While it’s illegal to lock out tenants, paying or not, you can and should change the locks on your rental property under certain circumstances. Typically, you would do this for safety reasons, but there are expectations. If you’re unsure, here’s how to know when it’s time to change the locks on your rental property.
A Tenant Won’t Return the Keys
If a tenant moves out, doesn’t plan on returning, and won’t return the keys, you’re allowed to change the locks. Regardless of the reason, not changing the locks leaves the property and the next tenant vulnerable. A vindictive or angry ex-tenant can easily break in if they have the keys, so it’s best to change the locks as soon as possible.
The Tenant Is in Danger
Tenants aren’t allowed to change the locks by themselves, but sometimes extenuating circumstances make it necessary. Whether your tenant has a vengeful ex-partner, a stalker, or an angry family member, you may want to improve or change the locks entirely if a tenant comes to you with personal safety concerns. This is especially true if the person the tenant is afraid of has a copy of the keys.
The Property Is in a High-Crime Area
If the property is in a high-crime area where home invasions and break-ins are prevalent, consider improving the security system with better locks. This is especially pertinent if you don’t live close to or have eyes on the property. While you won’t be able to stop a determined thief, updated locks can prevent impulse break-ins from occurring and give you better peace of mind.
A New Tenant Moves In
While you don’t have to change the locks between tenants, you certainly can. Once a tenant’s lease is up and they’ve gotten all of their belongings, you’re completely within your rights to change the lock. As stated previously, a not-so-happy past tenant can access the property whenever they want if they have the keys. Because it’s a landlord’s job to provide safe and secure housing, you could be facing legal trouble if it’s easy for a former tenant to break in.
While these are some of the most common reasons to change the locks on your rental property, keep in mind that every situation is different. You should communicate with your tenant and do what makes you both feel safer.
If you’re still unsure whether you have the right to change the locks on your rental property, Excalibur Homes is here to help. We’re a property management company in Marietta, GA with a team of knowledgeable workers to help inform you of your rights as a landlord and assist in any tasks or responsibilities you need to uphold.