It’s a terrible feeling when you pat your pockets or dig through your purse in search of your keys and come up empty-handed.
Then, the realization hits: you’re locked out of your apartment.
While it may be tempting, try not to panic. Although getting locked out can be stressful, staying calm will help you reason your way out of this situation much quicker.
These tips can help you know what to do when you’re locked out of the apartment.
First Rule – Don’t Damage anything
The most important thing to remember is to use logic in your approach.
Don’t forget that you’re living on someone else’s property, so you’ll want to avoid doing anything that may cause damage.
If getting inside is a matter of urgency, you might be comfortable taking a risk like that, but take a breath before making that choice.
Unless you’re willing to pay for damages, it may not be worth it.
Retrace your Steps + Think Hard
Before you start making phone calls or jimmying locks, ask yourself a few questions, first.
Could you have dropped your keys somewhere? If you just came home from a walk, retrace your steps and make sure you didn’t drop them on the sidewalk.
Did you give a spare key to someone? Maybe you went on vacation a few years ago and gave a spare to a friend that you forgot to get back.
If you have a roommate, can you reach out to them for help? If you can reach them but they can’t come to you, ask if they ever lent a spare to someone who can help.
Did you (or your roommate) hide a spare anywhere on the property, maybe under a doormat or rock? Check any potential hiding places just in case.
Your instinct might be to say “No” to all of these questions, but panic and frustration can make it hard to focus. It’s worth giving each question consideration before answering.
If your answer is “No” to all of the above, don’t worry. That just means it’s time to take things to the next step.
Check if there are Other Means of Entry
If you live on the ground floor or have a fire escape, it can’t hurt to double-check that you didn’t leave a window unlocked at some point.
Did you install a pet door on one of your exterior doors? It might be a tight squeeze, but you can attempt to reach the lock that way.
Don’t do anything risky just to enter the apartment. If you can’t find any safe way to enter, drop the idea and move to the next one.
Call Your Apartment Mates (if any)
If you have been living with roommates, calling them before reaching out to your landlord is a good idea.
In most cases, every person sharing an apartment has a key of their own. So if your roommate is close by and can come to your rescue, that’s the best option.
Even if the roommate can’t come, there is a possibility that they have planned for such a situation and have placed a spare key in a hidden location or given it as a backup to a friend or neighbor.
If nothing else, just having a conversation with someone about your situation will give you more ideas and also help calm your nerves a bit.
Call Your Landlord
If you don’t have a roommate, your landlord is your best lifeline if you’re locked out of your apartment.
Their job is to make sure you have access to your home, so they’ll most likely be prepared for this.
Large complexes typically have a management office, but if no one is there, take a quick walk around the grounds.
You might come across a worker who’s already out and about.
If you rent from a single landlord and are unable to reach them by phone, you might be able to send a message through social media or call their workplace.
Do they work within walking distance? If it’s appropriate to do so, you can always pop in and ask if they have a key you can borrow.
Only do this if you’re sure their supervisor won’t mind, though.
A Quick Web Search Might Help
You may be able to get the door open on your own using a credit card, but make sure you know the proper steps to avoid ending up with a damaged credit card.
Another option is to grab a toolbox and try your hand at removing the doorknob.
This should be a last resort, though, because the property belongs to your landlord.
If your windows are screened, you can pop the screens out to check the locks. Try not to tear the screen, but if you do, a screen repair is a quick and easy job you can do yourself.
There’s nothing worse than getting locked out in the rain. If the weather isn’t cooperating, try to find a comfortable place to spend time as you figure out your next steps or wait for rescue.
If you’re at risk of being stuck in a downpour or snowstorm, see if a neighbor is willing to take you in while you wait for help to come.
If a neighbor isn’t an option, try waiting out your time at a local coffee shop or restaurant and grab a snack while you wait for help to arrive.
If None of the Above Work
If your landlord is unreachable and you’ve tried the other methods to no avail, it might be time to call a locksmith.
A locksmith will be able to do the job correctly without damaging your door. Many are available 24 hours a day, although after-hours rates may apply.
Calling a professional is your best bet if you want to get into your apartment as quickly as possible.
If you left the oven on or your pet is stuck inside, this is the way to go.
How to Avoid Getting Locked out in the Future
The best way to avoid landing in this predicament again is to plan ahead!
Here are a few tips to prevent locking yourself out in the future.
Talk to Your Landlord
Find out if they have a locksmith they prefer and save their number in your phone, along with a few others.
While your landlord might not have a specific locksmith on call, there may be one they’ve worked with before who they find reliable and trust to do good work.
Hide a Key (or Two)
You can buy magnetic boxes that attach firmly to anything metal to conceal keys.
The wheel well of your car, your mailbox, or the back of a gas meter make great hiding places.
There are decorative options that let you hide your key in plain sight, such as small statues or birdhouses that cleverly disguise hiding places for keys. Under a rock or doormat works, too.
Leave a Key in the Car
Many newer cars have keypads you can use for entry if you don’t have a car key handy, so leaving a spare house key in your glove box could be a viable option.
Before hiding keys on your property or car, though, make sure your area is safe.
The last thing you want to do is to leave your home or vehicle vulnerable to break-ins or theft.
Give Out Spares
It’s never a bad idea to give copies of your key to a few trusted friends or relatives in the area.
If there are two or three people you trust, give them each a key so you won’t have to rely on only one.
Leave a Key at Work
Do you have a locker or desk at work? Is your workplace easily accessible from your apartment?
If so, consider storing a spare key there for emergencies.
Invest in a New Lock for Your Front Door
If your landlord is open to it, consider investing in a keyless entry system.
These are controlled with a keypad or your smartphone, so you can open your front door without the hassle of a key.
Not only will keyless lock ease, or even eliminate, the stress of losing or remembering keys, it will make it easy to send someone to your apartment if an emergency arises.
Getting locked out can be nerve-wracking, but there’s no need to panic.
It’s perfectly normal to feel that way, but take a few deep breaths to help calm down.
Being calm is of utmost importance, so remind yourself there are plenty of options for getting out of this kind of predicament.
And don’t forget! If you take a key from a hiding spot, remember to put it back!
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