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Tenants win rights to physical keys over smart locks from landlords – CNET

The Latch R Series smart lock is designed for apartment building access. 

Latch

The physical key has prevailed over the smart lock. 

In a settlement released Tuesday, a judge ordered landlords of an apartment building in New York to provide physical keys to any tenants who didn't want to use the Latch smart locks installed on the building last September. 

The decision is a first, as there's no legal precedent or legislation deciding how landlords can use smart home technology. Since the technology is relatively new, lawmakers haven't had time to catch up with smart home devices, and this case in New York is one of the few legal challenges to appear in court. 

"This is a huge victory for these tenants and tenants throughout New York City. These types of systems, which landlords have used to surveil, track and intimidate tenants, have been used frequently in New York City," Michael Kozek, the attorney representing the tenants in Manhattan, said in a statement. "These tenants refused to accept the system, and the negative impact it had on their lives. Hopefully they will be an inspiration for other tenants to fight back."

Mary Beth McKenzie, her husband Tony Mysak and a group of tenants sued their landlords after the landlords installed the smart locks last year, arguing that there were several privacy concerns with the Latch smart lock and the app required to get into their own building. 

Mysak, who's 93, wasn't capable of using a phone and found himself trapped in his home because of the smart locks, McKenzie said. The plaintiffs also had issues with Latch's privacy policy, which said that the app could collect people's location data and use it for marketing purposes. Latch said it didn't do that and was revising its privacy policy. 

Latch's smart locks are installed in more than 1,000 buildings in New York, and this case's settlement could mean changes for tenants who also have privacy and security concerns in regard to these connected devices. Latch didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the settlement, the judge also ruled that physical keys were a "required service" for the landlords, and that any smart entry system in the future wasn't considered a required service. If the landlords don't provide physical keys, the tenants can bring the issue to court again, documents showed.

Lisa Gallaudet, the landlords' attorney, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

"This agreement takes back for the tenants some control over the technology used to control entry into buildings," said Seth Miller, an attorney who represented another client in the case. "The building code requires that the entrance door be controlled by the tenant's key, not by an internet app."

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