View Full Version : Apartment Buzzer Systems

04-30-2014, 07:27 PM
So I have a character that lives in an apartment. I understand that in order for guests to enter the person your visiting has to let you in. I'd like to know how it would work if you lived alone in an apartment and needed to get in, who would let you in? Is there someone that works in the lobby who lets you in? Or is there some sort of key or passcode?

Setting is 1988 Paris, France.

Thank you!

04-30-2014, 07:30 PM
Where is the apartment?

Bing Z
04-30-2014, 07:32 PM
a) use a key
b) key in access code on the keypad
c) buzz the super and yell "Cable."
d) kick the door open
e) open the door, which is never locked.
f) no code, no key, 24 hour doorman & concierge

It all depends on the apartment building.

Plot Device
04-30-2014, 07:33 PM
if you lived alone in an apartment and needed to get in, who would let you in? Is there someone that works in the lobby who lets you in? Or is there some sort of key or passcode?

Thank you!

So you forgot your key?

If it's a doorman building, the front lobby door is pretty much almost always totally unlocked just so long as there is a doorman on duty. So at that point you are now inside the lobby. And if you lost your keys and can't unlock your apartment door, the doorman will either have a passkey or he will call maintenance for a passkey.

If there is no doorman, you must call the superintendent. He will likely charge you $25 or something like that as a fine for bugging him. The fine gets steeper if it's after 10 PM. The super will unlock your apartment for you. And now that you are in your apartment, I hope you have a spare key somewhere in there because if you have no spare keys anywhere in your life, you will now have to bug the super for a new key. And you will be charged an additional fee of a key replacement. That starts at $25.

04-30-2014, 07:37 PM
I live in a building with only six units and no doorman. I have a key to the lobby. The one time I locked myself out, I had to get a taxi to the real estate agent to borrow the spare, get a taxi back, then return it later in the day once I'd recovered my car keys.

Book Fiend
04-30-2014, 07:39 PM
Where I lived, there were a lot of high rises. So, it really does vary. The cheapest way is just a key. A more expensive route is they use Medeco keys which can't be copied without permission. But both have the issue of lost keys- it's really expensive to rekey and supply all residents with new ones. A lot of places use passes- about the size of a credit card but thicker. Those are better because the manager of the building can deactivate individual cards. A building with a doorman or a guard gate usually does not require a key to enter the building.

04-30-2014, 07:47 PM
Too vague a question. What kind of apartment building? Some have 24 hour doorpeople. Some are completely open to the street and your apartment door is accessible from the parking lot.

Is this in Canada, Britain or the United States? Toronto? A small town in rural Quebec? a Village in Cornwall? St Anthony's Newfoundland? Is this in 2014 or the 1920s or the 1870s?

What do you want to have it be for your story?

04-30-2014, 07:59 PM
Here in Manhattan, some are keyed entries, some have 24 hr concierge/doormen, some have keyed entry during the day, and then part-time doormen at night, some use a key "fob," which is similar to the electric "eye" of a garage door. Some of the older, high end buildings without a doorman also require a key for the elevator to work.

Many people who live alone in the city make sure they have a friend/neighbor with keys to their apartment, because if you lose or forget your keys it's a huge hassle.

04-30-2014, 08:08 PM
I agree that we need to know what kind of apartment and where it is.

A Manhattan apartment with a doorman is going to be different from a NYC apartment without a doorman and is likely different from an apartment building in some other state.

In Michigan, I lived in a 10 unit (or so) building. There was no lobby, just a hallway with doors to apartments on each side and a flight of stairs to the second floor with more apartments.

All the residents had a key to the front door and a second key for their own apartment. That was it. No buzzer, etc.

05-01-2014, 03:28 AM
The OP specified: Paris, 1988

I wish I could help, but you may need to get a bit more specific than that. I was actually in Paris, in 1988, and I observed there was a great variety in how buildings seemed to work. Just to start, new buildings vs. very old ones. Modernized buildings vs old-fashioned. Fancy vs shabby. Buildings with the main entrance through a courtyard vs those that open directly on the street, both forms with/without a concierge and/or main lobby. But none of those were my building. (I was living in a dorm.) My friends in apartments all seemed to get by with ordinary keys, but I have no idea what the emergency backup plans might have been.

05-01-2014, 01:17 PM
More modern European buildings IME often have a two-key system: one key for your own front door, one for the main door downstairs. Sometimes they have one of those magic sorts of keys where everyone's key opens the main door but then not any other internal door but their own. (I guess the front door has fewer pins so all the inner keys can have the same first couple of pins and then be different? But my grasp of lock mechanics is shaky.)

(Edit: by "more modern European buildings" I actually mean "European buildings in which I have stayed over the past couple of decades". Most of 'em were pretty old and certainly pre-80s. Modern recently-built buildings usually have fancy electronic systems. )