Why You Should Change Locks Every Time (Even With Tenant Screening)

Osprey Property Management   |   date February 2023

Each time you have one tenant move out of a rental, and a new tenant move in, you'll want to change the locks. Why? Because it not only protects the new tenants but the property, as well. 

Your new tenants don't want to worry about whether someone else has a key to their place, and you definitely don't need extra keys to your properties out in the world for no reason.

Even if you get the keys back from the original tenants, how do you know they haven't made a copy or given a key to someone else? The short answer is that you don't, and neither do the tenants who just moved in. So the goal is to make sure the tenants in possession of the property are the only ones with keys, with the exception of the property owner and their Hampton Roads property management company. 

Here's what to consider about the importance of changing the locks between every tenant and the best ways to go about doing that.

Don't Let Tenant Screening Be Your Only Protection

Tenant screening is a great way to find quality tenants for your properties and be more selective about the people you rent to. You can use this process to avoid renting to people who have past issues such as a criminal history or an eviction. However, even someone who seems like a good tenant could become a problem later.

There aren't any guarantees with any tenant, even if there aren't any red flags in their history. You also don't want to automatically assume you don't need to change the locks after they move out just because they didn't cause problems while they lived there. Rental property owners must treat all tenants the same way to protect themselves legally and handle their properties effectively.

Be Sure You Understand Virginia Squatters Laws

Squatters can also become an issue when skipping the lock-changing process. Previous tenants (or anyone with access to a key) can gain access to the property without a lease and claim the property as their home. 

While Virginia states that squatters have to be there for a long time before they can claim the property as their own, that doesn't mean it's easy to get them out. Often, a rental property owner would have to go through eviction proceedings, which can take weeks or months to get them fully out of the property. 

Squatter laws in Virginia must be taken seriously, so property owners must follow the laws if squatters are involved. Changing the locks after every tenant moves out can reduce the chance of a past tenant having a key and squatting on a vacant property or giving a key to someone else who might try to do the same.

Additionally, because people living in a property illegally aren't usually too concerned with taking good care of it, squatters can cause a lot of damage. The longer a squatter is in your property, the more damage they may do to it. That could mean additional time and cost after removing them before you can rent the property out again.

Man uses his smartphone with smarthome security app to unlock the door of his houseThere Are Multiple Ways to Change the Locks

Changing locks doesn't have to be a complicated or difficult process, but it's one you want to make sure you do soon after a tenant moves out. There are several ways to do it, so you have options to consider. It's best to pick the option that's cost-effective, easy to handle, and can get happen quickly and efficiently, as long as it works.  

Replace the Entire Lock

You can replace the entire lock every time you have a change of tenants, and that will ensure no one else has a key. If tenants stay in your properties for a long time, this option could work out great. However, if you have a higher turnover or a lot of properties, it could also get very expensive.

Consider Using Smart Locks

Smart locks are a popular option for rental properties because they can be reprogrammed after each tenant. That means you don't need to change the actual lock, but you're still providing the new tenants with a new code or password and plenty of security.

Hire a Property Manager to Help

Hiring a property management company can be the best way to handle things like lock changes. Not only will property managers have information and requirements about keys spelled out in their leases, but they can also make maintenance arrangements to replace or rekey locks between tenants.

Happy family with two children having fun at new homeWork With a Trusted Hampton Roads Property Management Company to Protect Properties

Working with a property manager can provide convenience and peace of mind that goes far beyond tenant screening and other ways to protect yourself and your properties. As a result, your tenants will get great service, and you'll have less to worry about.

Are you ready to have quality property management services for your rental properties? Reach out to Osprey Property Management today! 

Learn more about managing rental properties like a pro in our free resource, the "Expert Guide to Rental Property Management."

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