There’s a lot of confusion about whether or not landlords have to change the locks between tenants when landlords should change locks, and if tenants can change locks on rental units.
The truth is that it’s not always clear who is responsible for changing door locks, so make sure you understand all the ins and outs of this somewhat confusing matter before you do anything about your rental property’s door locks.
Do Landlords Have To Change Locks Between Tenants?
There is no law that says landlords have to change locks between tenants. However, landlords do have a legal obligation to keep their properties in good shape to make them safe and habitable for new tenants.
If your property’s door locks are broken or not working properly, replacing them may fall under your responsibility to repair and prepare the rental unit for its next tenants — if you didn’t include making sure all door locks work as part of your tenant move-out checklist in the lease.
Something else to consider is that new tenants may be concerned about the possibility that your property’s previous occupants kept a spare set of keys to the rental unit.
So, you may want to consider installing new locks between tenants anyway to make the rental property more appealing to new renters.
If you know for a fact that there are keys unaccounted for or if there has been any kind of security breach on your property, you should definitely change the locks before anyone else moves in.
In summary, landlords do not have to change locks for new tenants, but it’s generally a good idea to do so from an ethical and practical standpoint.
Can Your Insurance Require You To Change Locks Between Tenants?
Landlord insurance will usually not require landlords to change locks for new tenants.
But, you should note that your insurance may cover the replacement of locks if it’s required because of theft or other damage.
Make sure to read your landlord insurance policy closely to see what requirements and/or coverage it provides regarding the changing locks on rental property.
Can a Landlord Change the Locks without Telling the Tenant as a Form of Eviction?
It is illegal for a landlord to lock tenants out of their property without following all the local rules and regulations for eviction.
These vary from state to state, but the legal process to evict someone generally involves serving them with one or more notices to pay or move out. If the delinquent tenants still do not pay rent, then you can proceed with a legal eviction via a court of law.
In a legal eviction process, changing the locks is usually the last thing the landlord does. You can only legally change the locks after the judgment and appeal process have expired.
Depending on the state, this whole process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. For example, in California, the eviction process can take 30 to 45 days or longer.
Can a Tenant Change Locks without the Permission of the Landlord?
Whether or not a tenant can change locks depends mostly on specific state laws. Look up your state’s landlord-tenant law to see what it says about the matter.
Here are a few examples of how state laws regarding tenants changing locks can vary:
According to Georgian landlord-tenant law, tenants are allowed to change the locks on rental properties, as long as they change them back or provide the landlord with a new key upon moving out. If they fail to do so, they can be subject to making damage payments.
California’s landlord-tenant law states that tenants may change the locks on rental units without asking the landlord’s permission. But, they are not allowed to prevent the landlord from entering the
property if they have reason to do so and give the correct notice.
In Texas, the landlord-tenant law says that tenants must get permission from landlords before changing any locks.
Michigan’s landlord-tenant law does not specify whether or not tenants can change locks without their landlord’s permission.
Do You Need a Licensed Locksmith?
Changing locks on a rental property is not a DIY job and should always be performed by a licensed professional. Not only does this guarantee that the locks function properly, securing the rental unit, but local laws may require it.
Professional locksmiths have the knowledge and experience required to replace full locks, re-key locks, or install an alternative type of door lock.
When you’re hiring a locksmith to change the locks on your property between occupants, it’s always a good idea to check any online reviews or ask them for references to ensure they are reputable and will provide top-notch services.
Alternatives To Changing the Locks
Re-keying involves a locksmith changing just the keyhole mechanism of your door locks, rather than the entire lock system. This is typically cheaper but still provides a new lock and keys for you and your tenant’s peace of mind.
Smart lock products
Smart locks are a secure alternative to traditional keyed locks. Digital smart locks can be reconfigured for each new tenant, and tenants can control and manage them right from their smartphones.
Since smart locks don’t require keys or even key cards, there is much less of a chance that keys get lost or fall into the wrong hands. They can also be managed remotely, which is convenient for both landlords and tenants.
“Do Not Duplicate” keys
If changing locks is really an issue, you may opt to use keys that are stamped with “Do Not Duplicate.” In theory, this means that tenants shouldn’t be able to copy the keys.
However, this is not a foolproof system because it is likely that you could still find a locksmith who would copy them.
Key Takeaways (No Pun Intended)
- Landlords are not legally obligated to change locks for new occupants, it’s generally agreed that doing so is a good idea.
- Changing locks on rental properties keeps them secure and in good working order, and gives new tenants peace of mind that nobody else has keys to their home.
- If you do not want to change the locks on your rental property every time a tenant moves out, consider a more cost-effective alternative, such as re-keying the locks or installing a smart lock.
- It’s also important to remember that landlords can never change the locks on a property to lock tenants out without going through the correct legal eviction process. As for tenants changing locks without your permission, you will have to defer to local state law on the matter.