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.