The Dangers Of Failing To Change The Locks After a Tenant Has Been Evicted

I once had a client, who was the seller, in a residential transaction. She had appointed agents to assist with the eviction of the tenant. The tenant peacefully left without the need for a possession order, and after the s.21 notice had been duly served and expired. However, the agent failed to ensure that the locks were changed thereafter.

Upon securing vacant possession; the seller exchanged contracts and a few days to completion, the tenant moved back in! To everyone’s shock and horror, she claimed that she never left the property; this obviously led to the seller being in breach of contract. Both parties however decided to work together and the buyers patiently waited for the tenant to be evicted using the accelerated procedure and then finally completed 10 months later.
The agent was torn between starting a claim against the tenant as a trespasser or as a tenant. However it was difficult to prove the tenant was a trespasser as the locks had not been changed and there was no sign of forced entry.
It is a common mistake that landlords make in failing to change the locks once a tenant leaves as the tenant might not have returned all the keys or they might have made several copies. Although there is no legal requirement to change the locks, it is good practice to do so and most importantly it’s better to be safe than sorry…..

Written by


Elizabeth Bamigboye
Senior Solicitor
Ola Leslie Solicitors
Tel: 0207 183 1182