What to Do if You Lose Your Apartment Key

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It’s a horrible situation–you’ve lost your keys. You’ve got to get into your apartment, but there are other things to worry about as well. Will your keys show up? Do you need to have a new key made? Do you need to have your apartment re-keyed?

The first thing to do is, of course, get into your apartment. You’ll need to call your landlord or your management company to come let you in. Some landlords charge fees for such a service, especially if it’s late at night or an otherwise inconvenient time. Some will come out for free the first time, but will charge after that.

Laura Milkowski, a New York City real estate expert and landlord, says that a landlord should outline the lockout policy in the lease. Milkowski’s leases make provisions for renters to get into their homes as needed, but renters are responsible for any cost to change locks or make new keys. Milkowski’s approach is pretty common. You should double-check your lease, so that you know just what your landlord’s policy is, before you need it.

Others, like Pamm McFadden, a landlord in Boulder, Colorado, make slightly different arrangements. “My policy is that if they lose their key, the fee is $50. I have the list of the codes so I can call the locksmith and give her the code and the tenant’s name. The tenant can then go and pick it up–during their regular business hours.” McFadden admits that she probably would waive the fee in most cases, but she’s made sure that tenants are aware of the fee.

Many landlords make an effort not to be too difficult about key policies. They don’t want to put harsh policies in place because that might lead to tenants making lots of copies of their keys, ‘just in case.’ Lots of spare keys up the odds that someone will break in. Within limits, though, many landlords feel that copying keys are okay. A tenant with a hide-a-key, like those fake rocks you can put outside your door, can save a landlord from having to get out of bed at unusual hours.

Check with your landlord before copying your key, however. Some landlords prefer that you don’t copy your key, or already have copies made for you and your roommates. Other landlords would rather that you not use a hide-a-key and might make other suggestions for making sure you can get into your apartment.

Have you had a situation where you’ve been locked out? Share your story below!

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5 Responses to “What to Do if You Lose Your Apartment Key”

  1. August 17, 2008 at 10:06 pm, Guest said:

    I have not been locked out but I did have a friend who was always in this situation. She gave me a copy of her key and would just call me on my cellphone and come over to get the key when she needed it: http://www.howisavemoney.net


  2. August 24, 2008 at 9:03 am, Guest said:

    Is there a lockout policy where you can call the emergency number who contacts maintenance staff to come unlock your door. Chgs that need to be made can be discussed then. Lost keys, new locks. etc.


  3. March 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm, andre said:

    If you have a key you dont need you can “switch out” the key they should give you another key without looking at the key it worked for me


  4. January 03, 2020 at 6:18 am, Angela Waterford said:

    I think I'll hire someone to replace my keys for me by having them cut me new ones. I've accidentally locked myself out of my apartment earlier this morning as I was about to go to the grocery to shop for some food, and I lost my key for some reason. Thanks for reminding me that I need to call my landlord to let me inside the apartment so I can also ask them for a copy of the key so I can create a new copy for myself.


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