Do landlords need to change locks between tenants?

Do landlords need to change locks between tenants?

Viewings done, Tenancy Agreement signed, and you’ve finally been handed the keys to your new place - but just how many hands have those keys been in? Throughout their tenancy, it can be common for renters to cut a few extra keys. But when you begin to think about how many people have rented your new flat, and just how many spare keys might be floating around, it can begin to feel like it could be a security risk for your new home.

The uncertainty can leave you feeling a bit uneasy and could have you thinking about changing the locks. The question is, would this be up to you or your landlord? Do landlords need to change locks between tenants? And can a tenant change the locks themselves? We’ve broken down what you need to know when it comes to changing the locks, from whose responsibility it is, to whether your landlord can change the locks without giving you notice.

Does your landlord need to change the locks?

It might seem like changing the locks between tenants is common sense, or could even be something your landlord is required to do. But that’s not actually the case - landlords have no legal obligation to change locks in between tenants. They do, however, have a responsibility to provide an adequate level of security. In this case, an adequate level generally means the level of security an insurance company would expect in order to cover the property.  So, if there are some questionable duplicate keys still out there that could be compromising the security of your house, your landlord might need to change the locks.

A reasonable level of security doesn’t just cover duplicates. It also means that if the locks and keys are getting old or worn down from overuse your landlord would need to think about replacing them. From a landlord’s perspective this is also in their best interest, as it prevents the risk of potential damage to their property. Also, if the property isn’t secure it could invalidate their landlord’s insurance, so they’ll need to make sure the locks and keys meet the standard of their insurer. If you’re curious about what can invalidate home insurance read this blog for more information!

Can you request the locks to be changed?

So you know your landlord probably isn’t changing the locks before you move in, but maybe you’d have better peace of mind if they were. Is this something you can request from your landlord before you move in? Changing the locks after their last tenant is a reasonable thing to ask for from your landlord, but keep in mind that if they have reason to believe the property is still secure, it’s also reasonable for them to say no.

You might also want to request a lock change mid-tenancy. If a key’s mysteriously gone missing or you’ve broken the lock on your front door, your house might not be feeling as safe anymore. These are situations where you would want to get the locks changed, but your landlord will most likely class it as damage. It would be up to you to tell your landlord what’s happened, and they could charge you for the new locks and keys.

Once you’ve got your locks sorted, you might be thinking about getting your stuff insured. You can get a clear, convenient and trusted a Contents Insurance quote in less than 2 minutes with Urban Jungle.

Can tenants change the locks themselves?

If you’ve asked your landlord to replace the locks and they’ve said no, what are your options? Your tenancy is technically an “estate in land”, meaning you have rights of possession of the property during your tenancy period. Because of this, unless otherwise stated in your tenancy agreement, you should be allowed to change the locks yourself.

There’s a chance your landlord might count changing locks without permission as damage, so you’ll want to be careful with how you go about this. One way to try to avoid getting charged is by keeping the original lock and keys and returning them at the end of your tenancy. That way, you still get to hand back the original keys your landlord gave you.

Once you’ve changed the locks, you should check whether your Tenancy Agreement requires you to give your landlord a copy of the keys. Even if it doesn’t, it’s often still handy for them to have a spare set. It’ll let them in if there’s an emergency and you’re away, or maybe just when your dodgy washing machine needs repairing. But don’t worry, just because they have a key doesn’t mean they’ll be able to come and go as they please, check out Can a landlord enter without permission? for more information.

Concerned about keeping your place safe? Read 9 ways to protect your new home and How to make a rental home more secure for our top tips.

If your landlord doesn’t tell you, is changing the locks illegal?

The worst has happened - you’ve come home and your key doesn’t fit into the lock anymore. Your landlord has changed the locks without letting you know. Can a landlord change the locks? If they do, it means they’re probably trying to evict you. They usually can’t do this unless they’ve followed the correct procedures for eviction.

If they have started the eviction process, what is the lock change notice to tenants they need to give? This will depend on what type of notice you’re given. If your landlord just wants the property back at the end of your agreed term, you’ll probably get a Section 21 – this usually gives you a minimum of 2 months’ notice. If you’ve broken the terms of your tenancy you’re more likely to get a Section 8. If this is the case, the minimum is 14 days’ notice depending on the grounds of your eviction.

A few final tips…

Now you’ve got locks covered, are you starting to think about the other safety checks you need for your new place? Read Safety checks and certificates landlords provide if you're renting to make sure you’ve got all the information you need.

Beyond safety, there’s plenty of other things to keep in mind when searching for your next flat. Our Top Ten Questions to Ask When Viewing a Rental Property and House Viewing Checklist for Renters can help you out there.

If you’re a landlord you might also be thinking about getting your rental property insured. We’ve broken down all you need to know in Landlord Insurance Vs Homeowners Insurance?