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Can Tenants Change Locks to a Rental?

Most tenants will never dream of changing the locks to their brand-new tenancy.  

Some, however, may have cause to. And for legitimate reasons too. It could be, for instance, that you, as landlord, keep coming around unannounced to ‘check on things.’ That’s a definite ‘no-no’ and may actually be viewed by the courts as harassment.  

Another reason a tenant may want to make sure theirs is the only key that can access their new home, could be that the former resident was a bit ‘dodgy’ ie he has a string of robbery convictions that you didn’t know about at the time but which has since come to light. 

Then again, it could be they need to change it because they’ve lost the original. Or, perhaps the locks are broken and, despite informing you of this, you still haven’t done anything about it two weeks down the line… 

All of the above – apart from losing their key – are justification for changing the locks on their tenancy. In the case of the lost key they should, of course, come to you to ask for a replacement first. But perhaps they’re frightened to in case you think they’re irresponsible.  

Emergency Property Repairs  

Anyhow, you need to get your tenant to tell you if they’ve done this for one very good reason – emergency repairs. It could be, for instance, that the tenant is away on holiday and there is the report of a flood or gas leak by neighbours. The only way you can get into your property without breaking down the door is with your key.  

Even if it wasn’t an emergency repair, you still need access to your property for tradespeople carrying out standard repairs. It’s not unreasonable to want to carry out a twice-yearly personal inspection of your bricks and mortar investment either. 

Can a Renter Legally Change the Locks?

It’s actually against most tenancy agreements for a tenant to change the locks in their rental property. This can be found in clause referring to the tenant not making any material changes to the property. As a result, it can be seen a ‘breach of the tenancy agreement.’

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Cost of Changing the Locks

One aspect of changing the locks that may put your tenant off doing so is the sheer cost of such an action. The cylinder for a typical lock, for instance, starts at around £85. Then there is the cost of the locksmith’s time. And, if it’s an emergency, then there’ll be added cost on top for unsociable hours. 

If, however, you discover that your tenant has indeed gone ahead and called in a locksmith to fit a new lock then you are perfectly entitled to remove this and replace it with the previous lock. The costs for which will have to be footed by your tenant via their deposit.  

You can only get this money at the end of the tenancy, however, when they move out. Additionally, your tenant may dispute the money (ie say they were justified in changing the locks). As landlord you could then end up having to justify the move yourself at a tribunal. This is why you should always keep receipts involved in removing the new lock and replacing with the old version – for which you have a key. 

Evicting a tenant after he or she changes the locks involves going down the same route as other breaches of tenancy. That means, depending on how far into the fixed term they are, issuing either a Section 21 Notice or a Section 8 Notice. 

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