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article imageResidents of NY city apartment win right to have a physical key

By Ken Hanly     May 12, 2019 in Technology
New York City - Tenants in a New York City apartment block have been successful in forcing their landlord to provide them a physical key after the landlord had installed a smart lock on the lobby door.
A physical key said to be a "required service"
CNET reported the settlement: "In a settlement released Tuesday, a judge ordered landlords of an apartment building in New York to provide physical keys to any tenants who don't want to use the Latch smart locks installed on the building last September."
As a result of the settlement, the landlord is obligated to provide each tenant who wishes one with a physical key rather than being forced to use the smart lock.
Smart lock installed last September
After the Latch-brand smart lock was installed last September, five tenants sued their landlord claiming that the use of the smart lock and the accompanying app raised serious privacy concerns. Their lawyer argued that the lock could be used to "surveil, track, and intimidate residents". Latch company denies those claims.
The tenants also argued that 93-year-old Tony Mysak was unable to use the smart lock. The lock controlled access to the building's elevator and Mysak had to struggle to use the stairs. The lawyer argued he was a virtual shut-in since the new system began.
Response of the landlord's lawyer
The attorney for the landlord noted that the lock could be operated using a numeric code so one did not need the app. The Latch company said the residents were given key cards. The company denied that the smart lock captured, stored, or used the GPS location of users of the lock. It also noted that it had updated its privacy policy to make this clear.
In a statement to Verge Latch commented about the settlement: “Latch was not a party to this litigation. We are pleased the parties — a group of five tenants and the building owner — have reportedly reached a private settlement to resolve their disagreement about entry methods to their building’s common spaces. At Latch, we know people have personal preferences about how they access their homes.” The company also pointed out that all its devices are compatible with physical keys.
Problems with smart home devices
While this case resulted in an amicable settlement between the parties, it will not set a legal precedent and it illustrates problems that can arise due to the lack of clear laws as to how the new technology is to be used. Last June the New York Times reported that smart home devices were being used increasingly by domestic abusers who were able to remotely control devices to harass and control others in a home.
There are now Latch smart locks installed in about 1,000 residential buildings just in New York. There are likely to be more cases in which tenants object to their use and end up taking the issue to court.
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