Some landlords rekey between tenants while others do not. In some areas, it’s the law to rekey between tenants. If you hire a property management company to professionally manage your rental, then they may require it.
Why do property managers and lawmakers care and require you to rekey?
When you give keys to new tenants, can you guarantee that no one else has a key and access to the home? Maybe you lived in the property yourself and the home was new when you moved in and think you can guarantee no one else has a copy. But did you ever give a key to a neighbor, handyman, pet sitter, or cleaner? If so, can you guarantee that they didn’t make a copy before you got your key back? Even if you trust them, how do you know they didn’t have your key in an area that was accessible by someone else who you don’t know and trust and that person made a copy?
Why should I change the locks?
If someone has a key, then it can be a safety issue. While something bad is unlikely to happen, on the small chance something does, it’s best if you weren’t the one who gave the perpetrator access.
What can happen if I don’t change the locks?
The main downsides of having your rental property rekeyed and why many landlords don’t want to do it are it’s a hassle and costs money. But how much is the safety and security of your tenant’s worth? Unless you can guarantee that no one else has had the opportunity to copy your house keys, it’s best to rekey between tenants.
Can I rekey after my tenants have moved in?
Yes, but they must be aware and be given a new set of keys. You cannot change the locks and lock them out since that is against the law.
Can I allow my tenants to change the locks at their own expense?
Yes, but just like if you rekey once they have a lease in place, the tenants usually need to provide a new key to the landlord as well. If you have a preferred locksmith that you use, then the locksmith can change the locks and provide the landlord and tenants with the new keys.
The tenants need to abide by any rules by the association as well. For example, if the rental unit is a condo, then many buildings have rules about how the locks need to look that face into the hallway.
Can I be sued for not changing the locks?
Let’s face it, these days you can be sued for anything so asking if you can be sued isn’t the right question. The question is, will the tenants win a lawsuit if I fail to change the locks? The answer is, they will have a much better case against you if they are burglarized or victimized and the locks at the property were not changed than if they were.
While it’s highly recommended that you change the locks between tenants, you should know your local laws and what you’re required to do and what you need to allow the tenants to do. While the chances of something happening to the tenants due to not changing the locks might be low, it can be a bad situation that may cost them their lives and you a lot of money if they get hurt or killed because you wanted to save some money on changing the locks.