Q&As

Can the landlord change the locks?

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Produced in partnership with Katherine Illsley of 4 King’s Bench Walk
Published on LexisPSL on 10/04/2017

The following Property Q&A produced in partnership with Katherine Illsley of 4 King’s Bench Walk provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Can the landlord change the locks?
  • Case study

Can the landlord change the locks?

Case study

A landlord is granted possession under section 8, the possession date has passed and the tenant appears to have vacated. The landlord has correctly served notice to inspect the property. What is sufficient evidence the tenant has given up possession:

  1. the keys have been left?

  2. the keys have not been left but the tenant is uncontactable?

  3. large items of furniture have been removed?

In the event that a tenant fails to notify the landlord that they are moving out, and fails to attend the usual checkout meeting, the landlord is in the difficult position of needing to determine whether the tenant has given up or surrendered the property. If it is clear that a tenant has moved out permanently, the landlord is entitled to possession and can reasonably go in and change the locks. If the tenant is simply staying away for a period of time, for example due to a long holiday, stay with friends or term of imprisonment, the landlord is at risk of proceedings for unlawful eviction if he changes the locks.

For surrender to be implied by the actions of the parties, the conduct must be unequivocal in showing that the tenant has abandoned occupation. ‘Unequivocal conduct’ is taken to mean conduct on the part of both the landlord and the tenant which is inconsistent with

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