Hell's Kitchen Tenants File Harassment Suit Over New Door System

LandlordsNY Member

LandlordsNY Member

Making upgrades to your buildings is typically a good thing. Even minor upgrades can increase the value of your building, allow you to ask more in rent, and improve the overall appearance and quality of life for tenants. One of the more popular upgrades, especially among younger residents who tend to do a lot of online shopping, is to install a smart door system. One of the most popular, Latch, is currently installed in one out of ten new apartments.

Latch, and other systems like it, can be activated remotely to allow deliveries. For tenants to gain access to the building and their individual apartments, they need to use either a smart phone, a key card, or a door code. In some cases, they do not use actual keys.

While younger tenants may find this convenient, Latch's system does have the potential to alienate some residents. This is because seniors are unlikely to have smart phones, thereby making the app essentially useless. For stabilized tenants who have been in the building for decades, they may also be weary of any request to give up their physical keys. This system can also create complications with certain religious practices. For example, using the Latch system can get complicated for Jewish tenants who keep Shabbos (day of rest Friday night to Saturday night where electronics would be prohibited from use).

These kinds of issues are at the center of a dispute currently taking place between the tenants of a Hell's Kitchen building and their owner that has now spilled into Housing Court. The older residents contend that the installation of a Latch system was a means of harassment of the building's stabilized tenants. One tenant even said that her husband can't leave the building because he needs an app to use the front door (which isn't true; he can use either a key card or a code to gain access), and that his lack of a cell phone has effectively made him a shut-in.

The tenants' attorney, meanwhile, called it “an attempt to surveil the tenants by forcing them to use an electronic key system that includes GPS function that tracks their whereabouts and requires them to provide sensitive conditional personal information to use the system.”

The case in court is ongoing, but a quick visit of the Latch site shows that they do offer a multitude of options to gain access to either the building or an individual apartment that include, among other things, a metal key.

If you're going to install a Latch system in your building, make sure to get a model that allows the use of a physical, metal key to avoid the above issues.

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