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The landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining the security of the premises. Each tenant on the agreement is entitled to a copy of the key at no extra charge when moving in. Generally, the consent of the other part is needed before the locks can be changed.
This guide covers landlords (or head-tenants) and tenants (or sub-tenants) in a Residential Tenancy. This applies to the majority of share accomodation and residential property rental situations.
Who is responsible for Security & Locks?
It is the responsibility of the landlord to supply and maintain the locks (or other security devices) to ensure that the rented premises is reasonably secure. This means that the landlord must hand over the rented premises to the tenant in a secure state, and if notified that it has become insecure, performs maintenance to rectify that problem.
When is a rented premises 'reasonably secure' ?
Ensuring that the premises is secure is one of the most important parts of a tenancy. Tenants should feel safe living in the rented premises and are entitled to a minimum level of security. It is in the interests of the landlord also for the premises to be safe and secure. If the tenant suffers loss or damage to their belongings because the landlord did not provide a secure premises, then the landlord may be held liable.
There is no set standard for when a premises is considered 'reasonably secure'. Ultimately, what is 'reasonably secure' will depend on the nature of the premises and its surroundings. There are a number of things that landlords can do however, that may help to make the premises at least reasonably secure :
- Consider the adjoining property and the general nature of the area. Is there a high crime rate? How easily can someone unlawfully access the premises ?
- Compliance with Australian Standards and Building Codes on locks and safety devices is very helpful.
- Using deadlocks on all doors and windows, espeacially on the ground floor. This is espeacially important in urban or city areas.
- Avoid using locks located inside the doorknob. Just having these locks alone on a door, without a deadlock, may not be sufficient for the premises to be reasonably secure. This is especially important for external doors.
In Share accommodation situations, it may be necessary to have locks on both the external doors to the premises and the internal doors for each tenant's bedroom. The landlord should consider the relevant degree of security that is required for each lock.
Is the landlord obliged to supply keys to the tenant?
The landlord must give a copy of the key (or other opening device) to each tenant listed in the tenancy agreement. Therfore, if there are multiple co-tenants under one tenancy agreement, then each tenant should be given a copy of the keys (or other opening device) by the landlord.
It is important to remember that different parts of the premises may have different keys. The tenant is entitled to keys that:
- Secure any entry to the rented premises,
- Secure any road or similar area used to gain access to premises - e.g. locks for boom gates,
- Secure part of the premises - e.g. a room, mailbox, toolshed, cupboard.
The tenant should be given keys (or other opening device) that allows them access to both the areas that they occupy exclusively and to any common or shared areas. Therefore, in share accommodation situations, the tenant should have keys (or similar) giving them access to their room and to shared facilities such as bathroom or kitchen.
How do I change the locks?
The locks to the rented premises may only be changed by either the landlord or tenant under a limited number of circumstances. These circumstances are:
- By Agreement - The locks can be changed if the tenant and landlord agree about the change.
- Reasonable Excuse - the locks can be changed by the tenant or landlord with the agreement of the other party if they have a reasonable excuse. An emergency is a reasonable excuse. Either the landlord or tenant can also apply to the Tribunal for an order that the locks be changed. There is no limit to reasons why the Tribunal may order the locks to be changed, but may include :
- Degree of risk to the tenant's safety
- Requirements of insurance companies
- likelihood of break-ins
- local community standards about adequate security
- physical characteristics of the premises.
Ultimately, the locks should generally only be changed when the landlord and tenant agree. The locks should only be chnaged without agreement if there is a very good reason, especially an urgent reason to do so.
When the locks have been changed, the party that has changed them must give the other party the new keys as soon as possible. The other party does not need to be given a key, however if the tribunal orders that or the other party agrees not to be given one.