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Can a Landlord Change the Locks in the UK?

  • Posted:  4 months ago
  • Categories:  Landlords
key in door lock

If you’re a landlord in the UK, you probably wonder about laws, rights, and regulations quite often, but have you ever had cause to ask “can a landlord change the locks?”. In this article, we discuss the law and both landlord and tenant rights around the topic of changing the locks without tenant permission. 

So, can a landlord change the locks in the UK? In most cases, it is illegal for a landlord to change the locks without their tenant’s permission, even in cases of illegal eviction. However, there are several circumstances in which a landlord can change the locks if reasonable notice is given. 

Read on to learn more about if, and when landlords can change the locks in the UK. 

Is It Illegal For A Landlord To Change The Locks?

In most cases, it would be illegal for a landlord to change the locks without the permission of their tenant, giving reasonable notice, or without a good reason for doing so. Landlords are also not allowed to change the locks in cases of illegal eviction

Whilst there are exceptions to the rule, the key point to remember is that it is illegal for landlords to change the locks and evict tenants from their property without a court order.

Can a Landlord Change the Locks Without Notice?

Even in cases where there is an exception to the rule, landlords still cannot change the locks without giving their tenants reasonable notice. What’s more, their reason for changing the locks must fall under one of the following:

  • You live in the same building as your tenant and share common facilities such as the kitchen or bathroom
  • Similarly, if a member of your family lives in the same building and shares common facilities with your tenant
  • The tenant booked your accommodation for a holiday
  • The tenant is a hotel guest
  • The tenant does not pay rent (in an agreed-upon arrangement)

Exceptions to the Rule

We’ve mentioned a few exceptions to the rule above, but it is important to understand these exceptions before proceeding with them. Some may cause confusion and/or lead to misunderstandings.

In Cases of Emergency Accommodation

If your tenant is staying in your property as emergency accommodation, you have the right to evict them without a court order, but reasonable notice must be given before eviction, or the locks are changed. 

In such situations, however, it’s important to consider why your tenant is staying with you for emergency accommodation. If changing the locks, or evicting the tenants risks their physical health or mental wellbeing, perhaps consider alternative measures first.  

Tenants Who are Lodgers That Live with Their Landlord;

If your tenant lives with you, or a member of your family, you are not required to follow the normal eviction process (i.e. a court order), however, if you are changing the locks, you must give them reasonable notice to find alternative accommodation and/or to collect their belongings.

In Cases of Holiday Accommodation;

You do not need a court order to evict or change the locks on those staying in your property as holiday accommodation. However, notice must still be given.

Where Tenants Do Not Have Any Legal Obligation to Pay Rent

In cases where tenants do not pay rent, and by this we mean an agreed-upon arrangement, you can evict them without a court order and can change the locks legally. Again, reasonable notice must be given beforehand. 

Such cases of no obligation to pay rent may include an agreement between friends or family, or accommodation tied to employment.

What Do Acts Of Illegal Evictions Include?

We’ve already mentioned that changing the locks on your tenant as a way of evicting them is a criminal act (unless the above applies). But what else is considered an illegal eviction? 

Except in the situation laid out above, any eviction given without a court order is illegal. Examples of illegal evictions include:

  • Changing the locks without the tenant’s permission
  • Denying your tenant re-entry to their home
  • Denying your tenant access to a part of their rented accommodation that they are entitled to occupy (e.g. blocking access to key areas)
  • Denying your tenant essential services such as cutting off gas, water, or electricity supplies
  • Physically removing your tenant from the property

Such acts can be committed by a number of agents on behalf of the landlord, but it will still be considered an illegal eviction, this includes the landlord, their family, friends, their estate agent, managing agent, or any other person.

Final Thoughts

If you’re considering evicting your tenant, and have thought about changing the locks as the means of eviction, remember that, in most cases, this would be considered an illegal eviction and repercussions may follow. 

There are, of course, some situations where there is an exception to the rule, but these will be likely uncommon for the average landlord, and reasonable notice must still be given. There are no circumstances where you can legally change the locks whilst a tenant is out to deny them re-entry to the property. 

If you’re unsure about what is and is not considered an illegal eviction, consult with your estate agent or management agent, if you have one. Alternatively, various organisations and Government departments can offer advice via their website. 

At Valor Properties, our Landlord Lettings service offers a Lettings Advice Clinic, where our experienced and knowledgeable team can help to shed light on such topics as changing the locks and illegal evictions, to help make sure that you don’t make the wrong decision. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.