I was sitting with my coffee this past week while reading the New York Times, and I happened upon a most bizarre story as I was browsing the New York section.
A group of tenants living in a converted warehouse building had filed a lawsuit against their landlord, demanding that the landlord provide access to all public entrances of their building by metal key.
Now I am sure many of you are asking yourselves, “Metal key? What other kind of key is there?” That’s the same question I asked myself initially when I saw the headlines of this article.
The landlord really did not do anything terrible; he only sought to create a method for his tenants to be able to buzz in guests or deliverymen or even the electric-meter reader without having to run up and down to the various entry points of the building to unlock any security mechanisms in place.
Trying to utilize the latest available options, the landlord hired a company called Latch, which offered a high-tech app to open all entry points. They installed locks throughout the entire building in a variety of patterns, allowing entry and exit that all the tenants could access simply by downloading the app from the internet and then setting it up for their individual use.
Unfortunately, the landlord did not take into account that some of his tenants would not be able to utilize such an app because they did not have a smartphone or they were not proficient in the use of apps.
Those tenants having difficulties with the system that the landlord set up requested an old-fashioned key that would allow them to access the doors manually without the app. The landlord, who had never thought it would be necessary to take this approach into consideration when he had the high-tech system installed, now had a problem. He had not installed regular keyholes with manual locks for alternate access of the doors by metal key, and when he approached the company Latch with this dilemma, they did not have an answer for him since their high-tech app was not adaptable to the metal-key option.
The tenants did not want to hear about their landlord’s dilemma of how to handle the situation he had created by installing app-only access to the entrances and exits of the building. Also, some of the tenants who were able to access the high-tech app had the complaint that the app would take away their privacy since it records when the tenants access the doors, giving the landlord a 24/7 log of their use of the entries and exit, infringing on their right of privacy.
At this time, it seems like they have come to a stalemate that needs to be decided in court. First, what are the tenants’ rights concerning manual entry? Do they have the right to demand a metal key for manual entry and exit into the building as opposed to using only the hi-tech app system provided? And if the landlord has already arranged a high-level security and access system — even though the only way to utilize it is through its app — has the landlord provided sufficient ability for his tenants to come and go through the various entries and exits?
Last but not least, given that an app of this kind keeps a log of each and every entry and exit and the names and possibly photos of each person utilizing it individually, does this impinge upon the privacy rights of the tenants? We stay tuned to see!
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa@AVCrealty.com.