Most residential apartments nowadays come with a bank of mailboxes in the lobby or reception area. Typically, these are lockable units so that the owner of the apartment is the only person who has access to mail deliveries.
It is commonplace however, that as a new owner of an apartment you may not be handed the necessary post box key for your mailbox. More often than not this is a simple oversight on the part of the previous owner, the managing agent or the selling agent.
A minor oversight for someone else can turn into a major headache for the new apartment owner. At a time when you can expect higher volumes of mail, a lot of which is legal in nature or high priority, not having the correct post box key can mean that time-sensitive documents in the post may not be addressed promptly.
So what can you do?
Call a locksmith? This can be expensive, starting at $70, it may solve the problem in the short term, but once you sell the apartment on (and inadvertently forget to hand on the keys), the new owner finds themselves in the same position as you. Nice business for the locksmith industry.
You could force open the door. There is no better way to lower the tone of an apartment lobby than to damage or destroy your mailbox. Damaged mailboxes are not only unsightly, but they are an advertisement to our light fingered friends, almost asking them to look after your mail on your behalf. And more often than not, someone will oblige.
The correct solution for replacing your post box key…
The first point of contact is the mailbox itself. Most units will have a sticker with a key reference written on it, on the inside of the box. You will need to lift the flap of the mailbox, look through the aperture (a torch or phone usually helps at this point), and make a note of the key reference. Take care to write down this reference down correctly! At the same time, you will usually find the contact details of who to contact for a replacement post box key, with either a telephone number, email address, or a webpage.
In most cases, this is the easiest and most cost effective solution. However, on the rare occasion that there is no key reference or contact details are missing, what else can you do?
Contact an independent mailbox retailer
What do I mean by an independent? Most retailers are in some way affiliated to one particular mailbox manufacturer, and so finding the right mailbox a) manufacturer and b) affiliate can be difficult.
By contacting an independent, a retailer who deals with a handful of manufacturers, you are dealing with someone who is both impartial and has a more extensive knowledge of the market. An expert. One who should know each manufacturers lock series, key blank systems, and most importantly their lock suppliers.
They should be able to identify the correct lock, blank and supplier just from the key reference inside your mailbox. But on the rare occasion they cannot, or if any information is missing from the sticker on the inside of the box, they may ask you to provide a photo of the lock and your mailbox in order to work out the manufacturer.
If after exhausting these avenues the key manufacturer cannot be established, then a locksmith and their associated $100 bill should be considered. Alternatively, you could purchase a $30 drill, a $20 lock, and do-it-yourself.