Are Landlords Required To Change Locks In Between Tenants?

by Keith OToole on February 3, 2013

There is no law in Rochester New York that requires a landlord to change the locks when a tenant vacates.  However, the law implies a minimal security obligation on landlords which makes changing the locks a good idea none the less.

Former Tenant, Future Thief:

A case in the Town of Colonie, a suburb of Albany,  New York, proves the point.   In 2011, a tenant moved out of his apartment in the Towers of Colonie.   Some time later, the former tenant goes back to his apartment and is accused of burglarizing the apartment.   How did he gain entry?  Well, with his old key!  Apparently, the landlord didn’t change the locks when the old tenant vacated.

Warranty of Habitability:

What New York  law does impose on landlords is a basic requirement that an apartment be in reasonably good repair and this includes basic security.

What should a landlord do?

Consider doing the following:

– Replace worn out locks with new locks

– Replace the lock cylinder so a different key is required to unlock the lock  (See  “I Core Locks” for more info)

– Re-Key the lock at a local hardware store

– Swap the lock with another lock from another building.

– Change the combination on digital locks.

Security Considerations Beyond Locks:

Changing the locks is important.  However a good lock with a new key won’t mean much if a thief can simply open the window to gain entry.   Consider adding this to your checklist when you turn an apartment:

– Replace any broken windows

– Replace broken window locks

– Install locks for apartment building common areas

Business Considerations:

If a tenant is robbed or assaulted on your property, there is a good chance you may be sued.   They can sue you for property loss, property damage and personal injuries.   By increasing your property’s safety, you can reduce the chance of such lawsuits.  Even if your tenant doesn’t take you to court, a tenant who has been victimized may well decide to move and the cost of finding replacement tenants usually exceeds the cost of changing a lock.








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