I just recently purchased a 20 unit apartment building and am having
some issues. Non of the issues are with the building itself, only its
visitors. I keep getting property damage on the inside of the building
by having people walk right through the front door. I am there most of
the time, but I am in school and work at the same time. The only thing
I can gather that would correct this problem would be to lock the door
and have an intercom system installed to buzz each separate apartment
from outside. If the tenant so chooses, I want him/her to be able to
buzz the person into the building without walking down 3 flights of
stairs to the main entrance. The building has no such system currently
installed. I want to know how much a system like this could cost and
what kind of systems there are. If I could, I'd like to get a wireless
system (if they exist) but am unsure if the system would get confused
and buzz the wrong apartment. Any help or thoughts are greatly
I've never seen a wireless, but they may exist. I had a couple of doors
change to a system like that with intercoms in three offices. All the
wiring is low voltage. Impossible to give a price unless someone sees the
job. Construction, apartment layout, and locations affect all of this. It
can be done but I'd guess it could be from $2500 to $25,000.
Our system was installed by the same outfit that does our security alarms.
They have the experience and expertise.
Cheap solution would be put a lock on front door, and either key it so
the apartment keys can open it, or give each tenant a key and just plan
on changing the keying yearly. Since about 3/4 of people have cell
phones now, just put a sign up to tell people to call the person they
are visiting to get let in. Tenant would still have to walk down, but so
what? Buy a cheap security camera, and mount it in an armored bubble
pointed at front door, with the recorder in the furnace room or some
other secure space. Nothing like being on camera to make punks mind
They added a system like that to some cheap apartments I used to live
in, after enclosing the formerly open entryways. It was a pain in the
ass, and seldom worked correctly. And drunks and ex-boyfriends would
just press all the buttons until somebody buzzed them in just to shut
them up, so you still had all the night-time door pounders anyway.
Of 20 apartments, how many are lived in by older, sick, or disabled people?
Rather than walk down they are going to leave the door unlocked. Ever been
on crutches? If so, how would you let people in, especially if they are
coming to assist you? No, not a good idea at all.
On Sun, 28 Feb 2010 00:43:55 -0500, "Ed Pawlowski"
Both are good ideas.
We had lots of old people in our building. This was 1976 and many of
them had lived there since the building was built in 1930. Most were
women in the 80's. Mrs. Rutlidge, Miss Hussy and Mrs. VanDyne, Mrs.
Tieke, and others. They were particularly vulnerable to strangers
wandering around the building.
In several years, no one ever left the door unlocked. I never found it
unlocked or ever found anything that could be used to do so. The
door was on a closer and the bolt was a slam lock.
Make arrangements with a neighbor, who can go downstairs or might even
live downstairs, to let the person in**. If no one will be home
during the day, the helper will have to come the previous evening when
someone is home, to be given a key. **The neighbor doesn't even have
to live in the same building. He could live down the block, or on the
He could also allow specific people to have buzz-in power, if they are
on crutches, for example, on their firm promise not to buzz strangers
It depends on the details of the op's situation. He wants the door
locked for security. So the insecurity of letting 20 different people
buzz people in has to be evaluated.
I should have given you credit, Ed, for calling attention to people
who have a hard time with stairs. For one thing, he can be sure to
install the return buzzer wire, just in case, even if he never or
rarely connects it.
Maybe he could run some 20-conductor wire for that, to slow people
down who would connect the return-buzzer themselves if there is only
one wire left in the box, and that's it.
Probably best to include the tenants in the planning.
I think I remember that one. You're right. But most of the NYC
elements of the story were very realistic. The buzzer system in
general, the intercom, the alternate side of the street parking rules.
Even the doors and the peepholes. There are a lot of dramas and
comedies supposedly set in NYC where the doors are wrong, and the
peepholes are very wrong.
Kojak was wrong, in that during chase scenes in Manhattan, they would
turn the corner and suddenly be in the Bronx. OTOH, although Cagney
and Lacey was unrealistic, at least for the period, in having two
women in the same car, when they had a chase scene, when they turned
the corner they were still in the same part of town. (There was rarely
enough detail to know what block they were on either before or after
turning, but they were in generally the same area.)
A lot of other shows have scenes with alleys. I don't think there
are any alleys south of 200th St. in NYC and only maybe a tiny number
in Brooklyn, but still they show scenes in alleys. Deliveries and
garbage collection are made straight from the street, which is one of
the reason for traffic problems (although they may have forced most of
that to be done after 6PM. That was the plan, but I don't know what
happened). Not counting Elphreth's Alley, which is actually a street
a block long just north of Wasington Square Park.
Going to NJ to get a better price on an air conditioner might have
been accurate. Prices are probably lower, even counting the tunnel
toll, but I don't know how many would go to the trouble.
Key money and competition for newly vacant apartments is very NYC.
(Attending a wake to get first crack is not.) (I myself just lucked
out when all 4 girls renting a 3 BR 3Bath living room/dining room/eat-
in kitchen apartment for $275 in Brooklyn decided to move out only a
year after they moved in, and they "gave it" to me because I had dated
one of them a year earlier.)
Dealings with supers and doormen and Greek coffee shops were pretty
accurately done, although the comic side was emphasized.
As to parking, I have bad news and good news.
The bad news is that the world will end tomorrow.
The good news is that alternate side of the street parking rules have
Ya have a point there, I guess. Even with a self-closing door with the
unlock button disabled, people just prop the door open. So I guess the
cheap first solution would to be to just go with the camera and
recorder. If building has a common cable TV feed or roof antenna, you
can even add a 'front door channel' to the building feed, pretty cheaply.
It would be useful if OP would tell us the age of the building, the
city, and the style of construction. 20 units 3 stories sounds like an
old urban building, which likely means masonry construction. It would be
pretty annoying and labor-intensive to add a traditional wired door
intercom to that, with most of the money being labor. If the phone
wiring has been updated, perhaps the alarm company could borrow a spare
pair from them to get to each unit. I have seen systems that actually
dial the tenant's programmed number, and use it as the apartment end of
the hookup- tenant punches a code on phone TT pad to unlock door. Or if
there is central TV wiring, I have seen stuff that can ride that, too.
At this point, I'd say OP needs to have both local alarm system vendors
come by for a visit, and listen to their pitches and ballpark estimates.
A 90 year old 20-unit wood frame building? Okay, now I understand why
the building was affordable for somebody still in school. Does the place
come anywhere near current code for sprinklers, fire walls, alarm
systems, egress paths, and such? Or do they consider it grandfathered?
You are a braver man than I am, buying a structure like that. My office
is of similar vintage, but it is of modern office building type
construction, mostly. (Steel, brick, concrete, etc.)
You need a pro to lay eyes on the place. It may be trivial, it may be
OMG expensive, especially if things need to be pretty.
The property is equipped with a fire alarm system with sprinkler
heads, has been completely re-wired, insulated with fiberglass
insulation and has been drywalled with 3/4" thick fireboard. The
property wasn't cheap by any stretch, but was worth every penny as it
is completely rented grossing almost $15,000 monthly. I may be in
school, but have been working for the past 20 years. I just wanted a
change. I am just worried about losing my tenants because of the
vandalism. I will be contacting a communications technician to give me
a ballpark estimate as to what it would cost to install a door
entrance system to better protect my tenants.
They should live on the ground floor. And yes, I've walked with a cane for
about a year. I did all my errands on my own and it did take extra time.
And yes, it was very painful walking, but I didn't ask for special favors.
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