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Q: A shared alley separates my Staten Island house from my neighbor’s. The property line runs down the middle of the alley, so we each own half of it. A gate attaches the two properties. My neighbor put a padlock on the gate, and has not given me a key. So I have no access to my property from that side — I can’t access the air-conditioning condenser and equipment. I have written to my neighbor asking for a key, but she has not responded. What can I do? If I need to make repairs on that side of my house can I cut the lock with a bolt cutter?

A: You can cut the lock if it’s restricting access to your property. But first, give your neighbor the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she missed the letter and doesn’t know that you can’t access your own property. Knock on her door and ask her if she received the letter. Ask for a spare key, and take it from there.