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A few months ago I moved into a shared house. Things are great. The area is good, rent is moderate, house itself is good, and I do like the people I live with. However, someone is making a request/demand I am uncomfortable with.

There are 6 people who live in the house and share all the areas with the exception that the bedrooms are private. One of these people is the one who signed the lease with the owner and we pay our portions of rent to him. Let’s call him Bob. A couple months ago I had put a lock on my bedroom door. Just as I was moving in one of the other tenants got kicked out. I stayed out of the situation as much as possible, but apparently he was often late paying rent. However, Bob and another roommate (call him Dylan) had entered his room (presumably to find where he was and ask for rent) and told me they found weapons like guns. I don’t feel like I’m getting the full story as I find it hard to believe someone opens the door and sees a gun right there. So I put a lock on my door because 1) someone got kicked out so there’s a chance he might be spiteful (we replaced the lock on the main door so this is less of an issue 2) according to Bob’s story, he and Dylan entered and possibly searched his room without permission (admittedly they thought they had a good reason) 3) I always prefer having a lock on my door, just as an added level of security.

So now Bob wants a copy of the key to my room. Dylan, who was also present during the conversation, seemed to really want me to give Bob a copy. I asked Bob why and he said encase there’s an emergency and that technically he’s allowed into any room (since he’s the lease holder presumably) but he wouldn’t just let himself in because he’s respectful. When I pointed out I got the lock when someone out was kicked out under questionable conditions, he said part of the reason he needs access to everyone’s room is so he can make sure they don’t have guns lying around or haven’t hurt them self. So to me this is saying he will be searching rooms.

On the other hand, landlord’s usually do have a key to every room. Also my lease is month to month so I want to stay on good terms.

I would like to not give anyone a copy of my key. I may consider compromising, if it’s clear when and who will be entering the room and for specific circumstances.

How can I best approach this without making him feel like I don’t trust him or have something to hide? After typing this, it seems clear to me Dylan is butting into business that isn’t his. He does this on other occasions too. How should I deal with his pressure to give Bob a copy of my key?

Dylan is the only other person in the house who has a lock on his door, and Bob has a copy of the key to it. I checked my contract and it says I have exclusive access to a private bedroom, and says nothing about emergencies or keys. Bob and Dylan had also entered another room when the person had gone on vacation and they thought he left the heat on high.

  • Did you tell Bob that your contract says nothing about key copies etc? How did he react? – Arsak Dec 29 '18 at 8:49
  • Have you spoken to the landlord about this? It sounds like you have a reasonable case not to allow others to have your key. – Underverse Dec 30 '18 at 13:12
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    What happens if you just ignore the person and never given the a copy of the key? – Underverse Dec 30 '18 at 13:28
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    Is the landlord aware that rooms are being sublet? Does the primary rental agreement address this issue? – Johns-305 Dec 31 '18 at 18:37
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    Where are you? The answer may depend partly on the local culture and even law. – David Thornley Jan 2 at 19:11
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I think the core of the issue is that you don't trust Bob enough to be sure he won't search your room. I don't know Bob personally, so I'll trust your judgement.

Bob says he wants the key "in case of emergency", but this may be a lie. Also he says "technically he’s allowed into any room" but your lease says you have exclusive access, which is the opposite. You should also check what the law says, then ask Bob what he thinks the law says, and compare the two.

Since Bob is in the subletting business, he should know about these things. If he is wrong both about the law and about the lease, either he's being rather sloppy in his business practices, or he's just taking you for a ride.

I may consider compromising, if it’s clear when and who will be entering the room and for specific circumstances.

Since the core issue is that you don't trust Bob, you can't make this kind of arrangements with him and trust him to respect them...

After typing this, it seems clear to me Dylan is butting into business that isn’t his.

The way you describe him, Dylan kinda seems to be Bob's Yes-Man or henchman. If I was making character sheets I'd write "controlling" somewhere...

Solution: install a code lock or code padlock instead.

You could use any other high-tech lock that lets you know it's been open, or put the key to a normal lock in an envelope as Pam suggested, but I like the code lock better, because Bob has to call you to get the code... which means you will know, and you will have an opportunity to ask him why he wants to enter your room.

Also it will be very difficult for Bob to argue against this, because it's a very reasonable proposal. I'll try to come up with counter-arguments that Bob could use.

  • What if you don't pick up the phone?

Make sure to give a copy of the code to someone you trust in case you can't be reached on the phone.

  • What if your mom doesn't pick up the phone either?

If there is smoke coming out from below the door, he should be kicking it open while calling the firemen instead. About that, make sure to use flimsy screws so the door can actually be kicked open quickly and with visible yet minimal damage like a few bits of wood splintering out. You will offer to fix the damage it in case it happens of course, so Bob can't use that argument against you. This results in much less damage than a fireman with an axe... as happened to one of my tenants last month. Besides, if the bedroom is on fire, who cares about the door.

Since fire is pretty much the only emergency that can't wait until you answer your phone, Bob should be out of reasonable arguments by now. Plus you're being super helpful and willing to do everything he asks... except giving him the key of course.

Thus you'll be able to judge if you can trust him from what he does after this point. If he accepts your reasonable proposal (maybe with some token whining if he dislikes other people "winning" an argument)... then he's OK, and just worried about emergencies and he wants to solve a problem, you gave him another solution than his favorite but he can accept your solution will work.

However if he switches to more controlling tactics and seems to really NOT want to let go of the issues, then you have your answer and you'll know you were right not to trust him, he's not trying to solve a problem, rather he's bothered by not having power over you.

In the latter case, it's time to switch to rhetorics and unfalsifiable fake arguments. You can go confident "It's my room, period." or "I like privacy." or wimpy "Knowing people can go through my stuff triggers my anxiety..." the idea being that there's no way to counter that without sounding like a jerk.

he needs access to everyone’s room is so he can make sure they don’t have guns lying around

How do you know Bob doesn't have guns? Maybe you should visit his room. I wonder what kind of face he'll make when you innocently and helpfully suggest this, for everyone's safety, you know, right?

Also be offended that he thinks you're a terrorist or something. And what is he going to do about all the knives in the kitchen?

or haven’t hurt them self.

Again rather absurd argument, if you were in the room then I presume you'd leave it unlocked, and implying you look suicidal is kinda rude.

Dylan is butting into business that isn’t his. He does this on other occasions too. How should I deal with his pressure to give Bob a copy of my key?

If the conversation is between Bob and you, then fine. If he brings his yes-man you know it's gonna go south.

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    The police doesn't have the right to go into your room and look for guns. They only have the right to enter your room if they have a search warrant. If Bob thinks there is a situation where the police could get a search warrant, then he needs to call the police, not enter your room. – gnasher729 Jan 12 at 13:51
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In short, you should in effect say to Bob: 'It's my room. I hold the key. Nobody else enters without my permission. End of.'

The reasons why I suggest that the OP take such a strong line is that Bob is asserting rights over the OP's room that he really ought not to be allowed to assert. The reasons he gives for wanting access do not take into account the OP's right to privacy.

Now, should the OP adopt a sweet tone of voice, or should he use the very words I have suggested? Without knowing the individuals we cannot advise, but my advice is that whatever actual words are used the OP should leave Bob in absolutely no doubt that the OP will not tolerate breaches of his privacy.

The law on landlord and tenant relations, including relations between tenants and sub-tenants, will vary enormously from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We cannot advise on that here.

But you might benefit from searching the phrase 'quiet enjoyment' to give you some idea of what might be a reasonable expectation. In English law that principle drastically curtails any assumed right of the landlord to enter the tenant's space. The basic idea is that a tenant's space may not be entered by the landlord except under very specific circumstances. In particular, the tenant controls the key to the door: the landlord, in general, has no right to a key.

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    Can you explain why telling Bob that 'It's my room. I hold the key. Nobody else enters without my permission. End of.' is a good idea? Can you explain what may happen after, and what possible actions to take after saying that? Is there a risk that Bob's reaction might be negative? – ElizB Jan 12 at 0:59
  • @ElizB Bob is exceeding the bounds of reasonable behaviour. The OP needs to tell him so. If Bob doesn't like it, he must lump it. – JeremyC Jan 12 at 12:51
  • Welcome to IPS! Please take the time to read "How do I write a good answer?". After that, could you follow ElizB advice and edit your post to tell us why it would be a good idea to follow your advice? – Ælis Jan 12 at 16:51
  • @Noon I should appreciate feedback as to whether my edits satisfy the requirements you have stipulated. – JeremyC Jan 13 at 22:56
  • In your answer, you are mostly giving your opinion. But (and I'm sorry to say this), we don't care about opinion on IPS. What we care about are backed-up answers. Answers that basically say: "I was in this similar situation. I use this and that and it worked". If you can't provide something like that, then your answer isn't a good fit for here, I'm sorry :/ – Ælis Jan 14 at 9:52

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