From the Forum – Apartment Bike Room Thefts – What can I do?


Apartment Bike Room Thefts- What can I do?

“A couple of weeks ago, I went down to my apartment’s community bike room to find that my bike (and the supposedly strong u lock keeping it safe) had been stolen. The only way into the bike room is to obtain a key made by the management company to enter the room. Any resident can request a key. There is a sign on the door entering the room stating that the building cant be held liable for any damage or loss of property in the room…

My bike was a Cannondale Badboy. A very unique bike (picture of what it looks like attached)

When I approached the management about the issue, they pointed me to the sign and suggested that I file a police report and make a claim with my renter’s insurance company. They said that they could not do anything about it…

After posting a notice about my stolen bike on the community message board, I received messages from other residents saying that they also had bikes stolen in the past and that the management had done nothing to fix the problem. They also said that because there seems to be no forced entry into the room, it is probably an “inside job” and probably another resident who has a key to the room.

Which leads me to my main question:
If there is reported theft and an obvious breakdown of security in a common space, does the apartment management have to :
A) Notify the community of the thefts
B) Take necessary steps to secure the space and ensure it is not happening again
C) Is there any legal recourse that I could take against the building for not fixing the problem?

My lease contract has the following terms:

Liability: To the maximum extent permitted by law, you agree that you will look solely to the owner’s interest in the Community for the recovery of
any judgment against us and that the owner, the management company, and any of their related and affiliated entities (and any of their officers,
directors, trustees, employees, partners, shareholders, insurers, agents and representatives) will never be personally liable for such judgment. Except
to the extent prohibited by law, we will not be liable for any damage, loss or injury to persons or property occurring in the Premises or in other areas of
the Community. To the fullest extent permitted by law, you agree to hold us harmless and to indemnify us from any such liability or claim.



304.3 No owner shall cause to be placed in a lease or rental agreement any provision
exempting the owner or premises from liability or limiting the liability of the owner or the
residential premises from damages for injuries to persons or property caused by or resulting
from the negligence of the owner (or the owner’s agents, servants, or employees) in the
operation, care, or maintenance of the leased premises, or any facility upon or portion of the
property of which the leased premises are a part.

Its my understanding that I can take the management to court for the loss?

Any insight would be helpful.”

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46 Comment

  • It’s a locked bike room. I fail to see how the theft arises from the landlord’s negligence. If you do sue them, don’t be surprised if they just stop providing bike storage.

    I don’t understand why you would want to sue them rather than just filing a claim with your insurance company. Suing someone is a huge hassle, it’s expensive, and you are unlikely to get anything more than what your insurance company would give you. Maybe you don’t have insurance?

    • I’m pretty sure that buildings above a certain size have to provide bike storage space.

      • Just curious, is that for residential buildings as well as commercial, or just commercial? And does it depend on when the building was constructed (for example, required in all newer construction, but older buildings are grandfathered in without bike storage)?

        • It’s for residential buildings, over 8 (?) units I think. But I just spent 2 seconds googling it and can’t tell if it was simply proposed regulation (and whether it was approved) or actually part of a bit of legislation that had passed but wasn’t really being enforced. Anyone from WABA out there?

    • To answer your points:
      -Yes its a locked room… but if it keeps happening, wouldn’t that be negligent of the apt for not fixing the problem?
      -I have no problem taking them to small claims court
      -My renters insurance does not cover theft of personal property
      -All i want is money to get another bike like the one I had and a secure bike room

      • How do you propose that they fix the problem of their tenants stealing from each other? Post an armed guard? Install cameras? I’m just skeptical that a court would find that they have a duty to take these measures. But I’m no tort lawyer so maybe someone more knowledgeable than I will weigh in. I’m sorry about your loss, but if you hire a lawyer to sue them, you’re likely to spend more than the bike was worth. If you represent yourself, the management company’s lawyers will likely eat you alive in court. Sorry to be so harsh, but I don’t see litigation as fixing this for you.

        • No worries. I have no problem with someone being realistic.

          Here is my idea:
          -Install a security camera in the room.
          -Change the way to enter the room by allowing residents to enter the bike room with a key fob. (you already need one to open any door into other common areas like the gym and lobby)
          -Those fob access points record who enters a room whenever the fob is used… thereby connecting an identity to a face that the security camera (hopefully) captured.

          • i think these are pretty reasonable requests… and might have a meaningful impact… you probably don’t even need to go to court. just start passing around a petition or something in the building. make the residents demand that the management take better care of their tenants. granted this would probably take a long time to implement… but could be worth it!

          • I agree that these are totally reasonable requests. And I’m not posting too quickly–jeez.

          • That is what my building does and the only time I had a bike go missing the building took it cuz I didn’t pay the bike fee for the year.
            Charge for access and require stickers – just like a car.
            It’ll greatly increase the threshold to steal – not eliminate but make it more burdensome and thereby lower risk.

      • Also, I would suggest new renter’s insurance. Years ago, I had a bike stolen and it was covered. I assume such policies are still available, and mine wasn’t expensive.

      • Wait, you say you have Renter’s insurance, but it doesn’t cover personal property? Me thinks you don’t have what you think you have… Unless you have a unique “liability only” Renter’s policy that most companies don’t offer, all Renter’s insurance policies cover your personal property. That’s the entire reason for buying Renter’s Insurance since the Commercial insurance on the entire building (aka HOA insurance) and Landlord’s insurance don’t cover the unit dweller’s personal property (inside the walls).

        If your Renter’s insurance doesn’t cover your personal property (up to at least $5,000) and also have liability protection, but it costs more than $25/mo, you need to shop around and find a better company. And, an expensive bike that is stolen, regardless of where it’s located at the time of the theft, is covered by a Renter’s policy unless explicitly stated in the contract Declarations.

        • I have renter’s insurance that covers personal property, and it’s only about $100 per year. $25/month sounds high (unless you have lots of furs or expensive jewels).

        • Completely agree. The main point of renter’s insurance is to cover personal property. I’ve never heard of a liability-only insurance policy. Among other things, personal liability for your home is pretty cheap coverage. (e.g. my renter’s policy breaks down the cost at $165 for $10,000 of personal property coverage and $4 for $50,000 of personal liability coverage.)

  • As I read that final addendum, you can only sue the owners *if they were negligent.* In this case, it doesn’t sound like they were — they weren’t purposefully leaving the bike room door unlocked, handing out keys to homeless guys in the alley, etc.

    It might have been nice if they’d sent out a notice to all residents when the first thefts were reported to them (you could lock your bike more securely, decide not to risk it, etc.), but I doubt that would rise to the level of “negligence.”

    But I am only a lawyer in the sense that I read mystery novels and watch Law and Order, so am intersted in what the actual lawyers out there might say here.

  • Too late for you but I suggest the landlords change the lock and reissue keys.

  • Jeez…what is in the water these days that lawsuits trump common sense. Sue for this, sue for that.

    You’ll have no more luck suing them than someone who parks a car in a parking garage next to the sign “We aren’t liable for damage or theft”, and whose car is vandalized.

    The room is locked and has rather limited access, i.e. the only people that can access it are residents who want a key. You have some d-bag neighbors, but that isn’t your landlords fault.

    • People pick locks, it doesn’t have to be the neighbors, or an unlocked door. Anyone who can get through a U-lock won’t be stopped by a keyed doorknob.

      • That, and it wouldn’t be too difficult to follow in behind an existing tenant; just fiddle around as though you’re unlocking “your” bike until the other person grabs their bike and leaves, then you’re alone to really go to work with the thieving. Security cameras might really help, although I’m not optimistic about the ability to identify someone clearly from those–a lot of camera footage is pretty terrible.

        • gotryit

          It costs a few dollars more (maybe $50-$100 per camera) to get good cameras. The really bad footage you see is from cheap cameras and poor placement (too far away, too high up to see faces).

          You can get a decent system for $500-$600 and a handyman to install it for a few hundred more. For an individual, I can see why that’s steep, but for a whole building?

          • That is good to know, thanks! Not the OP, but I would like to press my building into getting a camera for the bike room, so this is useful info for making the case.

  • Start walking, the bike crime in this city is absurd

  • This is a problem with bike rooms in most cities for any decent bike. Keep your bike in your apt. As others have said, work with your neighbors to petition your management company to install a camera. My current building has a camera aimed at the outdoor guest parking and sent a notice to residents that if there are any issues to let them know and they can go through the security footage.

  • I feel your pain. My bike was also stolen from my building’s locked bike room (accessible by key fob, but no security cameras, I don’t think), also while it was locked to the rack with a fairly substantial Kryptonite U-lock (not the very highest strength lock they make but maybe about 5-7 on a scale of 10, which combined with the locked bike room, I figured would be enough of a deterrent to stealing the bike. Wrong on my part.) If anyone reading this lives in The Chalfonte, be wary about keeping your bike in the bike room! (Especially if it’s a nicer/newer bike. While scrounging around the bike room for my bike–initially thinking/hoping that maybe I’d just locked it in a totally different spot than I remembered–I also found a cut cable on the floor, so I’m not the only one who had a bike stolen.) I have renters’ insurance, but the deductible is high and the bike only cost $100 more than the deductible, so it wasn’t worth filing a claim.

    As for your situation, like others say here, it’s your call as to whether the hassle of going to court is worth it. Small claims is an easier option, but I’m not sure the chances of success–which may be better with money vs. with improvements to the bike room security. (I don’t know DC courts, but when I worked consumer affairs years ago in another state, I believe you could use small claims to get monetary/compensatory damages, but not to compel the other party to take any kind of non-monetary action.)

  • Our buliding has a key fob to access our bike room and it doesn’t help. Our old bikes both got stolen from the bike room in a massive theft that took about 5-7 bikes at once. In the past two weeks our bike room was hit twice, I am not sure how many bikes were taken, but the bike room looks pretty empty. The best decision I ever made was to buy a bike rack to keep in my dining room that goes along the wall. The bikes we bought to replace the stolen ones are safe and sound in the apartment now. It is a little bit of an eyesore, but it is better than having my new nicer bike stolen too… It sucks, but bike theft in DC is a huge problem.

    • When I finally scrape together the money to replace my stolen bike, I’m going to start keeping it in my apartment, too. It’s unfortunate, because the bike room was actually a factor in my deciding to move to my building AND I live in a studio, so it was a really attractive prospect to not have to cram a bike into an already tight space. But oh well, lesson learned for next time. Out of curiosity, what does your bike rack do? Is it freestanding (so that you can prop the bike against something instead of having to lean it against the wall), or one of those things that’s wall-mounted and you hang your bike on it?

      • I know people who got the folding commuter type bikes because they had to keep their bike in their living space. Might not suit your cycling needs, but these bikes are way better than they used to be and might be an OK alternative.

  • Stopping buying expansive bikes. As many posters have said, bike theft in DC is ridiculously high and at some point, you will most likely get your bike stolen. It is unfortunate that people are unable to keep expansive bikes they’ve purchased safe, but the locked bike room theft cements that getting your bike stolen in DC is almost unavoidable.

    You don’t have to buy POS bikes, but don’t spend $1,800 on a bike that you store outside of your own apartment. You’re better off just flushing your money down the toilet.

  • Why not find out from the management company who signed out the key, and then give the list to the police and ask them to help figure it out? I know DC police avoid this at all costs, but it is their obligation.

    • I think it’s highly unlikely that the police will get involved if all you’ve got is a list of people who had a key to the room.

      • Not to mention, it could have been someone who slipped in behind a keyholder, a former tenant who never gave back their bike room key, a friend who had access to a tenants’ keys, a former building employee who kept their key or made a secret copy of their key, and the list goes on and on. The one slight advantage with a key fob over a regular key is that you can remotely deactivate it when a tenant moves out. But my building’s bike room has key fobs, and I can assure you from personal experience that it is NO impediment to bike theft. (Incidentally, MPD was super-quick at following up with me when I submitted my stolen bike report, but at the same time, I wasn’t asking them to take any action; I basically just wanted the police report for insurance and in case I spot my bike on Craigslist or on the street.)

    • The chance that the person who stole the bike had a key to the room is vanishingly small.

  • Blame yourself for not having better renter’s insurance and get some! The building does not sound negligent at all. Maybe the key fob idea would work, but I don’t think you have any idea how difficult cameras are to add. The only way that they work is if they are live and continually monitored. Otherwise, they are logistically difficult at best and open the building up to lots of summons-type issues for unrelated issues.

    • I really doubt you have a case.

      Negligence is defined as “conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. A person has acted negligently if he or she has departed from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances.”

      A reasonably prudent landlord in Washington is likely one who protects his tenants’ personal property stored in common areas by keeping the area locked and making sure only tenants have keys. Installing install cameras and requiring key fobs strikes me as going beyond what’s required.

      • If there has been a history of thefts, and the management did not do anything to stop them (OP says they are still happening), wouldn’t this make the management negligent?

  • Start checking local pawn shops and any bike shop that sells used bikes.

  • anyone use lowjack on their bike? how has that worked for you?

  • Buy a folding bike and keep it in your apartment instead of the common space. Problem solved.

    And get some real renter’s insurance. seriously.

  • I have found that with a rack like this my bikes fit comfortably in a hallway so they do not take up much room in my apartment

  • This is a big problem in Amsterdam. What they do is paint their bikes in bright colors so its easy to see it around town once its stolen. Just an idea….

  • Well I think the first thing you can (and should) do is to name the apartment building and the management company here on this board and up front every time you talk about it. Say “I live in the XYZ building on 123 Street and it is run by ABC property management and here is my issue”.

    It’s maddening to me when people complain about these buildings and property management companies on here and don’t call them out. I’d personally like to know which buildings and property management companies I’m taking a big gamble on if I lease from them. And, *far* more importantly, companies don’t like being called out in public like this. I mean they REALLY don’t like it. And it might just prompt them to fix the problem so that they can make the announcement “contrary to recent reports, ABC Property Management is aware of the problem and has just installed security cameras and a keypad, rather than a physical key, with unique codes for each resident on the door of the bike room so that it is easier to track who is coming and going and to eliminate the possibility for access by former residents who may have duplicated the key”.

    Do you think Ford ever would have recalled the Pinto if people just said things like “well, I have this car, and it explodes after the tiniest impact! But I’m not going to tell you which make or model it is. I’m just going to hope that the manufacturer knows it’s their car and offers to fix it”.

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