Need to Change Your Apartment Locks? What Are Your Legal and Logistical Options?
If you've recently gone through a breakup or had to evict a roommate from your apartment, you may feel compelled to change your locks to prevent re-entry—or worse, revenge by someone upset at being ousted from stable housing. However, changing your locks on your own without permission from your landlord or superintendent can sometimes put you in violation of your lease agreement, and you may even find yourself facing an eviction action of your own if you take quick steps to change your locks. Read on to learn more about your legal rights when it comes to protecting yourself in an apartment as well as what you'll want to do to secure yourself after evicting someone who has a spare key to your home.
Do you have the right to change your apartment's locks without notifying your landlord beforehand?
The answer to this question largely depends on your apartment lease. Some leases contain specific language that prohibits tenants from changing the locks without abiding by a set of procedures (like notifying the landlord or giving him or her the option to change the locks on your behalf), and violating this language to prevent your landlord from gaining access to your apartment, whether purposeful or not, could be enough to land you in court. Before taking any steps toward changing your locks, it's wise to consult your lease to ensure you're within your rights in changing the locks.
What should you do if you need to change your apartment's locks quickly?
Assuming your lease doesn't prohibit replacing your outer door locks, in many cases, purchasing a new set of locks from a hardware or home supply store should be all you'll need to do. These locks are easy to install for just about any apartment dweller and shouldn't require the assistance of a locksmith or other professional.
On the other hand, if you have genuine security concerns or are worried that someone will tamper with your lock in an effort to gain access, you may not want to purchase a mass-production lock. If you do, and if your would-be burglar has eagle eyes, he or she will be able to go to the hardware or home supply store and get your exact lock, keys and all. In this situation, it may be best to have a professional locksmith re-key your existing locks so that the locks continue to protect your home and aren't too easy to pick.