If you are considering purchasing a rental property, or if you are a tenant who is living or operating a business out of a rented property, it is critical that you understand the rules regarding lock replacement. Although each state has its own laws regarding a landlord’s rights as far as locks and keys, most states have similar rules when it comes to what is and is not allowed in regard to lock replacement.
If your tenant has moved out before the lease has ended, but they have not returned the keys or they changed the locks without giving you a key to the new lock, there are specific things you must do. You must notify your tenant, in writing, that you will be changing the locks at their expense unless they return the keys by a certain date.
If there is no response to your notice, you can change the locks but must notify the tenant that they can pick up an extra key up until the last day of the lease, but that the key must be returned before that date. If you do not notify your tenant, you cannot change the locks until the day after the lease has ended. Even if you wait, you can charge the tenant for the changed locks since they did not give you the spare key.
Unpaid Rent or Destruction of Property
In almost every state, it is illegal to change the locks to keep out a tenant who is not paying rent or who has caused damage to your home. You must go through the proper eviction procedures. If you do change the locks without going through the proper procedure, a tenant can sue you and could be awarded monetary compensation. In some states, the tenant can not only be awarded compensation, they may also be permitted to remain on the premises. Tenants can also claim that you removed their possessions and you could be liable for the value of those possessions if you have locked them out of the property.
Some states have requirements that you must replace the locks between each tenant. This guarantees the former tenant cannot access the property. In addition, states require that a tenant have a safe place to live, so the locks must be sound, or the tenant can add their own lock to the door or the landlord may be required to replace the lock. It is recommended that new locks be added by A Carolina Lock Smith who may be able to simply rekey the lock so old keys will no longer open the door or by replacing the entire lock assembly.
One suggestion is to add a key provision to the lease which explains how keys are handled. In most states, landlords may hold a key to rental property but must give notice before accessing the property while it is rented. Some states require that a tenant provide an extra key to the landlord should they add their own lock or change the locks. It is important to understand the laws in your state regarding tenants, landlords and locks.