 51-C, gives tenants the right to install and maintain a separate lock from the original installed by the building, but the law also requires that the tenant provide a duplicate key to the landlord or the landlord's agent, if it is requested. Most co-op boards, through their regulations and proprietary leases also require shareholders to provide duplicate keys.

You can have a situation where someone is gone and has a second lock on the door. They left the water on. There's a leak in the pipe, damage to the apartment below, and you don't have a key, explains Edward Braverman, a Manhattan real estate attorney. Landlords have traditionally insisted on getting a duplicate key to an apartment.


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  • An easy solution for Ms. Stromberg would be to install a security bar that can be in place when she is inside the apartment. That will ensure her privacy while there. What I find in these situations is that emotions get high and paranoia escalates creating no space for compromise. Ultimately, the owner run building does not work. Outside management by competent professionals, overseen by the board, is the best solution. It provides a buffer between shareholders and the board, and also generally saves the building money because pros are in charge of repairs and hiring.
  • this is so wrong. I am a coop owner and had given keys to my management office when I first moved in. As a result my engagement and wedding ring was stolen and the theif had keys as he locked the door when he left. The police were convinced that it was an 'inside job' yet I had no law to get. We should have the right to feel safe in our homes especially when we are paying the wages of those who take from us.
  • This case is from 1995. I guess things were different then. I’m young. Now I’m about to change the locks on my apartment to a 3 in 1 Smart lock with fingerprint, number pad and a key. I am having issues with my super and have concerns about personal safety, but I fully plan to comply with the law and give him a duplicate key immediately. I’m guessing the difference between 1995 and now 2018 is Technology. I have several cameras in and smart door alarms in my apartment. If the super open my front door, not only will I see him in the camera, but notifications to my iPhone whenever the front doors open records the time and date when it was open. I sleep with the camera on in my bedroom 24/7 ( I keep the fire escape window closed and locked at all times, but burglars have been known to get in that way ) it records, has motion detection and person detection. I would feel the same way this lady did in 1995 especially without all the current technology that I have to keep myself safe. As much as I’m having issues with the super he can have the duplicate key. He knows he’s being recorded once he enters my apartment. My Right!