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Can You Change The Locks On Your Apartment?

can you change the locks on your apartment
Last Updated on September 30, 2022
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There are numerous reasons a tenant would want to change the locks on their apartments, such as burglaries, loose lock screws, or a weak primary locking system. If you do not own the apartment outright, you cannot change the locks at will.

In most cases, a tenant can change the locks to their apartment at their own expense if they immediately provide the landlord with a key. However, before you change your apartment’s locks, you must consult your landlord, your landlord-tenant contractual agreement, and in some cases, state laws. 

In the United States, laws vary significantly from state to state, meaning that before you attempt to change your Apartment’s locks, you should make sure that it is legally permitted. Your question can be answered by determining the laws in your state, the lease you have with your landlord, and the way you want it to be changed. Sound complicated? It's not really, as this article will demonstrate.

Can You Replace The Locks On Your Apartment?

Unfortunately, there is no clear or concise answer to this question. While tenants are usually permitted to change the locks to their rented apartment, it’s not always the case.

Some people question the reasoning behind a tenant’s desire to change the locks to their apartment when they have already been installed free of charge. However, there are many reasons why tenants would want to replace their locks, especially when crime in the area has increased, the locking mechanism has broken, or the screws are no longer set in place.

As a tenant, you must first consult with your landlord, local state laws, and the lease agreement before attempting to replace the locks on your apartment door. If you fail to correctly consult with the relevant authorities before replacing the apartment’s locks, you could be liable for large fines or even criminal prosecution in extreme cases.

However, the question is not easy to answer as it depends on various dynamic factors such as the local state laws, the tenant's lease, the landlord, and the tenant. While it may be complex to gain an exact answer to the question, if you follow a generalized procedure, the truth will eventually prevail.

As with most American laws, they vary significantly from state to state, meaning that before you change the lock to your apartment, you must closely study the signed tenant-landlord lease. If you can’t obtain an answer from the lease by yourself, seek legal advice from friends or family.

While the consensus among tenants and landlords in America is that apartment locks can be changed at any time and for any reason as long as the owner is immediately provided with a spare key. However, some lease agreements specifically state that the tenant may not change the locks, clearly indicating the importance of doing initial research.

Are There Any Laws Forbidding Locks To Be Changed?

The laws regarding a tenant's right to change the lock to their apartment vary from state to state. While most states permit the practice, some, such as Alaska, specifically forbid it.

In states such as Alaska, the law categorically states that tenants may not change the locks to their apartment without obtaining the correct permission from their landlord first. In Alaskan law, a specific statute prohibits you from changing your apartment’s locks without your landlord's direct permission unless it is an accepted emergency.

In addition, states such as Alaska legally require tenants to provide their landlord with a copy of the new key in a timeous manner, or they could face steep fines and even criminal prosecution in rare cases. Conversely, other American states allow tenants to change the locks to their apartments if certain requirements are appropriately met.

In states such as New York, the law clearly states that tenants can change the locks to their apartment at their convenience; however, the landlord can request a duplicate of the new key at any time. If the tenant fails to produce a duplicate to their new locks, they will face persecution, which could eventually result in eviction.

Why Would Tenants Want To Change Their Apartment’s Locks?

There are numerous reasons tenants would want to change the locks to their apartment, even if it means they must pay for it themselves.

Security locks are the most important and primary line of defense for any apartment. They prevent unwanted guests or intruders from welcoming themselves into your residence without your permission. Some apartments do not possess a strong locking system, meaning intruders can easily overcome the defensive barrier and directly threaten your safety.

Your apartment’s locking system must be constantly upgraded to lower household security threats. However, some landlords fail to upgrade or maintain their locks, meaning that some tenants attempt to take matters into their own hands. If your locking system has loose screws, is rusting, or displays signs of aging, it’s time to immediately replace it.

While some locking systems display signs of rust or disintegration and can be repaired by a professional, it is recommended to replace the entire system, especially since they are usually relatively inexpensive.

The challenge of replacing your apartment’s locking system is usually visible when landlords refuse to pay for it, claiming you are overreacting.

The obvious solution would be to exchange the locking system yourself; however, the legalities involved in this process are complex and could land you in hot water with your landlord or state law.

Who Can Change The Apartment’s Locks?

You should report the faulty locking system to your landlord in a perfect world. Upon being informed, the landlord should take complete responsibility for changing the lock.

While some landlords are resistant to the idea of forking out money to change the locks of their apartments, most are willing to solve the problem as fast as possible.

However, landlords should not attempt to exchange the locking system by themselves; instead, leaving the job to a local repair specialist.

Furthermore, the importance of choosing the right person for the job cannot be understated as it is known that a door’s locking system is the main line of defense against any invasive intruders.

Exchanging the locking system is enormously sensitive and should be closely monitored to ensure that one of the spare keys does not end up in the hands of the wrong people.

As a rule, if the lock to an apartment is broken or displays signs of aging, landlords and tenants have the right to exchange it as they deem fit. Although, it is important to note that the landlord is legally entitled to a duplicate of the key at the time of their choice since they lawfully own the property.

Can Landlords Change The Locks To Their Apartments?

While tenants have limited rights regarding their ability to change the locking system of their apartments, landlords have the legal authority to do so.

In all American states, landlords are legally required to obtain the correct permission from their tenants before changing the locks to their apartment doors. In addition, landlords must immediately provide their tenants with a copy of the key.

However, in certain extreme situations, such as tenants being evicted for nefarious reasons, landlords are permitted to change the locks anytime they choose. There are two scenarios regarding landlords changing the keys to their apartments.

The first is when the tenant has first vacated their homes after the lease has expired, while the second occurs when the tenant is still living in the apartment. If the tenant has already vacated their apartment, landlords may change the locks whenever they see fit.

In addition, when the tenant is still living in the apartment, the landlord is legally entitled to change the locks; however, it is common courtesy to set a date and time with the tenant before you send the locksmith to change the apartment’s locks. Once the lock has been changed, the landlord must provide the tenant with a duplicate key.

When tenants move out of your apartment at the end of the lease, and new ones move in, landlords are not legally required to change the locks, although many do for safety and security purposes.

Conclusion

Changing the locks on your rented apartment is tricky. While it is usually acceptable to change the locking system of your apartment, you should first obtain the correct permission from your landlord and provide them with a duplicate key as soon as it has been changed. However, in some states, it’s illegal to change the locks to your apartment without your landlord’s permission.

In addition, landlords are not usually permitted to change the locks to your apartment without your permission beforehand. If your landlord insists on changing the lock to your apartment, they must first obtain your permission and immediately provide you with a duplicate key. Changing the lock to an apartment is not as complicated as it sounds if landlords and tenants agree.

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