Locks and keys – what are the rules?

by Ed Firmin

Posted on Thursday, October 29th, 2015 at 10:00

Locks and keys and rights of access is always a contentious issue between landlords and tenants, but what are the rules, and who has the right to do what?

In a nutshell, once a tenant has signed a tenancy agreement they have the right to use the property as their home. Which means that a landlord isn’t entitled to enter the tenant’s property without their permission. Even if this isn’t stated in the tenancy agreement, it’s a fundamental right that tenants have, so if a landlord starts entering the property without the tenants’ say so, then the landlord is in breach of the tenancy agreement. They could even be prosecuted for harassment (unlikely, but it could happen), so be really careful if you decide to enter the property without gaining permission.

However, a landlord has the right to ‘reasonable’ access to carry out repairs, but again, only in the event of a tenant giving them permission, and they have to give 24 hours’ notice before doing so. Or in the event of an emergency. It’s not clear what the definition is of an emergency, but you would assume it would be something like a burst pipe, or fire etc.

In terms of keys, a tenant can legally change the door locks to a property if they want, and in addition to that, they don’t have to give a set of keys to the landlord. However, they should still allow the landlord reasonable access for repairs. If a tenant does withhold access, then the landlord will have to apply for an injunction to a county court.

If the tenant does change the locks, they have to keep the fittings in good condition, otherwise the landlord will be able to recover any damages from the deposit.

But, most tenancy agreements now include a clause that the tenants must not change the locks without the landlord’s permission, and that if they do, then it’s on the condition that the landlord has a set of the new keys.

Finally, when it comes to lost keys, it is the tenant’s responsibility to ensure the property is secure, so they will have to pay for replacement keys, and cost to change the locks if security of the property has been compromised.

If you need advice on gaining access to your property, or what to do with regards to keys and changing locks, please get in touch, and I will be able to advise you on your rights.



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