Landlords, Locks and Legislation by Heather Hilder on January 31, 2018 Landlords, Locks and Legislation Hands Up! Keys in our household are the bane of our lives and rarely does a day go by when either I, or Mr H, mislay our car, house or office keys, and go on the rampage to find them! Never mind that we have specific areas in the house where we’re supposed to put them on entering our home, ‘distractions’ cause us to act otherwise! Landlord’s Keyholding I hasten to add that, as Letting & Property Management Specialists, we conduct our Landlord’s key-holding with eye-watering due diligence. Keys are handed to contractor’s when works are to be carried out, to Inventory Specialists before the start of a tenancy, and our own Lettings team when conducting Property Visits, or Viewings, and we make doubly sure that keys are returned to us and logged against the property. At the end of each day, ‘keys out’ are checked against ‘keys in’, and any missing ones are tracked down immediately. Agents have a duty to hold Landlords’ keys in a safe and secure place, and to log incoming and outgoing keys to avoid doubt as to who was the last to use the keys. What is the Legal situation regarding locks and keys? When Tenants sign a tenancy agreement they will ‘own’ the property for a period of time, and be entitled to ‘quiet enjoyment’. Tenants must be given advance notice (not less than 24 hours’ notice, and generally at least 48 hours where possible) of Property/Contractor/Landlord visits. Some Tenants prefer to be present during these visits, but this may mean Tenants having to take time off lessons or study, work, and generally they give their consent for us, or appointed representatives, to enter the property, without them being there. Our Assured Short-hold Tenancy Agreement (AST) specifies that Tenants must not change the locks without the Landlord’s permission. If the Landlord gives permission, this will normally be on condition that Tenants provide a set of new keys to the Agent/Landlord. Here is an extract from our AST relating to the Tenants’ responsibilities regarding access arrangements: “To permit any Superior Landlord, the Landlord and all other persons authorised by the Landlord with or without workmen and others and with all necessary equipment at all reasonable times upon not less 24 hours’ notice (except in the case of emergency) to enter upon the Premises and to examine the condition of the same or to inspect, maintain, repair, alter, improve or rebuild any adjoining or neighbouring property or to maintain, repair, replace the Fixtures and Fittings or for the purpose of complying with any obligations imposed on the Landlord by law.” Keys can be a matter of contention – and neither Agents nor Landlords can enter a property whenever they want. Key Allocation When the Handover of the Property takes place, each Tenant should be given a full working set of keys to the property, the details of which should be noted on the Inventory. Can Tenants change Locks and Keys? This may happen when Tenants accidentally lock themselves out of the property, and they have to pay for a change of lock and then forget to pass the new keys on to the Agent. Most Tenants will readily oblige. Best practice is to refer to the AST (Note: after the Tenant has vacated the property the Landlord may have a claim against the tenancy deposit for the cost of new locks and keys.) Callaways’ AST relating to Tenants’ responsibility states: 8.12 Locks and Security Devices 8.12.1 Not to install or change any locks in the Premises without the Landlord’s prior written consent.8.12.2 If in breach of this Agreement any such additional keys are made, the Tenant shall deliver the same up to the Landlord together with all remaining original keys at the expiration or sooner termination of the tenancy and in the event that any such keys have been lost, pay to the Landlord on demand any costs incurred by the Landlord in replacing the locks to which the lost keys belong. This is to include any remote controls or security devices.8.12.3 If any lock is installed or changed in the Premises without the Landlord’s prior written consent, then to forthwith remove the same if so required by the Landlord and to make good any resulting damage.8.12.4 To fasten all locks and bolts when the Premises are empty and at night.8.12.5 To set the burglar alarm (if applicable) when the Premises are empty.8.12.6 To pay for the cost of replacement of any lost keys, remote controls and security devices that have been lost or not returned at the end of the tenancy. Can Landlords use keys to gain access without permission? No – Landlords must give notice to Tenants as explained above, amd if Landlords start entering the property with the Tenants’ knowledge or consent, a breach has taken place, and this will be taken seriously. Landlords are not entitled to enter the property without the Tenants’express permission (best in writing). This is Tenants’ fundamental right which is included in all tenancy agreements by implication, even if not specifically stated in the tenancy agreement. Landlords – Keys or No Keys? If you have appointed a Lettings/Property Management Company to look after your property, technically there is no need for you to hold a set of keys. Your Agent will take care of everything. Then there can then be no accusations of ‘entering’ a property uninvited. EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY! Callaways on occasion have had to act as an ‘Agent of Necessity’ ie when a flood or burst pipe from a flat above threatens our Landlord’s property, and the Tenant has been uncontactable – in these circumstances, we can enter a property without the Tenants’ consent. Are you are a Landlord? Have you had problems with keys and locks? Don’t keep your stories under lock and key! We’d love to hear from you … For more details of our Lettings & Property Management services, please get in touch with our team on 01273 735237.