Moving into a rental property is exciting – you feel like a new chapter of your life is about to begin, with a whole new set of possibilities. It’s rare during this time that you, as the new tenant, consider who lived in the property before you. In most cases, just a few days before, this was someone else’s home and also, in most cases, you have no idea why they moved out.
So what are your rights? What can you do to maximise your safety and rest easy in the knowledge that this is your home now and you can make a new life there protected and undisturbed?
When you move into a property, you must be given one set of keys and it is usually the case that a set per tenant is given if there is more than one of you on the lease. On signing the lease, there will be a record – often a photocopy – of the keys that have been given to you. As this is being confirmed, you should confirm with the property manager thata they have spare keys and ask how many sets. This is important information to know – especially if you get locked out at some stage!
It’s standard practice that a tenant must request permission to make copies of the keys to the property, however this does not mean the previous tenant abided by this rule. They may have got spares keys cut for family members or to leave with a neighbour, or worse, had to get more keys cut because their short-term guests accidently took their spares when they left. Therefore, always keep in mind that you and the agent may not be the only ones that have access to your property.
To cover all bases with regard to a rental property, there are a few steps you can take to put some small but important safety measures in place and reassure yourself about your personal safety at the property.
- Before you decide to lodge an application, enquire at the open inspection as to why the previous tenants moved out. The property manager may or may not share this information with you but it’s worth a try! It’s normal when inspecting a rental property to ask questions – such as how long is the lease, is there parking, are pets allowed, and why are the current tenants vacating?
- Check your tenancy agreement for what you are entitled to regarding keys and clarify the process you need to follow to request permission for changing locks in a rental property. Adding locks or getting keys cut will be at your expense and you will be obligated to replace (and pay for) all existing keys – your sets, the agents sets and the owner’s, if relevant - it is not the agent or landlord’s responsibility to pay for this.
- Review the existing security at the property. If you’ve moved into a modern apartment complex with security cameras, swipe card entry and video intercoms, then it’s not likely you’re at risk of unwelcome intruders. However, if it’s your run of the mill property with a standard keyhole then it is not unreasonable for you to want to get locks changed.
It’s not usual practice for agents or owners to constantly be changing locks in a rental property between tenants - that ends up being a never-ending expense and, in the majority of cases, is unnecessary. Tenants are also often dissuaded from getting locks changed to due to the expense. If you feel unsure, you can always just pick up the phone and ask your agent for advice. There are a number of temporary locking mechanisms that might be a less expensive option but remember adding or altering anything is related to fittings and fixtures, so you still need to talk to your agent and get permission.