When Can A Landlord Legally Change The Locks On A Rented Property?


You might think that because you own a property, you have the right to change the locks on it whenever you want as a landlord, and while this may be true in some instances, the issue invariably isn’t cut and dried.

As a landlord, it’s your duty and legal responsibility to ensure that the property you’re renting out is secure and that tenants feel safe while living in it, which means that sometimes, changing the locks might be required and is a legally sound action to take. Other times, you may absolutely not be within your rights to do so.

To help you determine when you might be able to change the locks on your rented property and remain on the right side of the law, continue reading. Alternatively, if you’ve experienced an emergency situation and require an immediate lock change, you can click here to contact a local locksmith:

Under what circumstances can a landlord legally change a property’s locks?

Obviously, even if a lock change is warranted and perfectly legal (such as if they are damaged or aren’t functioning properly), you should inform your existing tenants of what is about to take place, and give them plenty of notice of the fact.

Below are just some of the many circumstances under which a landlord may wish to change the locks on a property, and be within their rights to do so:

  • Previous tenants failed to hand over all sets of keys
  • Previous tenant was not reliable
  • Security needs to be increased between tenancies
  • A lock is broken or damaged
  • A break-in or attempted break-in has taken place
  • Locks need to be upgraded
  • Tenant has security concerns

Even if your reason is justified for changing the locks, you must inform existing tenants of any actions you plan to take with regards to locks, keys and overall security of the property, and give them notice as is appropriate.

Under what circumstances might a lock change by a landlord be illegal?

Some landlords are unfortunate enough to experience bad tenants; maybe they’re anti-social, refuse to pay their rent, or have breached their contract in some other way. While this is incredibly frustrating, it doesn’t give you carte blanche to change the locks without first taking the appropriate steps. Once appropriate steps have been taken, a lock change may legally take place, but until then, a disruptive tenant isn’t reason enough to allow you to simply go ahead and change the locks.

To help you if you’ve got a disruptive tenant and want to evict them, here are some important things to be aware of:

The Protection from Eviction Act 1977

This act gives tenants the legal right to remain in their homes, and stops unlawful evictions by landlords.

An unlawful eviction (which includes changing the locks), cannot be carried out while a tenant is out, for example, unless you have followed the right legal process as outlined below:

Serve them a Section 8 or Section 21 notice under the Housing Act 1988

This will then enable you to obtain a court order possession of the property.

Even if a tenant has given you notice but refuses to leave the property, you are not legally allowed to change the locks without a possession order issued by the courts, even if you seek help from an eviction locksmith. However, if the tenant then vacates the property after giving notice, or if you have given your tenant reasonable notice of a valid reason for wanting to change the locks, then you may go ahead.

Changing the locks on what is your own property, isn’t as black and white as you might like to think, and as a landlord, it’s important that you seek the relevant advice, and take all appropriate steps, before even contemplating doing so. Failure to follow the law, could land you in some very troubled waters.

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