Landlords, Should You Change The Locks Or Not? 4 Scenarios

As a landlord, you have a responsibility to yourself and your business to protect your interests. However, you also have a responsibility to your tenants and to state law. How are these responsibilities affected by the choice to either change the locks on a rental unit or leave them alone? Here are a few situations you'll face and which choice is likely to be the best. 

1. When a Tenant Leaves

In general, state landlord/tenant law doesn't mandate changing the locks between tenants. However, it's a good idea both to protect your capital asset and the new tenant's safety. 

While a good tenant may return their keys, you don't know who may or may not still have unauthorized keys in circulation. A shiny new lock and key tell the incoming tenant that you care about them and take good care of things. 

2. When a Tenant Won't Leave

Unfortunately, most state landlord rules prohibit you from simply changing the locks in order to force the eviction of a problem tenant. Follow the legal steps to get approval to evict before you take any rash actions. 

Not only could the tenant be legally allowed to break in or change the locks again, but you may also have to pay the costs. 

3. When There's a Break-In

Landlords are liable in nearly all states to provide a habitable place for renters to live. The definition of habitable varies, but it usually includes reasonable efforts to provide safety and security. If you know that there was a break-in or an attempt to trespass, change the locks. Failure to take this reasonable measure could land you in legal hot water. 

4. When the Lock Is Bad

Have you or your tenant had problems with a lock? Does it need to be jiggled, tried multiple times, or kicked? Does the door warp in the cold of winter and cause the lock to be difficult? Is the key getting old or is the lock fatigued? 

Don't wait for the lock to completely break, even if you feel that it's the tenant's fault. Maintaining a good quality locking mechanism makes for happier tenants, shows you care about rental unit maintenance and avoids bigger bills for inevitable damage. 

Where to Start

Do any of your rental units fall into one or more of these categories? Start taking the right steps by meeting with an experienced locksmith in your area today. The result will be keeping good tenants and protecting your investment.  

For more info, contact a local locksmith