The accidental landlord: the cost of being security conscious

Victoria Whitlock agrees to change the locks on her rental flat, but only if the new tenant goes halves with her on the bill

A new tenant has asked whether I plan to change the locks before she moves into my rental flat. No tenant has ever asked me to do this before so my immediate response was no, don't be silly, but when I mentioned this to other landlords I was surprised that one or two said they always change locks between tenancies, regardless of whether they're asked to do so.

Their fear is that previous tenants might be holding on to keys so they could let themselves back in. Changing the locks protects the property as well as the new tenant. However, unless these landlords make a habit of letting to low-life, I think they're being paranoid.

I always insist that outgoing tenants return their keys before I refund their deposits. Admittedly, one tenant initially refused to hand over a set he'd had cut for his cleaner, insisting they belonged to him as he'd paid for them. Although I'm sure he wasn't going to use them to get back into the flat, the tight-fisted moron just didn't want me to get something for nothing. Only when I threatened to deduct the cost of new locks from his deposit did he back down and hand over the keys — chopped into tiny pieces.

I suppose there's a very slight risk that previous occupants could have had a spare set cut with the intention of sneaking back and ransacking the flat, but if there was a burglary with no forced entry they wouldn't have had to watch many episodes of Miss Marple to work out they'd be the prime suspects.

I changed the locks on my flat when a tenant was mugged close to the property and her keys were taken, but I don't think it's necessary between lets, unless you've had a big fall-out with a previous tenant who you're worried might have a sideline in burglary.

Locks aren't expensive — a high-security five-lever deadlock costs about £20 — so I suppose if you can work out how to do it yourself (I can't) it might be worthwhile to reassure nervous new tenants. But if you call out a locksmith and need extra sets of keys cut, it would add about £100 to your costs at the start of every tenancy. In the end I told my tenant I'd happily arrange for new locks to be fitted and split the cost with her 50/50. She's decided not to bother. Funny how people aren't so worried for their safety when it comes at their own cost.

On the subject of security, I wrote a few months ago about the possibility of using a wall-mounted external key safe to store a spare set for dopey tenants who keep locking themselves out. However I've since learned these can be alarmingly easy to break into. If you do want to use one, SUPRAUK ( has one with a push-button lock that has been tested to a standard recognised by police.

Possibly a safer option could be to use a key storage company, such as It sounds as if it has a pretty robust storage system for your rental property's spare keys and it promises to deliver them to locked- out tenants within about 40 minutes, round the clock, sparing you the risk of a late-night phone call.

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

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