Can my landlord change the locks without my permission?

Can my landlord change the locks on my property without my permission?

Usually your landlord cannot change the locks without your permission, but before this can be established it is important to find out what type of tenancy agreement you have.

If your landlord wants you to leave the property then in some circumstances he or she may be able to change the locks, but you should be given reasonable notice before they do. Your landlord can do this if:

  • You share facilities such as a kitchen or bathroom with your landlord;
  • Your landlord lives in the same building and you share facilities with a member of your landlord’s family;
  • You’re living in your accommodation for a holiday;
  • You’re a hotel guest;
  • You do not pay any rent for your accommodation.

If you do not fit into one of the above groups and your landlord wants you to leave, it is important your landlord follows the correct process in order to evict you by: asking you to leave; getting a court order; or using bailiffs to evict you. Ultimately, this could lead to the locks being changed by the bailiffs if they evict you.

How much notice they have to give you depends on what type of contact you’re on. Most people are on a assured shorthold tenancy, and this will be either fixed term or periodic. If it’s periodic, your landlord should give you what’s called a section 21 notice’ (two months’ notice) requiring you to leave. If it’s fixed-term, you can’t usually be evicted unless you’ve broken some of the terms of your contract (like not paying rent). If there’s a break clause in your contract, they can ask you to leave but usually with two months notice.

On the other hand, if your landlord wants to change the locks as part of a repair it is important to know that private landlords have certain obligations. These include:

  • Allowing tenants to live peacefully in the accommodation;
  • Carrying out some kinds of repairs;
  • Meeting safety requirements;
  • Accepting rent and providing certain information;
  • If your landlord wants to take the property back, they must go through the proper legal procedures.

Landlords do have a right to get access to the property to inspect it and do repairs, but only after giving reasonable notice (if it is not an emergency).

It could be that your landlord is trying to evict you illegally. Illegal eviction is a serious civil and criminal offence. If you think your landlord may be trying to evict you illegally, or has already done so, it’s important you seek advice immediately from a local advice service.

If your landlord is causing you problems they may be guilty of harassment, which is also a criminal offence. Harassment includes behaviour that stops you living peaceably in your home and there may be action you can take to prevent harassment.

You may want to get help from a local advice service for further assistance in this matter, or you could call Shelter’s free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444.

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