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Should Landlords Change Locks Between Tenants?

person unlocked the door using mobile phone

Fact: Changing locks between tenants will cost you money.

If you have a high tenant turnover, the costs can add up quickly.

Fact: You need to guarantee your tenant’s security while they are on your property.

You cannot keep track of who has access to a property after a tenant moves out. With many tenants making multiple key copies and sharing them with friends and family members, keeping track gets hard.

Even if you recover the key copies you handed out at the beginning of the tenancy, there’s no way to prove the presence or absence of other copies.

The dilemma: How do you avoid the logistics and costs of changing locks between tenants while assuring new occupants of their safety?

Why Should You Change Locks?

Every time a tenant moves out, you start thinking about the security of your property.

This is especially critical if you have had a troublesome tenant, such as a violent occupant or a troublemaker you needed to evict.

There is no way for you to make your new tenants feel safe if there is the likelihood of a stranger having access to their home.

The only way to guarantee security for new tenants is to install a new lock. You would, therefore, be the only outsider with access to their home.

There are several advantages to changing locks between tenants:

  • New tenants have confidence in the security and safety of your property. This makes it easy for you to attract new tenants.
  • You avoid legal liability. In case of a robbery, the tenant cannot accuse you of compromising their security. With an old lock, they can put the blame on you, forcing you to take responsibility for something you did not do.
  • It gives you an opportunity to fix broken locks and latches. This is a good time for you to check the condition of doors and windows for repairs.

Are There Legal Provisions for Changing Locks?

The 1997 Residential Tenancies Act demands that you ensure your rental property stays ‘reasonably secure’ at all times.

The ACT requires you provide locks for all external doors and windows. You must provide every tenant on the lease agreement with copies of keys to all external locks.

Thereafter, you must refer to state and region-specific guidelines for the changing of locks.

Most of these regulations provide guidelines for before tenants move out or after they move in.

Between tenancies, you have the freedom to change locks.

The only exception is when tenants move out before their lease expires. In such cases, most states require that you wait until the lease expires. If you cannot wait, you must ask the tenants for permission to change the lock.

Why Is Changing Locks Difficult?

The Cost

Changing locks costs money.

  • You have to buy a new lock every time a tenant moves out and pay for a locksmith.
  • If you have several external facing doors and windows, you need multiple locks.
  • Through short tenancies, you might have to change the locks a couple of times a year.

These costs add up fast.

The Logistics

As a self-managing landlord, you have to coordinate between buying locks and giving the locksmith access to your property.

The logistics of finding a locksmith, getting a quote and scheduling the work will cost you time and energy.

If you are managing several of your rental properties, this single task can take you away from other important tasks.

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Is Changing Locks Precautionary or Unnecessary?

There is no definite answer to this question, but there are several options to keep your rental safe and avoid the hassles of changing locks.

In a rental business, keys change hands often. There is no way for you to track the number of keys made for each lock.

So, What Should You Do?

Stop focusing on changing locks after every tenant. 

Instead, think of solutions that will save you time and money in the long-term.

  1. Rekeying Locks – Instead of changing the entire lock, you can have a locksmith change the inner workings of a lock and match it to a new key. This creates a ‘new lock’ while also making it inaccessible to anyone with the old key.
  2. Keyless Locks – Invest in a keyless system. You can reset it from your phone or computer every time a tenant moves out. If you suspect there is a security breach, you can reset the entire system. You can also block specific people from accessing the property.
  3. Reinforce Security – You can install additional security systems to help your tenants feel safe, such as security cameras to help you monitor everyone who has access to the property.
  4. Smart Locks – Instead of keys, tenants can use an app on their smartphones to open and close the door. If they have friends or relatives coming over, the tenants can open the door remotely. Or, they can grant visitors access by sharing an access code over the phone. Through the app, tenants can control who has access to a home. The app sends an alert every time someone opens the door. After the tenant moves out, you can reset the app and withdraw their access to the home instantly.
  5. Touchscreen Locks – These locks respond to gestures and/or voice-guided commands making them easy to program. Your tenant can add and delete access codes as often as is necessary. Worried about durability? All touchscreen locks come with weather and element resistant properties.

Managing Your Rental’s Security

Locks represent one of the thousands of things you need to pay attention to when managing your rental. 

You must think about the security and comfort of your tenants.

You need to create a lock policy whether you choose to install traditional locks or use one of the alternatives above.

This policy is a document that introduces your tenants to your lock system. It offers guidelines on what to do if a tenant is locked out or damages the lock system.

Since the policy is a legal document, you need an expert to help you prepare it and make it part of your lease agreement.

By signing up to Lodge’s property management software, you can start preparing the policy today. On the platform, you will customise the lease to include your lock policy.

Once the document is ready, you can share it with your tenants online. Both of you can review and sign the lease digitally.

Start working on your lease agreement now by signing up to Lodge now.

Photo: WikiMedia