I am currently renting an apartment with a few flatmates, but it seems that the keys to the bathroom door have been lost. The owner of the apartment is not open to modifications.

We are trying to find a way to prevent embarrassing accidents on opening the door when someone else is in the bathroom. We are not very concerned with the safety aspect of the locking mechanism or whether it actually even locks the door; a way to prevent such accidents would suffice.

I found Temporary lock for a door, but it seems that the use-case of the asker is different in that question. Also, the suggested solution, which is a door knob lock-out device, is not readily available where I live, and would be expensive to order from outside.

This is how the locking mechanism looks like:

Bathroom door locking mechanism

Bathroom door locking mechanism 2

I believe the lost key looks something like this:

Missing key


I'd be inclined to replace the locking mechanism with a new similar one. Direct replacement. Always change back at end of lease. Who's to know? Not expensive.

Otherwise a notice outside the door - 'Do not disturb', or get used to whistling while engaged...

Or - a length of wood that spans from the door to the opposite wall, or some article of furniture closer

BUT - bear in mind it's not too clever to have a bathroom door that cannot be opened in an emegency, from outside. That's why a lot of folk use the sort of lock with a screwdriver hole on the outside of the door. As a landlord, it's his responsibilty to provide stuff like that - not ony probably fulfilling legal obligations, but sensible ones too.

  • Thanks for bringing up the consideration of opening the door from outside in case of emergency. I hadn't considered this, and I think some of the other answers do not suggest a solution where this would be possible. – hb20007 Apr 27 at 13:48
  • The ideal solution seems to be replacing the current mechanism with a privacy lock. But, I think it wouldn't be compatible. – hb20007 Apr 27 at 13:57
  • Not a clue about your local bye-laws, but it's worth mentioning to the landlord that if there was a problem, and the door couldn't be opened, he could be in trouble. His answer will be 'So leave the door as is, unlocked from both sides!'. – Tim Apr 27 at 15:00

How about something like this?

enter image description here

It's a door hanger that you could print yourself at home on some cardstock. When the bathroom is in use, you flip it over to indicate so.

I found the one linked above here, but I'm sure there are countless others out there, and probably some you could order online pre-made as well.

  • 1
    The most sensible option. While waiting on the printer, a sock or tie on the door knob seems to be a common "in use" indicator (though maybe that's a US-only reference). In the "low-light in the middle of the night" situation that the OP indicated seemed to be an issue, it may be more difficult to see the color of the card, so the tie/sock is a physical there/not-there indicator that works in complete darkness. Of course, hanging the card on the inside when not in use and outside when in use will work, too. – FreeMan Apr 27 at 13:47
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    This doesn't solve the problem of privacy insecurity. It's not much different from implementing a knock policy. It doesn't actually prevent the door from being opened. – isherwood Apr 27 at 19:51
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    This is specifically allowed in the question though: "We are not very concerned with the safety aspect of the locking mechanism or whether it actually even locks the door; a way to prevent such accidents would suffice." – PhilippNagel Apr 27 at 19:54

Install a "slide latch lock" on the bathroom side. It cost less than $10, and can be easily found in all hardware stores.

Other ideas - Door Hook, Door Stopper.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • This involves modifications to the door though, right? – hb20007 Apr 27 at 12:58
  • This involves screw holes in the door & the door jamb, something @hb20007 was looking to avoid. – FreeMan Apr 27 at 13:03
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    No, it is not a modification to the door because it does not change the configuration of the door. It is more like hanging a picture on the wall. Your landlord can ask you to restore the looking of the wall by filling up the holes. – r13 Apr 27 at 13:13
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    Screw holes in a steel door are not easily removed/restored. It's essentially auto body work and not a simple DIY. The entire door face would need to be painted after fussy filling and sanding. The rubber wedge is the only solution here that meets the criteria set forth. – isherwood Apr 27 at 13:47
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    @hb20007 You can make a wooden wedge by yourself, or you can get a pack of the wood shime, typically used for levelling, in the lumber yard. – r13 Apr 27 at 16:24

Unscrew and remove the entire lock set from the door, and take it to a locksmith.

They can rekey it for probably $50, but there is a very good chance that the key is a simple generic privacy key that they could sell you for $2.99. Either way you don't have to undo anything when you move out. Just throw away the key you made and voila, the apartment is how you found it. (Or, be nice and leave the key).

  • I don't think it's a generic privacy key though, because it seems that the lock set installed is not bathroom-specific. – hb20007 Apr 27 at 14:04
  • Actually my answer was based on the assumption you are in the US. Are you in the UK? If so it should be very cheap and easy to get this rekeyed whether it's generic or not. Just take the whole thing to a locksmith. – jay613 Apr 27 at 14:07
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    Actually I didn't realize how cheaply a lock set like this could be obtained in the UK. I'm still guessing that you might be in the UK. Less than £30 you can get an entire PRIVACY replacement, operated by a knob from the inside and a screwdriver or coin from the outside. Just do that, and put back the old lock when you move out. – jay613 Apr 27 at 15:19
  • thanks, I will look into it. – hb20007 Apr 27 at 15:44
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    That "actually" should be the answer, replacing the whole thing is much cheaper than getting it rekeyed. Any of the major DIY stores - B&Q, Homebase, etc. - will sell replacements for £20 or less. Just make sure you get the right spacing for lock/handle/etc. but these come in a limited number of standard sizes. – Jack Aidley Apr 27 at 21:13

A slat of wood of the correct length with rubber wrapped around each end would do. You'd tuck it under the handle shaft or the escutcheon plate. A scrap of bike tire tube or similar, stapled or wired in place, would provide friction against the floor and dampen noise. It's a bit clumsy, but simple and reliable.

| \\
|  \\
|   \\
|    \\
|     \\
|      \\
|       \\
|        \\
|         \\
|          \\
|           \\
|            \\

This would prevent casual opening of the door, but in case of emergency could be forced open. Experiment to get the length right.


This is the absolute minimal way to do this. It requires two screws roughly the diameter of a nail, and installs in roughly one minute. The holes can be filled with wood filler when you leave, and most landlords won't care.

Alternatively, your doorknob comes apart with a screwdriver. You can get a new one sized identically, install it, and replace the original one

hook lock

  • What is this called? How can I find the required components? – hb20007 Apr 27 at 13:20
  • By going into any hardware store and looking in the security and door furniture section? – Tim Apr 27 at 13:21
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    @hb20007 hook and eye latch – brhans Apr 27 at 13:27
  • @Tim It's COVID time so I might order online. It's good to have the name. – hb20007 Apr 27 at 13:28
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    Again, though, this requires holes in the door & frame, which @hb20007 indicated he didn't want. Granted a single small hole in each, which should be easy to fill, and might, upon moving out, be argued to be the landlord's fault since he didn't want to properly fix the lock on the door... – FreeMan Apr 27 at 13:45

In the end, I will try to purchase skeleton keys, as suggested by Steve Sether in the comments.

This may not be easy to open from outside in case of an emergency if the key is already inserted from inside, but the bathroom is actually already kind of accessible from outside the house through the window.

I will purchase something like this: Screenshot


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