Do Landlords Have To Change Locks Between Tenants?

16 May, 7:58 am


Ensuring the safety and security of tenants is a fundamental responsibility for landlords in rental properties. 

Among the many considerations that contribute to a secure living environment, the issue of having the locks changed between tenants is often a topic of discussion. 

As a landlord, do you have a legal obligation to change locks when a tenant moves in? 

In this article, we will explore the question of whether the state’s landlord-tenant law obligates landlords in California are required to change locks between tenants. We will delve into the relevant property regulations in California and examine the importance of lock changes in maintaining tenant privacy and security. 

By understanding the legal framework and best practices, both landlords and tenants can foster a sense of safety within rental properties.

California Property Regulations and Landlord Responsibilities

California has a well-defined legal framework that governs landlord-tenant relationships. 

The laws and regulations provide guidelines and protections for both landlords and tenants. These regulations cover various aspects, including lease agreements, security deposits, maintenance responsibilities, and tenant rights. 

In California, there is no explicit law that directly states landlords must change key locks between tenants. 

The legal requirement for landlords to maintain security and safety in rented properties is generally interpreted as an implicit obligation to take reasonable measures to protect tenants.

While changing locks between tenants is considered a best practice for ensuring security and privacy, it is not explicitly mandated by California law.

–  Landlord’s responsibility for security and safety

One essential aspect of a landlord’s role is ensuring the security and safety of the rental property. Landlords have an obligation to provide tenants with a habitable living environment, free from hazards and risks. 

This responsibility includes maintaining the structural integrity of the property, addressing safety concerns, and implementing reasonable security measures. 

Landlords should take steps to prevent unauthorized access, secure common areas, and promptly address any safety issues that may arise. 

By prioritizing security and safety, landlords can create a conducive and trustworthy living environment for their tenants.

Lotus West Properties manages over 500 properties in the LA area and keeps up-to-date on property laws and regulations.  We take care of all the small details that make a huge difference – like lock replacement. 


The Importance of Changing Locks in a Rental Property

new keys and locks for tenants in LA property

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When a former tenant vacates a rental property, the landlord locks the property but does not know if extra keys were made by the tenant.  So a crucial step that cannot be overlooked is changing the locks on exterior doors. 

This measure not only protects the privacy and well-being of the tenant but also serves as a vital safeguard against potential security risks. Particularly in cases involving domestic violence situations, changing the locks is an essential practice that provides reassurance and protection.

Here are a few important things to consider re: key locks.

– Protecting tenant privacy

Changing locks between tenants plays a vital role in safeguarding tenant privacy. 

When a tenant moves in, they have a reasonable expectation that their living space is secure and that they are the only ones with access to it. During an eviction process, things can get unpleasant and securing the property is in the interest of the landlord.

– Enhancing security for new tenants

While it is generally assumed that previous tenants will return their keys, there is always a possibility of duplicate keys being in circulation or keys being lost or stolen. By installing new locks, landlords can eliminate any uncertainties regarding who has access to the property. 

– Reducing the risk of unauthorized access or break-ins

replacing locks with smart locks LA

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Re-keying locks or installing a digital smart lock are effective ways to reduce the risk of unauthorized access or break-ins in rented properties. 

By creating a new key or changing the digital code, landlords can eliminate any security breach caused by the previous tenant having a copy of the key or knowledge of the code.

Smart locks offer an added layer of security as they allow landlords to monitor who enters and exits the property, providing a log of access that can help in the event of a security breach.

Furthermore, digital locks can be programmed with unique codes for each tenant.  This reduces the cost of replacing locks when a tenant leaves because you simply reprogramme the lock. 

The front door is typically the primary point of entry, so ensuring its security is crucial to protect tenants and their possessions.

Overall, whether through re-keying locks or installing digital smart locks, taking steps to reduce the risk of unauthorized access or break-ins is vital to protecting the safety and security of tenants in rental properties. 

By investing in strong security measures, landlords can provide peace of mind to tenants, demonstrate their commitment to safety, and foster a positive, secure living environment.

Best Practices for Landlords: Changing Locks Between Tenants

Security lock for tenant in LA property

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Here are some key points to keep in mind:

– Most circumstances require landlords to change locks

While California law may not explicitly mandate lock changes between tenants, it is widely recognized as a best practice. 

Landlords should prioritize changing locks when a tenant moves out and before a new tenant moves in.

– Landlords may be legally obligated in certain situations

While not a blanket requirement, landlords may have a legal obligation to change locks in specific circumstances.

For example, if a tenant has obtained a restraining order against a previous tenant or if there has been a history of security incidents on the property, the landlord may be legally obligated to change locks to ensure tenant safety.

– Providing new keys to the new tenant

When changing locks, landlords should ensure that the tenant receives a set of new keys. 

This ensures that they are the only ones with access to the property and helps protect their privacy. Landlords should make it a priority to provide new keys promptly upon the tenant’s move-in to establish a sense of security and trust.

– Check the lease agreement for specific requirements

Landlords should review the lease agreement to see if there are any specific provisions regarding lock changes. 

Some leases may include clauses that require the landlord to change locks between tenants as a condition of the lease. It’s important for landlords to familiarize themselves with the lease terms and comply with any lock-related requirements specified therein.

Implications of Not Changing Locks

new locks to tenant rental property LA

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Let’s examine the potential risks and liabilities that landlords may face by failing to change the locks in their leased properties.

– Potential risks and liabilities for landlords

Failing to change locks between tenants can expose landlords to various risks and liabilities. 

This compromises the privacy and security of the new tenant and may lead to incidents such as theft, vandalism, or personal harm. In such cases, landlords may face legal repercussions and be held accountable for negligence in maintaining a safe living environment.

Neglecting lock changes could potentially result in claims of breach of duty or negligence, exposing landlords to legal consequences. Courts may hold landlords responsible for any damages or losses suffered by tenants due to the landlord’s failure to ensure proper security measures, which includes changing the locks between tenancies.


This article has shown that there are compelling reasons for landlords to change locks between tenants,  or use a solution such as smart locks to secure property and tenants.

Landlords are bound by the provisions of the lease agreements regarding this matter and any enquires from tenants can be referred there.   It is an act of goodwill on the part of the landlord to show they care about the tenant’s safety and goes a long way to securing a good landlord-tenant relationship.

Legal consequences should not be the only reason landlords take action on behalf of their tenants, rather the reputation of the landlord or property owner as trustworthy should be the primary motivation for prioritizing security. 

Lotus West Properties have a wide range of homes in Mar Vista, Koreatown and Culver City, check out our properties and our blog that has helpful tips for property owners and tenants alike!