Locked Out? What to Do Before and After Losing Your Key
It’s no fun being locked out of your apartment, but it’s bound to happen sooner or later. You walk up to your front door and the key is nowhere to be found. And where exactly is the spare? A few feet away. In the hallway junk drawer. Inside your apartment.
There’s no need to panic. Everything is under control. Breathe. Chances are that Fido isn’t actually tucked away in the closet quietly feasting away on your new blue suede shoes. But then again, anything’s possible.
Okay, enough with the wisecracks. We’re going to tell you how to prevent this inconvenient dilemma from ever happening, so take notes.
- Know your building’s lockout and key policy: A lot can depend on your building. If there’s a leasing office, they might be able to let you in during business hours without hassle, while during off-hours you might be on your own to handle things. When you lose your key, there may also be a policy for changing locks or getting new keys made, which should all be in your lease.
- Give someone you trust a copy of your key: If there’s someone you really trust, they can help you in a real pinch. They can be a neighbor, a relative, or friend who lives close, but they can save you when you get locked out. Just make sure this is someone you can trust with access to your place when you’re not there.
- Keep a spare on you: If you have a large purse or wallet with a pocket you never use, you can keep a spare key in there. If your phone is in a large case with some room, that’s also a great place to hide a key. Ideally, you’ll forget it’s even there until you need to use it. So long as it’s not your regular key, that backup can be helpful.
- Keep a spare somewhere nearby: This is risky and not entirely recommended, as having a spare key somewhere nearby is just inviting thieves to take a shot. If you think you can come up with somewhere good enough to hide a spare, though, it might save you from being locked out in the future.
So, even the best plans fail sometimes, and you’re locked out of your apartment. What do you do at that point?
- Trace your steps: See if you can find the key, going back over where you’ve been. Did you drop it, or leave it wherever you were coming home from? If you can find it, you’ll be out of this mess with nothing more than just feeling foolish.
- Check for your spare key: If you have a spare kept on you, left with a friend or neighbor, or hidden somewhere, go there. It’s no help if you don’t have one, but a situation like this is exactly why you have a spare key.
- Contact whoever you live with: If you have a roommate or partner, contact them. You might just end up having to wait somewhere until they get back, but they’re your best way out if you can’t find your key and don’t have a spare.
- Contact your landlord/management: If you can make it to the leasing office, a quick trip over there should be able to resolve things. If it’s during business hours and they’re off-site, try calling them. Follow whatever process is spelled out in your lease – these are only general guidelines.
- Try to break in: Are your security practices a little lax? Is there an unlocked window or anything you can get through? Can you slide the lock open with a credit card if you had to? Thinking like a thief can get you back in your apartment when other things have failed.
- Call a locksmith: This should only be your last resort. It’ll take a while for them to arrive and it’s going to cost a lot once they get there. If there’s any damage done to the door, frame, or lock, you’re going to have to pay for it, and if you’re locked out of the building entirely, they might not even be willing or able to let you in at all. You’re likely better off waiting for the morning and dealing with the leasing office, but this is a last resort in case you absolutely can’t wait.
Sure, you just got through a big ordeal and want to just relax, right? It’s tempting, but now is the time to do something about it.
See all the advice above, under the “Before” header? Do that now. If you forget or lose your key in the future, those precautions may help you from having to do this again. So, go and follow that advice, then take a well-deserved break.