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Can a Tenant Change the Locks on a Rental Property? 

Can a Tenant Change the Locks on a Rental Property? Securing your home and personal space is a top priority for anyone. However, when you live in a rental, additional rules may apply to how you secure the home or what security measures you can take. So, can a tenant change the locks on a rental property? Well, whether you’re a tenant who’s curious about this question or a landlord who experienced this scenario recently, this guide is for you. 


Quick Answer:

In most cases, tenants cannot change the locks on a rental property without the landlord’s permission. Rental leases always include this and may also outline the landlord’s responsibility regarding keys and locks. However, the law can be different depending on which state you’re in. 


Why Tenants Generally Can’t Change Locks 

As your local Philadelphia property management experts, we understand that security and privacy are top priorities for renters. In most cases, tenants can’t just change locks on their own because the landlord needs to have access to their rental properties in case of emergencies or repairs. It is important for landlords to ensure the safety and maintenance of their property, and having access to security locks is part of that responsibility. 

So, if a tenant changes security locks without the proper permission, it could lead to issues. 

Understanding Tenant Rights with Privacy and Security 

As tenants, you have rights to privacy and security in a rental property. This means that landlords or property managers cannot enter the rental property whenever they want. They must give notice before coming in, usually about 24 to 48 hours. Unless it’s an emergency like a serious problem that threatens lives or the property such as a fire for example. This required notice gives you the chance to be present during the visit or to prepare for it. 

For security, tenants have the right to live in a property that is safe and secure. This includes proper working locks on doors and windows. Let’s say there’s a broken or damaged lock, and it needs fixing, you, as the tenant should tell your landlord immediately. Landlords are mostly the responsible ones for making these repairs to ensure their rental property remains safe. 

Proper Procedures for Changing Locks 

In PA, for example, tenants have renter rights that grant a habitable living environment, fair treatment, and a clear understanding of lease terms. Renters are entitled to privacy, with landlords required to provide notice before entry, except in emergencies. With that being said, here are helpful and straightforward tips on the proper procedures for both tenants and landlords about changing locks in rental property: 

For Tenants: 

  • Check Your Lease: Before doing anything, make sure to read your lease agreement to see if there are any clauses about changing security locks. There are some leases that actually prohibit this without permission. 
  • Communicate: If you feel like the need to change your locks for security reasons, have a conversation with your landlord. Make sure to explain why you want to change the locks and seek their approval. 
  • Get Permission in Writing: If your landlord agrees, make sure to get this permission in writing to avoid any misunderstandings later. 
  • Provide a Key: If you change the security locks, you must provide your landlord with a new key as soon as possible. 

For Landlords: 

  • Set Clear Policies: Make sure to include a clause in your lease agreements about security lock changes, that specifies whether tenants are allowed to change locks and under what conditions. 
  • Respond Promptly: If a tenant requests to change locks, make sure to respond quickly. Come from an understanding perspective, and, if valid, assist them in the process. 
  • Offer to Change Locks: If security is a concern, you can actually consider to offer changing the locks yourself. Still, this keeps you in control of the keys and ensures the locks are installed correctly. 
  • Keep Records: This is really helpful, especially for those landlords with multiple rental properties. Make sure to maintain a record of all keys and lock changes for each property. You will thank yourself in the long run. 

Smarter and Easier Ways To Change Locks (A Guide for Landlords) 

Nowadays, most rental properties, like apartments, don’t just depend on regular locks for their main doors for example. Here are some of the smarter and easier ways to change locks for your rental property: 

  • Digital Locks: Consider opting for digital or smart locks that allow you to reprogram codes instead of old security locks that are replaced by physical keys. With digital locks, you can easily reset the codes when tenants request changes due to some security or privacy reasons. 
  • Master Key System: You can try to implement a master key system where different keys open specific doors, but a master key opens all doors. This can actually simplify management for multiple properties or units and ensures you always have access when needed. 
  • Keyless Entry Systems: Aside from digital locks, these are referred to as those operated via mobile apps or codes, and can be easily controlled remotely. 

How Bay Property Management Group Can Help 

If you’re a landlord and you want to avoid situations like where tenants change the security locks without your permission, and you’re looking to take the stress out of managing your rental properties, we can help! Bay Property Management Group in Philadelphia offers comprehensive rental management services, from tenant screening to maintenance, rent collection, and more. Contact us today to learn more about our property management services throughout Baltimore, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC.