When can a landlord change the locks?

August 23, 2020

If you own and lease out an investment property, you may consider changing the locks at some stage throughout ownership. While the security of your investment property is of upmost importance, there are several factors to consider before doing so.

Things like cost, convenience and regulation all come into play. So, when can a landlord change the locks and further to this, when should a landlord change them?

To answer this question, we first have to look at tenant and landlord obligations.

Tenant and landlord obligations when changing locks

Both tenant and landlord have responsibility when it comes to the security of a rental property.

By law, tenants cannot alter, remove or add any lock or other security device without reasonable excuse or unless the landlord agrees. A reasonable excuse includes:

  • an emergency
  • the tenancy of a co-tenant was terminated
  • the tenant had to comply with an order of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal
  • a tenant or other occupant was excluded from the premises by an apprehended violence order.

As per a typical tenancy agreement, tenants agree to give the landlord a copy of the key for any changed lock within seven days of the change.

Landlords also have obligations when it comes to changing locks. Landlords are required to provide and maintain locks in order to keep the premises reasonably secure. They’re also obliged to provide each tenant named on the tenancy agreement with a copy of the key.

The landlord must not alter, remove or add any locks without first liaising with the tenants and they must provide a copy of the new key within seven days of the change. By law, landlords must not charge the tenants for copies of these keys unless a replacement is required.

Generally, so long as you inform the real estate agency and tenants of lock changes, and the tenants agree to those changes, you should be able to modify the locks at any time.

You should change the locks if there has been forced entry or theft. You may also want to change the locks if a tenant agreement has been terminated on bad terms.

Advantages of changing the locks

The most obvious advantage to changing the locks on your investment property is that it ensures the safety and security of the building and current tenants. As property is likely to be one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your lifetime, it makes sense to properly protect it. This can be a simple yet significant step to do so.

It can also strengthen the tenant-landlord relationship. Knowing the locks have been changed before moving in or in the event of a break-in, can offer peace of mind and help build trust.

Another advantage is that any cost involved in changing the locks is tax-deductible. Locksmiths aren’t cheap and if you’re changing locks regularly the fees can quickly add up. The ability to claim these expenses at the end of financial year can help to offset any upfront expenditure.

Disadvantages of changing the locks

One of the main reasons that landlords don’t regularly change the locks is that it takes time, money and effort. Getting quotes, finding a reasonably priced locksmith and arranging a time for them to access the property with the tenants’ consent can be stressful.

If your investment property is in an area that favours short-term lease agreements, then doing this at the end of every tenancy can be tiresome and unreasonable.

Should you change the locks?

As a landlord, it’s important to be proactive about the security of your investment property. However, whether you decide to change or leave the locks on your property is entirely up to you. Your decision will rely on personal circumstances that only you can determine.

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