When to change the locks on your buy-to-let property
When should a landlord change the locks on their rental property, and is there a legal requirement for them to do so at any time?
Landlords are under no legal obligation to change the locks on a rental property during the window of opportunity when one tenant leaves and a new tenant arrives. However, a tenant who has just vacated a property may well have cut multiple sets of keys and distributed them to assorted family members or friends. If, for whatever reason, not all sets of keys have been handed back at the end of the tenancy, this potentially undermines the security of the new tenants.
The landlord is responsible for making sure the property is not only habitable but secure for tenants to live in, and insurance companies will want to know that a rental property has a good level of security. As a landlord, you won’t want to run the risk of invalidating your insurance were an incident to occur which reveals an inadequate level of security in the property.
When should you consider changing the locks?
Key locks are subject to wear and tear, so even if you don’t feel you need to change the locks between tenancies, you might need to change them from time to time because of wear and tear. You won’t necessarily need to upgrade all the locks, but it’s important to check that locks are not subject to wear and tear, are fitted properly and are fit for purpose. It is always easier to do this at the start of a tenancy before you hand over the keys to a new tenant.
What are the rules surrounding locks?
Once a tenant has moved into the property, they can change the locks if they choose to and are not obliged to give the landlord a key, but it depends what is stipulated in the tenancy agreement. As always, positive communication between landlord and tenant is key to a happy tenancy with fewer issues – and that includes a tenant deciding to change the locks.
However, a tenant cannot deny the landlord access to the property if urgent repairs need to be carried out, or an incident occurs where the landlord will need to get into the property. However, if there is no emergency but a landlord wants to gain access to carry out routine checks, 24 hours’ notice is necessary.
What if a tenant loses their keys?
If a tenant loses their keys and this undermines the security of the property (for example if they are permanently lost or fall into someone else’s hands) then the cost of changing the locks and cutting a new set of keys will tend to fall on the tenant.
The bottom line is that it is a landlord’s responsibility to make sure any buy-to-let property is secure, and the locks are working as they should.