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Legal to Change the Locks on a Rental House?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Can a tenant change the locks on their rental? Tenants may have multiple reasons why they'd like to change locks. Maybe there have been a number of burglaries in the area. Or, maybe a tenant would just feel more secure with a heavy-duty bolt.

Landlord-tenant laws vary depending on your state. And, you may need to read your lease agreement closely. It's possible you signed a provision in your lease that forbids changing locks under certain circumstances.

What are some relevant rules you should be aware of?

Some states bar you from changing locks without permission.

Alaska is one of these states. There is a specific statute that restricts you, unless there is an emergency, from changing locks without first getting written permission from your landlord. Under the state law you also need to provide your landlord a set of keys to the locks you changed.

Other states specifically say you can change locks -- with some caveats.

New York allows tenants to install their own locks in addition to the locks provided by the landlord. However, tenants need to give landlords a duplicate copy of their key upon request. If they don't, they can be found in violation of their lease and could face eviction.

Lease provisions in New York that charge extra rent or additional charges for installing locks are void. It's against public policy.

Landlords typically can't change locks without your permission.

You might wonder if, conversely, landlords have the right to change locks. They might. But, landlords usually need your permission. They are probably also required to give you a copy of the key. They may be able to change locks without your permission in certain eviction situations.

So, can a tenant change locks on their apartment? It will depend on their state's laws. If you're considering changing the locks on your home, you might want to consider consulting an attorney or reading your jurisdiction's statutes first.

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