A quick disclaimer: this blog post is designed to provide general guidance but we at Galmier understand that conditions and regulations differ between landlords. Please do not take the following as absolute fact; rather, accept it as general guidance!
Signing on the dotted line is always an exhilarating feeling.
Maybe you’ve moved out of home with your two best mates for the very first time, having just found an awesome place in the middle of town’s busiest shopping strip.
Maybe you and the family are temporarily renting a property while renovations take place at home.
Or perhaps, with the rising house prices in Australia, it comes as no surprise that renting has become a way of life, rather than a temporary fix.
No matter the circumstances, we’re a nation made up of a lot of renters. 23% of the population, in fact. That’s more than 5 million Aussies who are living in a rental property.
And that means that’s more than 5 million rental agreements.
It is important for both landlords and renters to carefully check their leasing agreement, as terms can differ slightly between parties. The safest bet is to check your agreement and understand a landlord’s policy around making alterations or changes to an apartment or house.
Locks and keys in rental properties
A landlord must provide secure locks for all doors and windows of rental properties
A tenant can make a request for new locks
If a landlord does not accept the request, a tenant can plead their case to VCAT (the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal)
If you are a landlord…
Can I change the locks?
Changing the locks really isn’t as sinister as turning up at your tenant’s house when they’re out and changing the locks before the day is done; it’s a little fairer than that!
Two important things to consider:
1. Your motive must be reasonable (such as failure to pay rent)
With notice, you might be able to change the locks. You can’t just show up one day when your tenant is at work and change their locks so they can’t get in; you must give reasonable notice that the locks are going to be changed and you must give a reason as to why.
2. You must give adequate notice that the locks are to be changed
But keep in mind as you read through this blog post that rental agreements will vary.
Note that if you changed the locks unlawfully – that is, by trying to take the law into your own hands, and essentially locking a tenant out – you’re likely to be actually breaking the law.
Further, your tenant might be able to re-enter the home without your permission. As always, though, both tenant and landlord are advised to seek advice from their real estate agent first!
If you are a renter…
Can I change the locks myself?
Specific agreements may differ, but it is a reasonable assumption that most agreements will request any changes be applied for in writing before work takes place. Fair enough, right?
So while yes, technically you can change the locks yourself (by enlisting a qualified residential locksmith) but in order to follow through you will first need to obtain permission from your landlord. If you don’t, you risk breaching laws and may face hefty fines.
Can I request to get the locks changed?
If you are moving into a new property that has not had its locks changed by the landlord, you are of course welcome to make a request.
It is a sensible request and it’s unlikely to be denied by your landlord.
Can I add an extra layer of security like a gate lock or deadlock?
Most landlords will accept such a request so long as they receive a copy of the key too. (After all, it is their home!) Costs will likely be your responsibility.
Why should a landlord rekey a house before each new tenant?
It just simply makes sense that a landlord would give his or new tenants the peace of mind that their new property is secure and that the only keys in circulation belong to you, your tenant, and the real estate agent.
✓ Keep a good relationship with your tenants
Create a safe and secure setting from the very beginning by providing new tenants with a property that has been fitted with brand new locks. Many landlords will not think twice about providing an added sense of security for their new tenants.
✓ Keep them safe while they are your tenants
Don’t underestimate the peace-of-mind you give tenants when they know the property they are about to move into has been re-keyed.
✓ Keep your property safe
As terrible as luck may go, and as far-fetched as it may seem, your previous tenant could have kept a key to your property with the intention of breaking in, robbing, or victimising your new tenant.
At the end of the day, the new tenants are living in your property. So if nothing else, why wouldn’t you re-key the home or apartment you own to keep it safe from invasion? Further, a tenant might feel safer getting their own locksmith to do the job, and thus providing you with new keys.
At the end of a lease
For whatever reason, one party has decided to move on at the end of a lease. Perhaps:
The landlord’s job has kept them in New Zealand for the past two years but now they are permanently moving back to Melbourne
The tenants need to downsize after their two adult children have moved out during their tenancy
The tenant wants to find a property that is more affordable
The landlord is considering selling the property
Returning your keys at the end of a lease
A tenant must make every reasonable effort to ensure all keys are returned to the landlord when leaving a home or apartment.
We know that getting every single key back won’t always be the case. You mightn’t actually realise how many spare and cut keys are floating around out there, especially if you’ve been in the one property for many years!
Of course, house keys are not identifiable should they fall into the wrong hands, but a tenant should always try to return all keys back to the landlord.
It is this shadow of uncertainty that makes good landlords want to change the locks between each new tenant that occupies their property.
If you have any questions about changing the locks in your rental property (regardless if you’re a landlord or tenant), the best thing to do is to get in touch with your real estate agent.
If you are a property owner who is now reconsidering your need to change the locks between tenants, call Galmier to help you out. We can provide you with a quote and perform all work at your property, whether it’s an office, house, apartment, or any other dwelling!