I am someone who gets locked out of their rental apartment a lot. I’ve left my keys inside my apartment more times than I can count. I’ve lost them a few times while I was out. Once, I accidentally spilled super glue on my keys, disfiguring them and making it so they didn’t fit in my locks anymore. As a result, I have a multi-tiered system in place to make sure I never again spend hundreds of dollars to have a locksmith break me into my own goddamn home. Here’s how it works.
Keep keys everywhere
The key—pun intended—to never being locked out is having spare keys stashed in a variety of places. Most people are familiar with the old key-under-the-mat setup, but that can be dangerous, as potential breakers and enterers can, and will, easily check there. Plus, in urban settings, not everyone has a mat under which to stick a key. Lockboxes, too, can be dicey, since you have to attach them to property outside that doesn’t belong to you; sticking one on city property or private property can result in the owner simply getting rid of it.
Here are some places you can stash keys:
- Place a spare key with a trusted local business. This one is only good if you really, truly trust the proprietors and employees of the business, but if there’s a deli or laundromat on your block where you feel at home, consider asking the owner if they’d keep a copy of your key behind the counter. Bonus points if you find a 24-hour business.
- Place a spare key at your job. This option is great for anyone who works in a building staffed 24 hours or with a doorman, but it can be helpful at any time, as long as you can gain entry to the space in some way that doesn’t also require your keys.
- Give trusted friends a spare key. Your friends might not love having to travel to meet you at your apartment at 1 a.m., but they will probably love that more than the idea of you sleeping in the street. This is also helpful for instances when you’re out of town and need someone to go check on something at your place.
- Keep a spare key in every wallet and bag you own. This is self-explanatory, but when you’re switching between bags, you always forget something. Don’t let it be your keys.
- Find a spot in your building’s hallway to hide a key. Is there a picture frame or a mirror in your hallway? Could you stick a key back there without anyone realizing it? This only works if you have a plan for getting past the first door to your building, but I highly recommend just laying on the buzzer until a neighbor lets you in. Desperate times call for desperate behavior.
Finally, it’s worth keeping your keys on a hook by the door of your apartment and committing to the habit of putting them there every time you get home and remembering to grab them every time you leave.
Plan for when you’re going somewhere you might lose a key
If you’re going out to a club, your bag could get lost or stolen. Keep a spare key on a simple keychain, and attach that keychain to your body somewhere, like the underside of your skirt. It’s better to have two keys than no keys when you’re getting home after a long night out.
When I go jogging (which is rare, but does happen) I attach a key to my hair tie. A big set of keys can easily bounce right out of a pocket or a fanny pack, and getting home sweaty and tired only to find you can’t get inside to a shower is a special kind of hell.
If you’re going on vacation, put a copy of your keys in every bag you pack. You can lose a piece of luggage or two, but you must not lose your keys.
Safety concerns related to key-stashing
There are some clear drawbacks to hiding keys all around the places you frequent in your city. Namely, other people know about this. It can’t be overstated that you have to trust your friends and anyone else who knows where your keys are at. But your safety precautions can go further than that.
Get a little camera and set it up in your apartment. You can get one that is pretty affordable and set it to alert you any time there’s movement in your place, so at least you know if—god forbid—anyone ever goes in there while you’re out. When you are home, deadbolt your door from the inside.
Never have any identifiable information on your keychain. If you lose your keys or your spares, you don’t want any stranger who picks them up to be able to figure out who you are or where you live, then use the keys to break in.
These tips come from ADP, which also recommends getting electronic locks that would eliminate the need for keys altogether, but if you’re renting your place, you have to get that approved by your landlord. Memorize your landlord’s phone number in case of emergency anyway. They, too, have a copy of your key and if all else fails, can come to your rescue, at least during business hours.