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Crazy House Rules Sometimes Make a Lot of Sense

Woodside, Queens

Door Lock Rules
Sept. 6, 2017

At a co-op in Woodside, Queens, the house rules include a prohibition against locks with keys on bedroom doors. “Why would such a rule exist?” a mystified shareholder writes to the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times. “And can we really expect the Co-op Bedroom Police to invade our bedrooms to check if we are locking our doors with the illicit locks? Why would they care?”

Co-op boards certainly have reputations for micromanaging the lives of shareholders, the Times responds. Some ban baby strollers in the lobby. Others dictate how residents should interact with their doormen. While some rules may seem overbearing or even be legally questionable, others are rooted in logic and the law.

The rule banning locks with keys on bedroom doors actually complies with city and state fire safety and occupancy laws. Fire safety rules require you to be able to open doors that are a means of egress without the use of a key. There are some exceptions. For example, you can have a deadbolt on the entrance door to your apartment, but you must be able to open it from the inside without a key. As for interior doors, those should be readily accessible in the event that you need to get out of a room quickly or get into it to access a fire escape. It is also illegal to lock window gates and fire escapes with locks that require keys. Remove any locks from doors, windows or fire escapes that would impede an escape route in an emergency.

Will the Co-op Bedroom Police come to check what kinds of locks are on doors? Probably not. But if someone called 311 and filed a complaint about fire safety violations, an inspector would come out. If illegal locks or other hazardous conditions were found, the co-op board could be issued a violation and ordered to fix the problems.

The Woodside co-op’s house rule does not prevent shareholders from installing ordinary push-button locks on bedroom doors. City rules allow these, too. Such locks, a common bedroom feature, would provide you with privacy, without risking anyone’s safety. Presumably, in the case of a fire escape within a bedroom, the room’s occupant could unlock the door from inside and allow others safe exit.

Sometimes, crazy rules make perfect sense.

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