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Tenants changed the locks without telling us

(27 Posts)
SomePig Wed 05-Apr-17 08:34:57

... and we only found out when they had left and we were trying to let ourselves in to do the final inspection.

They didn't ask permission and didn't inform us after the fact (apparently one thought he sent an email, but has admitted it didn't actually get sent). They have our mobile numbers and don't hesitate to text if something goes wrong (and we fix things immediately - having rented for years we try hard to be good landlords). So they definitely had a way to get in touch but chose not to use it.

They finally dropped off the new keys with the estate agents a few days after the move-out date, which caused us massive problems because we didn't have the weekend to prepare the property for the new tenants. No apologies at any point, and rude responses to our emails.

I have calmed down from the initial panic that we couldn't get into our property, and now am trying to figure out what to do about this. It is a clear breach of contract to have changed the locks without informing us, and also handing back the keys late is not only a breach of contract but also caused us a bunch of extra inconvenience. Estate agent (who does not manage the property, only finds new tenants) has said any deposit withholding is up to us.

We will definitely deduct the cost of new keys we need to get cut, but how much would be reasonable to withhold on top of that? If anyone knows of official guidelines I'd be grateful to hear about them. We would like to be good landlords but - quite apart from the initial heart attack when we were trying to find out what was going on and why we couldn't get in - this seems like the kind of crappy behaviour tenant deposits are designed to discourage.

WellyMummy Wed 05-Apr-17 08:44:27

I don't know how much yo could withhold but I agree that there should be a penalty. You mention the cost of cutting more keys but not locks. After their behaviour you need to change the locks, at their expense.

WellyMummy Wed 05-Apr-17 08:45:19

I don't know how much yo could withhold but I agree that there should be a penalty. You mention the cost of cutting more keys but not locks. After their behaviour you need to change the locks, at their expense.

cansu Wed 05-Apr-17 08:48:48

I am not sure you can deduct anything for the inconvenience. If you do you are likely to be asked by dps for receipts. Did you suffer any actual financial loss other than cutting keys? You dont get compensation for being pissed off.

ItMustBeBedtimeSurely Wed 05-Apr-17 08:50:12

I don't think you can legally withhold deposit as a pemalty- it can only be used to recoup costs, and you've already done that by getting keys cut.

I imagine you could sue them for breach of contract if you really wanted, but it would be a huge hassle.

SaltySeaBird Wed 05-Apr-17 08:51:43

I would charge them to have the locks changed, new keys cut, your time to deal with that and then extra days rent to cover the period you couldn't access the property as they hadn't returned keys.

Get advice though if that is allowed.

JigglyTuff Wed 05-Apr-17 08:56:52

I would go with SaltySeaDog's advice. As they had the only keys to the property, then effectively they were staying beyond the end of their contract.

HecateAntaia Wed 05-Apr-17 08:59:14

you mean as 'punishment'

im not sure you can.

the tenant deposit scheme thing is very clear on what can be deducted. check to see what is permitted.

VeryPunny Wed 05-Apr-17 09:00:38

Bear in mind that your contract may be full of clauses which are not legally enforceable. IIRC they are perfectly entitled to change the locks, as long as they return them to the original state at the end of the tenancy. It's up to you whether you pursue them over this issue or not. To be honest, I wouldn't. It won't cost you much to change the locks again, and if that's your only expense after a tenancy you're doing well.

I doubt you would be able to deduct it from a deposit, which I think is only for wear and tear.

wowfudge Wed 05-Apr-17 09:03:14

They should have kept the original lock barrels and put them back when they left. I think you need to take it on the chin and just replace the barrels yourselves now. Now you can say to new tenants that if they change the locks they need to retain the barrels. I'm not sure whether a contract provision forbidding tenants from changing the locks would stand up in law - tenants have a right to quiet enjoyment and as landlords the only time you can gain entry is in an emergency.

SillySongsWithLarry Wed 05-Apr-17 09:05:27

I work in Council Tax - id be sure they were liable for the bill for those days. Even if they were over the tenancy dates they had the only keys so had exclusive access to the property. If the estate agent got written evidence of the date the keys were returned it will go in your favour.

wowfudge Wed 05-Apr-17 09:06:50

The deposit isn't only for wear and tear - that is wrong. Any monies deducted for issues caused by the tenants have to be reduced to allow for reasonable wear and tear.

thethoughtfox Wed 05-Apr-17 09:12:49

Deduct 2 days of missed rent caused by the late handing in of the keys.Not only could you not use the property but they were free to use the property for an extra 2 days.

Minniemagoo Wed 05-Apr-17 09:22:39

I agree. You can't charge for inconvienence, only actual losses.
Key cut or
Lock change if required
Rent for days unable to access property
Any charge by contractors for call outs/delays

nackle Wed 05-Apr-17 09:27:05

I would wonder why they needed to change the locks too.

whatsthecomingoverthehill Wed 05-Apr-17 09:32:50

I think it's a bit tricky proving that you were unable to access the property because if you wanted to you could have got an emergency locksmith to break in (which you could then have charged to them).

I'd be changing the lock and claiming the cost of that.

Bottlesoflove Wed 05-Apr-17 09:39:55

Yeah I would at least try to deduct extra days rent for the days you couldn't get in. TBH even if they hadn't changed the locks, they should have "checked out" by handing back any keys they did have on the day of moving out. The dps may dispute it, but at least you have made an effort to teach the cheeky feckers not to do it again and to take some responsibility.

Splinters6 Wed 05-Apr-17 10:18:55

We charged our tenants for 2 days rent and they didn't even change the locks! They just didn't return the keys until 2days past the end of tenancy. We had extra keys and could in theory have accessed the property but DH is a lawyer and asked a colleague who specialised in this area and she said they are legally liable for the rent until the hand back the keys. They left the place dirty too so we claimed for cleaning and 3 days pro rata rent. They whinged a bit but agreed to the deductions after about 1wk.

whatsthecomingoverthehill Wed 05-Apr-17 10:49:54

Fair enough. Charge them the extra rent OP!

InfiniteSheldon Wed 05-Apr-17 11:32:50

Their tenancy didn't end until they returned the keys, charge them rent for the days the remained.

NeedABumChange Wed 05-Apr-17 11:41:11

Did you have any cleaners booked for the weekend or were you planning on doing all that prep yourself? I'd charge for a days work or the cost of the cleaner for every day you couldn't enter the property, rent for those days as well and the cost to cut keys and new locks. Absolutely disgraceful behaviour their behalf, I can't believe they didn't tell you.

EssentialHummus Wed 05-Apr-17 11:47:45

They should have kept the original lock barrels and put them back when they left.

Yup.

Keep in mind that if the OP had tried to break in earlier and the tenant was still in there, the tenant would be shrieking about harassment.

I would look further into deducting the costs of the new locks and installation from the deposit. There's probably an argument to be made about lost rental income for those two days, but whether the hassle, legal costs etc are worth it, I don't know.

Bottlesoflove Wed 05-Apr-17 11:51:19

Pro-Rata rent is more than reasonable and I really doubt they would have a leg to stand on. For example, I moved recently and due to work/time constraints my move had to be staggered over a few days. I moved in physically to my new place but then had to go back to my old place over a couple of days to move final bits and finish off the cleaning. Until I was completely out off the house and it was ready for my ll to go in and do whatever they needed to do I paid rent until I could physically hand over the keys and allow them full access. Why did you not insist they hand over any keys in their possession on move out day? It is a security risk if anything - insurance will be invalid for one, if someone who is not officially residing there has a key.

specialsubject Wed 05-Apr-17 16:26:12

Good luck with trying to get the council tax, councils will happily screw you over on that one even though a recent judgement corrected it.

Make a DPS claim for actual costs and loss of rent for the days concerned. And don't hold your breath.

Also make damn sure utility accounts are closed off, especially water.

Allthebestnamesareused Wed 05-Apr-17 18:03:59

Hi - yes another solicitor here.

Charge will be pro-rata rent until they gave you access to the flat. By not giving you access they had in fact held over their tenancy even though they had vacated it.

Then any usual deductions you'd make for cleaning (if needed) and damage and the cost of changing locks including getting the same number of keys you usually have. Most include 2 keys but if you generally have 4 (eg. one for agent, one for you, two for tenants then you can charge the extras too)>

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